How do children learn the craft of great writing? What are the experiences in the life of a writer that lead them to clearly communicate with an audience, to move the room as their words are read aloud? These are the sorts of questions we ask ourselves as we nurture the young writers in our classrooms.
In Opal 2, the children have been composing poetry about the individual colors they created to reflect something about who they are. As a part of this process the children have received feedback from their peers in small groups. We ask them to think about the kind of information they want to get back from the group and to see if what they are trying to communicate is getting across to their audience.
Here is a short snippet from one of those feedback circles…
PK- (reads poem Cloud Blue) I want feedback, what sounds good, what you liked about my poem Cloud Blue.
L- I’d like a little more. I like how you repeated the word cloud.
B- I disagree with L. I think maybe not say cloud so much. Can you use other more interesting words?
C- When do you think you’d see that cloud?
S- Can you think of any other words that are the same as cloud blue?
L- I agree with B. now that I think about it.
PB- But, I like how it keeps saying cloud, that’s poetry.
S- Can you read it again PK?
B- Very cloudy.
L- The end is like the beginning. This is just an idea you don’t have to use it: You could say it is in the sky…
S- And you could say you can see it when the clouds go by…
PB- That rhymes! You could keep describing the clouds like tell us it is a puffy cloud.
C- Or a small cloud?
Teacher- What’s next PK.?
PK- I don’t know yet. I need to think about it and I’ll let you know.
Here is PK.'s final version of her poem…
My color is Cloud Blue
It is the kind of clouds that is like rain.
It is the blue that is Cloud Blue.
It likes to trickle through your head like a dream.
When we brought PK's poem and the dialoge from the feedback circle to the whole class and asked them what they noticed the group wondering about together, T said, "They are wondering what poetry is?" The class then brainstormed the following list that will live on our classroom wall to guide our study of poetry and that we will add onto as we uncover more together about…
What is poetry?
–describing something in an interesting way
-putting words together that have never met before
-putting ideas together that inspire you and others
-uses beautiful descriptive words
-words match and rhyme
-its like singing but in a different way
-puts pictures in your mind, helps you imagine
-when two people or more put their ideas into a poem you can get an even better one
Where will our understanding of poetry and our understanding of our audience lead us to next? We wonder this with genuine anticipation of the discoveries yet to be made. As teachers, we know how to guide, facilitate, support, extend. We know what to expect over the course of early writing development. We have many tools that support us to evaluate individuals and plan for their growth. But all of that is nothing without the wisdom and wonder of the children themselves. It is when their ideas show up and take hold that the real magic happens.
You can support this work at home: Ask your child to share his/her definition of poetry with you. Read some poetry together that moves you and share with your child how it makes you feel. Create a collection of favorite poems. Read poetry at bedtime. Give special poems as gifts.