3-12, Creative Thinking, Language Arts, Writing

Golden Shovel Poetry

Gwendolyn Brooks published the poem, “We Real Cool,” in 1963. In 2010, Terrance Hayes published a poem called, “The Golden Shovel.” If I was teaching a poetry unit, I would have my students read both poems and see what they notice before suggesting a direct relationship. Students would probably immediately recognize the title of Hayes’ poem appears in the second line of Brooks’. But it would be fun to see how long it takes them to see that Terrance Hayes actually structured his poem around Brooks’ by making each word in her poem the last word in each line of his poem — in order.

With “The Golden Shovel,” Hayes created a new poetic form, and it’s one of those challenges that compels and delights students with its opportunity for creativity through constraint. Take your favorite poem, favorite sentence from a book, or favorite passage from an article, even a newspaper headline and use each word, in order, as the last word for each line in your new poem. Be sure to credit the original author, but don’t limit yourself to their subject. You can see a perfect video explanation from the North Vancouver City Library for their “Teen Tuesday” series of how to write a Golden Shovel poem here. The Poetry Society offers a good lesson plan here.

Here is another example of a Golden Shovel poem, written by Michelle Kogan, and built from the words of the poem, “I Dream a World,” by Langston Hughes. If you want to see some work from actual students, this page shares some Golden Shovel poetry written by 5th and 6th graders based on poems by Gwendolyn Brooks.

Golden Shovel Poetry reminds me of the Found and Parallel Poetry that I used to do with my students, often resulting in pieces that surprised all of us with their insight. I’ll definitely be adding this link to my Poetry Wakelet Collection, and I would love to see any examples that your students write!

Side note: Wouldn’t it be fun to do a Poetry Out Loud presentation or something similar, and award one or two students these cute little golden shovel utensils?

Creative Thinking, K-12, Language Arts, Writing

Fighting Words Poetry Contest from the Pulitzer Center

With National Poetry Month just around the corner in April, this contest from the Pulitzer Center offers relevance and the opportunity for an authentic audience for student poetry. The contest is open to students in K-12 around the world, though it appears that the judging categories are not separated by age group. Entries must be submitted by May 15, 2022, and can be multilingual, (judges will primarily be fluent in English and/or Spanish). The intriguing part of this contest is the constraint that each poem must include at least one line from a story on the Pulitzer site. Suggested stories for grades 3 and up are linked, and you can also access teaching resources that include slide presentations and activities to guide students through the process of writing their poems.

This would be a great opportunity for your students to try the Parallel Poetry technique that I describe here. This was one of the few lessons that I repeated annually (I usually get bored doing something over and over) because it was so incredible to see the uniquely personal poems my students would produce. I often have a difficult time teaching creative writing, but this particular process seemed far less “bumpy” and far more rewarding to all of us than my typical writing lessons.

I’ll be adding this link to my collection of Poetry lessons, which includes links to: a TED Ed List of animated classic poems, poetry writing ideas for Kindergarten, blackout poetry lessons, and more. I also have an Amanda Gorman Wakelet, and an April Holidays one — both of which you can find here along with my other public collections.

white paper with black text
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com
selective focus photography of a mailbox
3-5, Writing

The Pen Pal Project

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.

students writing on their notebooks
Photo by Norma Mortenson on Pexels.com
3-5, 5-8, Computer Science, Creative Thinking, Writing

Coding with Poetry

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.

Learn about how Caia combines poetry with computer science in this video from Code.org.

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.

3-12, Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Writing

The End of the Year As We Know It

Update 5/10/2022: Here is the link to this year’s blog post, where I highlight a few other End of the Year activities.

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!)

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!

option from “The End of the Year as We Know It” activity by @SusanGBarber
ethnic worker writing in notebook in house room
Anti-Racism, Books, Creative Thinking, K-12, Language Arts, Writing

LatiNext Poetry Project

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!

For more Poetry links, visit my Wakelet here. I also have Wakelets for learning about Amanda Gorman and Anti-Racism.