National Poetry Month: Book Spine Poetry Lessons

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I love found poetry.  It is so interesting to think about how words, phrases, and sentences that already exist in the world can be remixed into something new.  We recently spent some time creating blackout poetry, and now students have been coming to the library to create book spine poems.  Each year that we try this type of found poetry, I’m finding that we get a little bit better and add some new strategies for crafting a book spine poem.

This year I decided to do some storytelling to share with students how I crafted my own book spine poem.  Rather than give a list of tasks to do, I told my story and let that guide our instructions for how to make a book spine poem.

“When I made my book spine poem, I just wandered around and picked a shelf in the library.  I spent time at the shelf scanning every title and looking for a title that spoke to me in some way.  The first book that jumped out to me was In My Mothers’ House.  I continued creeping along that same section of the library looking for a title that seemed to go with the one that I had already found.  I didn’t really know if I had found my first line of the poem or just a piece of the poem, but when I came across The Wonderful Happens, it seemed like magic.  Both of those titles just sounded like the beginning of the poem to me.  Now I had a focus.  I needed to find more books that told more about In My Mothers’ House.  I didn’t really worry about order.  I just wanted books that sounded like a good fit.  Once I found 3-4 more, I went to a table and started arranging them and reading them aloud.  I tried many different ways to see what sounded right.  I even had a book that just didn’t seem to fit, so I decided to put that one back on the cart at the front of the library.  When my poem felt just right, I knew I was reading to record myself reading it.”

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By telling this story, I really felt like student had a good sense of what to do, but we did still rephrase the steps together.

1.  Choose a place to start.

2.  Look for books that speak to you and only take the ones that you think you will use.

3.  Continue choosing books that connect to one another

4.  Arrange them in a way that sounds right and put the extras on the cart at the front of the library.

5.  Record yourself reading your poem and return your books to the cart at the front of the library.

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Students got to work.  Most of them jumped right in, but a few had trouble starting.  I found a few students who just wandered around without knowing how to start, so I encouraged them to stop wandering and start reading titles.  Some were very focused on content which made it a bit harder to craft a poem.  They wanted a book about X instead of thinking about a book’s actual title.  I tried to explain that the content of the book really didn’t matter. All that mattered was the title.  It took some time for that to click with some students.  I didn’t want to tell students not to use the computer, but we did nudge students to really try looking at the shelves rather than try to find something on the computer.  Most students who tried the computer strategy ended up abandoning it anyway because it added too much time and frustration to the process.

As students recorded their poems, they came to me at a table.  I had an iPad cord plugged into my computer, so we just connected and uploaded straight to Youtube and put the videos into a class playlist of poetry.

You can enjoy their work in each of these playlists.

2nd Grade Monster Stories

Brink Every year our 2nd graders write monster stories leading up to the end of October and a PACT time called Monster Mash where families come into the classrooms to engage in what students are learning.

The project has many hands involved.  In art, Ms. Foretich works with the students to create their own monsters.  She then takes digital photographs or scans of those monsters and prints out mini versions of each student’s monster.

In class, students create scenes where their monster might live, where they might terrorize, or where they might go on an adventure.  They use their monster and scene to write a story.  Through several writing workshops, students develop their pieces, revise/edit, and publish.

IMG_1251In the media center, students come to me to film their monster story with our iPads.  Some students come with one scene and one monster, while others come with multiple scenes, multiple monsters, and pages and pages of story.  This year, we created a huge recording schedule that was quite ambitious.  Over almost 2 weeks, I would have 3 students every 15 minutes during a 90 minute time frame.  During this 15 minute window, we had to film the movie, upload it to an iMac, check the volume, add a title slide, and export the movie to a flash drive for Youtube uploading at a later time.  It took quite a while to get a flow going, but by the final few days, we were getting really efficient in our 15 minute window.  With a few students at the beginning, we made an opening slide with footsteps and a creaking door.  This same slide was used for every student, so we just had to change the title and author each time.  I set this up on 2 iMacs so that we could double up on uploads.  Some students filmed by themselves by using the iPad on a tripod.  Other students were filmed by Ms. Maher, a gifted teacher, or Mrs. McGee, a grad assistant.  If enough students were available and ready, students filmed for each other.  My role was to walk students through the steps of creating the video.  With every student, I talked through what we were doing on the screen.  Students approved the volume on their videos, added their title, and stayed with me through the export process.  I uploaded the video to Youtube after they left.

Teachers showed the videos during the Monster Mash PACT time.  To make sharing and viewing the videos easy, the teachers took all of the links to student videos and put them on a Thinglink.  To make these, we put all of the student monsters on a table, took a picture of them, uploaded the picture to thinglink, and attached each student video to his/her monster.  Now, when parents ask how to get to the videos, it is very easy to just share the thinglink with them.

RamseyerNext year, I want to think about how to give students even more ownership in the process.  Because of the tight time frame, it was hard to let students do all of the work of filming and uploading, but I know there has to be another way.  I’m going to reflect on that and suggest some improvement for next year.  For now, we can enjoy the amazing creations of these students in art, the classroom, and the media center.