Fifty 8 and 9 year olds squished into my classroom this afternoon. A neighboring teacher home with a sick child and being short of subs, we take turns inviting extra children into our own classrooms for portions of the day.
“What are you going to do with them all?” my teacher friend asks.
“Poetry,” I reply, “We are going to write poems.”
She gave me a look. You know the one.
I gathered them all and told them that I saw Poetry on my way to school this morning.
They looked befuddled – like Poetry wore clothes or walked around.
“I heard it first, as I stepped out of my car, singing in tweets so happily. Because is was morning, I’m sure. I looked to where the poetry was coming from and then I spotted them, in trees. Hundreds of them. Flocks.”
“I saw them, too, Mrs. Daniels!” they beamed. “The robins are out!”
“I stood under the tree for a moment, holding my bags and my coffee mug. I felt called to take in the poetry – the singing of joyful the morning, the red ripe berries hanging on to the branches patiently waiting for these robins to come to enjoy them, the robins with their bellies overstuffed with either babies. . . or berries. How was I to know?
A poem was shouting at me.
I skipped inside, whipped off my coat, sat down my coffee mug and scrambled for my notebook. When a poem arrives, it is the poets responsibility to get it down onto paper quickly, before it leaves and finds someone else.”
I quickly wrote my Fat Robins poem for them on the chart paper.
There you all sit
Singing joyful tunes
on berry tree
Are there babies in there?
Or do you all
to lay off
on the berries!
They giggled – those third graders.
I told them how poetry finds me and then I have to write it down and how I love to write poetry more than any other kind of writing because. . . .
Poetry breaks the rules. Free verse, that is. My poetry form of choice.
After I shared the rules that you can break with poetry (complete sentences, punctuation, capital letters, paragraph form), I set up objects around he room and we wrote small poems. Rocks, a toddler mitten, monopoly houses, a deck of cards, any item I could find in my house in a 2 minute search for stuff. I showed them how an object can trigger a thought and as a poet, you have to pay attention to that very first thought that pops into your head and grab it by the tail and put it down on paper. A poet can’t sit around and think too long or the thoughts go away to someone else. Poet’s get stuff down. They don’t think stuff up.
Away they went, eager to be poets. I gave them only three minutes per object and said to write fast, keep your pencil moving and get down your first thoughts.
Always, I am in awe of what children can do. All I did was model my own poem and get them excited. I didn’t hover over their shoulders telling them to add line breaks and rhymes or to start here or skip spaces.
This happened on its own.
If these are our quick three minute drafts, I can only imagine where we can go with poetry.
But for now, we will joyfully write. . .
content with the freedom
of free verse.