Congratulations to Matthew Burgess and a cohort of amazing writers on the publication of Spellbound: The Art of Teaching Poetry (Teachers & Writers Collaborative, 2019). This book represents the collective wisdom and best practices for teaching creative writing from the practitioner’s perspective. The writers included, many from WITS Alliance organizations, are Chris Cander, Tina Cane, Sarah Dohrmann, Jennifer Firestone, Joanna Fuhrman, Aracelis Girmay, Susan Karwoska, Jason Koo, Dorothea Lasky, Sheila Maldonado, Peter Markus, Jasminne Mendez, Cait Weiss Orcutt, Bianca Stone, and Tiphanie Yanique. The book contains both a practical how-to approach, as well as a more philosophical conversation explaining how a poem “works” and reflects our most meaningful ideas and experiences.
Check out this essay by Peter Markus, THROUGH THE EYE OF A FEATHER: HELPING STUDENTS SLOW DOWN, PAY ATTENTION, AND SEE ANEW, published in Teachers & Writers Magazine.
The essay provides a procedural teaching methodology by one of the great WITS masters. Pete works with InsideOut Literary Arts in Detroit, and his most recent book is Inside My Pencil: Teaching Poetry in Detroit Public Schools (Dzanc, 2017). Here is one student poem that came out of this lesson.
Through the Eye of the Feather
I can see my dead uncle.
I can hear a pencil writing.
I believe I will heal and walk.
I can touch my future self.
When the feather speaks it says
get out of bed.
When the feather sings it brings
joy into my life.
Peter Markus, senior writer with WITS Alliance member organization, InsideOut Literary Arts Project of Detroit, has a featured lesson plan in this month’s Teachers & Writers Magazine.
Markus (aka Mr. Pete) engages his students in conversation and asks the class to rethink what they know about the moon. Together they dig into their imaginations and create metaphors for the moon. “What I love about bringing the moon into the classroom is that it’s a universal object. A little girl in Manhattan—Kansas or New York—or an old man in Kenya, a mother in Missoula, each of these people has equal access to a shared sky, a sky that has up in it a communal light—a light that is sometimes a circle cut in half, a light that is at other times a hammock hung between stars—a light, in short, that all eyes can see in new, never-before ways.”
Teaching poetry can be tricky. Here are some great links that may help.
- Teachers & Writers Collaborative – Check out the Digital Resource Library
- The Poetry Foundation has articles, free e-book downloads, and even a free poetry app for your phone or iPad.
- Academy of American Poets has the famous poets.org site with its encyclopedic array of knowledge. A special section of the site is specifically for educators. They offer the free poetry app that organizes thousands of poems by author, subject, and occasion.
- Writers from WITS Houston share successful lessons on their blog.
Please add your favorite teaching resources in the comment section below.
The book is out! A POEM AS BIG AS NEW YORK CITY, a collaborative work by the talented students of Teachers & Writers Collaborative, hit the stores this month. With illustrations by Masha D’Yans and a forward by Walter Dean Myers, this is a truly beautiful book. Here’s part of the publisher’s press release:
A POEM AS BIG AS NEW YORK CITY could only come out of the hearts and minds of New York’s schoolchildren.
Hundred of lines of poetry created by New York City students were collected and edited to form a single poem that
speaks with many voices. The project was organized by the Teachers and Writers Collaborative, a 40-year old
nonprofit organization that offers innovative creative writing programs for students and teachers throughout the five
boroughs. This beautifully illustrated picture book offers a kids-eye view of the sights, sounds, and soul of NYC, as
well as a chance for kids of every age to rediscover the Big Apple. “These are young people learning to celebrate the
ordinary and to transform that ordinary into the rich stuff of life,” says award-winning novelist Walter Dean Myers in
his Foreword. “They boldly discard the stale as they bring their own rich and unique inner visions to the page. I am
sometimes surprised at the talent represented here, but not the creativity. It is what young people are capable of
when given the chance.”
If you are interested in helping your students write about their own community, here are some lesson plans and teaching ideas that worked well for Teachers & Writers. Congrats to everyone at T & W!
In fall 2012, Teachers & Writers Collaborative (T & W) will launch a searchable Digital Resource Center (DRC) on theirr website. Initially drawing on material from T&W’s 45 years of print publications, the DRC will also include resources provided by other members of the WITS Alliance–the professional network of literary arts education programs and individuals who serve K-12 students and provide professional development for their teachers.
Help them shape this new resource by completing a short survey here. Thank you!