Writers Find New Ways of Seeing the World

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
by Artez
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.

  Read the complete essay here: https://teachersandwritersmagazine.org/through-the-eye-of-a-feather-helping-students-slow-down-pay-attention-and-see-anew-5686.htm
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Teach It to the Moon and Back

moon

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.”

Read the full lesson at Teachers & Writers Magazine >>

Free Resources for Teaching Poetry in the Schools

House of Colors by Judy Kaufman
House of Colors by Judy Kaufman

Teaching poetry can be tricky. Here are some great links that may help.

Please add your favorite teaching resources in the comment section below.

 

Little Kids Write about the Big Apple

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!

What Matters Most?

ImageIn 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!

Questions Without Answers by Nicole Callihan

“Is there anything in the world sadder

than a train standing in the rain?”

–Pablo Neruda

I’ve always loved Pablo Neruda’s poems. Ripe-apple-tender and wild-eyed, they’ve carried me from classroom to classroom for more than a decade as I’ve worked as a teaching artist in the New York Public Schools through Teachers & Writers Collaborative. One of my favorite lessons asks students to do nothing more than question the world. “Ask a question that can’t be answered,” I tell them. “Anything,” I say.  The students stare at me or gently rock or twirl hair around the tips of their fingers, but bit by bit—with the help of teachers and paraprofessionals and communication devices and speech therapists—their questions emerge.

Why don’t apples grow on pear trees?

Why doesn’t America have Founding Mothers?

Do broken hearts break things?

Why is night?

What is different? Why is different different?

I’ve been working with these same students for the past three springs, all of whom are middle school-aged and considered to be on the “lower end” of the autistic spectrum, and each time I return to them after a long city winter, they disarm me.  To be quite honest, it almost always feels like we’re starting from the very beginning. I hold up a poem on a piece of paper, and week after week, I ask them, “How do we know this is a poem?” And week after week, I wait. Today, lesson five, the room promised as much silence as ever, but then James spoke. “Space?” he said, more of a question than an answer. And I clapped and jumped, and Yes, James, yes, we know it’s a poem because there’s SPACE!

Eighteen months ago I gave birth to my daughter, Eva, and immediately she carved out this frighteningly tender spot in my heart. It’s strange because mornings, before I go teach, I do the same sort of exercises with her that I do to warm up my students. And this is your nose, and these are your toes, and where o where are those pretty elbows? The fact that my students are so much older than Eva—and so trapped in their pubescent early teenage bodies and in their very different working minds—is sometimes difficult for me to take.

Motherhood has cast my work with these students in a special, harsher light. If I think about it too hard—and sometimes I do because, I believe, as writers and artists and compassionate beings we must—this discrepancy threatens to disable me. It’s such a reminder of how unfair the world is, of how unequal we all are, of how many questions there are that fly so  wildly around refusing to be pinned down by any single answer.

It’s at those times that I have to remind myself to see the world a bit more like Neruda does—as unanswerable and surreal and magical, as a train standing in rain—knowing that, sometime soon, either the rain will stop or the train will pull away, and I will be left standing oh-so-near the tracks, weighed down only by poetry and love.

Nicole Callihan works with Teachers and Writers Collaborative, a sister organization  in New York City. Her poems, stories, and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Painted Bride Quarterly, Salt Hill, Washington Square, and New York Quarterly. She was a finalist for the Iowa Review’s Award for Literary Nonfiction and was named as Notable Reading for Best American Non-required Reading. She teaches at New York University and in schools and hospitals in New York City.