If you are a teacher of students in grades 3-5 in the US, you might be interested in signing up for The Pen Pal Project sponsored by the United States Postal Service and We are Teachers. Participation is free and each class receives a Pen Pal Project kit. Sign-ups end on December 12, 2021, so be sure to visit the site right away if you want to be included. Although stamps will not be part of the kit, envelopes and stationery will be provided. You can find more information here.
As I mentioned last week, the International Hour of Code Week is coming December 6-12, and I think it is an amazing experience for students and teachers. I understand that it can be daunting for anyone who has little or no experience with coding, but the people at Code.org really make it easy for anyone to participate — even if you have no digital devices in the classroom. One of the things that may seem like an obstacle to many teachers during this year of “catching up” is trying to fit coding into the curriculum. Code.org provides many tutorials that can be used in different subjects and this week, I noticed they have released a new tutorial that would be awesome for ELA teachers in grades 4-8. Through the “Coding with Poetry” tutorial, students will learn how to animate some classic poems, and write and share their own poetry to animate. With short videos, examples, and the option to have instructions read out loud, this lesson is a wonderful step-by-step walk through that will help students to feel like accomplished authors and coders by the end. I particularly like the introductory video, where a student named Caia explains how her passions for both poetry and computer science intersect.
For an example of one way my students have mingled coding and poetry, visit this post from when we used Scratch and Makey Makey to make interactive onomatopoeia poems. And, for many more coding resources once you and your students get hooked, here is my Wakelet collection.
A couple of weeks ago, I shared some of the activities that I’ve done in the past with my students as the school year comes to a close. I decided to put them in this Wakelet so you don’t have to search for them. On Twitter, Susan Barber (@SusanGbarber) shared a fabulous activity she did with her high school seniors, and I asked for her permission to share. (My post, Blackout Poetry Maker, has been one of the most popular ones this year, so I thought this might be something my readers would enjoy!)
My students had 5 choices for an end of the year activity. One was a college admission essay blackout or whiteout. Love the final products! pic.twitter.com/KTHJj7WgjV— Susan Barber (@susangbarber) May 12, 2021
Of course, once people saw her examples, they wanted to know more about the project. It turned out the students had several choices in addition to the blackout poetry of college essays. She later tweeted this Google Slides presentation so people could see the options and examples. As you know, I am a big fan of choice and open-ended activities that allow students to show their creativity, so I am a big fan of Susan’s idea, and I hope you can use it, too!
April is National Poetry Month in the United States, and it is not too late to celebrate! You may remember when I posted about the Teach Living Poets site way back in January right after being blown away by Amanda Gorman’s recitation of the poem she wrote for the Inauguration. Scott Bayer (@LyricalSwordz), who contributes to the Teach Living Poets site, tweeted out this amazing interactive Google Doc of poetry and accompanying lessons for Latinx poets featured in the publication, LatiNext, from Haymarket Books. Next to each of the eleven poets’ portraits, is a link to a detailed lesson plan, and a link to an interactive image made with Genially that provides even more resources. Kudos to Scott Bayer and Joel Garza (@JoelRGarza) for putting together this excellent compilation of meaningful activities submitted by participants in #TheBookChat. In addition, thanks to the @breakbeatpoets editors, @_joseolivarez @WilliePerdomo and @writeantiracist!
With the excellent example of Amanda Gorman reciting her poem during this year’s Inauguration, I have a feeling there will be an uptick of interest in authoring and performing spoken word poetry. Of course, spoken word poetry has experienced waves of popularity over the years as you can read in this article from 2020, or see in this collection of videos from Edutopia in 2014. But, as Professor Kathleen M. Alley states, “When I heard Amanda Gorman recite her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” at President Biden’s inauguration, I instantly decided to throw my plans for the week out the window. I hope teachers throughout the nation will similarly be willing to put their regular lesson plans aside in order to seize the opportunity to use the poetry of Gorman to engage with students who are not much younger in age.”
To begin a unit on spoken word poetry, a teacher might use one of Amanda Gorman’s videos, a selection from the Edutopia link above, or perhaps one from this list curated by Amanda Cardenas. You can find advice on writing spoken word poetry from Masterclass, writer Tonya Thompson, and educator Shannon Reed. Lesson plans include this one from Facing History and one from Remake Learning – both of which weave in social justice topics – or this one from Read Write Think that approaches it with a bilingual perspective.
In case you missed this one in Amy Erin Borovoy’s Edutopia article, the video below shows that spoken word poetry can be written and performed by students at any age level. While younger children may not have the polished presentation style of an Amanda Gorman, they make up for this with their enthusiastic gestures and unusual choices for topics!
I will be adding this post to my Wakelet of poetry resources – all available to you for National Poetry Month in April!
As we continue our week-long poetry theme, I want to introduce you to Language is a Virus. Though the site includes all types of writing, there are several poetry-related pages you may want to explore. One of them is the Visual Poetry tool. When you launch this, you can draw in the browser with your text. It reminds me of the TypeDrawing app my students used on the iPads long ago, which is sadly not available any longer. There are not as many variables you can change in the Visual Poetry tool, but can choose different colored backgrounds and text. For some reason, the “Save” button did not work for me. However, right-click and “Save As” did the trick; just be aware that your page will clear as soon as you save.
I learned about “Square Poems” from another interactive tool on the site. (Sorry, I didn’t have the bandwidth to create my own example.) I had no idea that Lewis Carroll was a mathematician as well as an author. Here is more about square poetry.
Along with the text manipulation interactives that you will find on Language is a Virus are some games. Letter Link Poetry looks like a fun challenge, and Electronic Poetry is like a digital version of magnetic poetry. Several of the games allow you to choose from an extensive group of word lists, which makes for endless amounts of creativity.
I will be adding this site to my Wakelet of poetry resources – all available to you for National Poetry Month in April!