An Exploration Into Found Poetry

My students don’t love poetry.  I know this because when I told them we would be creating poetry, the cacophony of noise that erupted was not one of joy or happiness.  It sounded more like some of them were sick.

But this is exactly why I love teaching poetry in 7th grade.  It is a chance to rewrite and reclaim the whole notion of what poetry is.  To help students see that they too can create things with meaning without feeling like poetry is just one more thing they are not smart enough to produce.

So instead of “regular” poetry, we create found poetry.  Introduced to us by the amazing David Daniel, an actor who does a weeklong poetry workshop with us every year (the kids have no idea how much they will love it).  We create poetry out of words that were not made by us.  We make poetry out of our surroundings, out of noises, out of words found in books and on books.  And I see the change, I see the spirit with which kids embrace this task.  How they all of a sudden feel like poets.

What are the different components?

Video:

Every day we share a video of a spoken word poet, some of our favorites are – if you have others, please share them in the comments:

To This Day Project by Shane Koyzcan

Knock Knock by Daniel Beaty

What Kind of Asian Are You? by Alex Dang

Somewhere in America by Belissa Escobedo, Rhiannon McGavin, and Zariya Allen

An Ode to Whataburger by Amir Safi

Why I Hate School But Love Education by Suli Breaks

Different Concepts:

There are many ways to create found poetry, here are a few of our favorites

Black-Out Poetry

Where students black the words out on pages of books, leaving only the words of their poem behind.  We use discarded library books for this.

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Found Words Poetry

Students search the classroom for words to fill out in a table on a piece of white paper.  Once they have filled all of their boxes, they cut them out, put them in the order they want and then glue them down.

Book Spine Poetry

Students create poetry using the titles of books, by stacking them on top of each other and then snapping a picture of their creations.  We shared them on social media using the hashtag #OMSreads

 

Collage Poetry (or Ransom Note poetry as the students coined it)

Using images and words from magazines, students cut out what they need and create a poem collage.

 

Conversation poetry

Send students to a busy area listening for sounds and snippets of conversations.  Write them down and then use them as lines in your poem.

Model poetry

Who says poetry needs words?  Using maker space materials create a visual poem that tells its stories using words or not.

There are many other ways of creating found poetry, if you have other ideas, share them in the comments.

While this may seem like just fun and games, it has been quite amazing to see the transformation.  We have also spoken about poetic terms that the students have been exposed to before, but may have forgotten.  This great word wall came from our 8th grade English teachers and help kids get reacquainted with terms they may either need or would like to be inspired by.

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So while my students didn’t love poetry in the beginning, and some might not still, many have realized that can be poets.  That poetry should make them feel something.  that poetry can be all around us.  I have loved this exploration so much.

If you like what you read here, consider reading any of my books; the newest called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like to infuse global collaboration into their curriculum, was just released.  I am currently working on a new literacy book, called Passionate Readers and it will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

Can We Please Stop Grading Independent Reading?

“But how do you grade their independent reading?”

I am asked this question while presenting on how to create passionate readers.

I am stumped for a moment for an answer.  Not because I don’t know, but because we don’t.  Why would we?  And yet, it is a question I am asked often enough to warrant a decent response.

My middle school does not issue a grade for how many books a child has read.  For how many minutes they have read.  For how far they have gotten on their book challenge goals.

And there is a big reason for this.

How many books you read does not tell me what you can do as a reader.  How long you can sustain attention to a book may tell me clues about your relationship with reading but it will not tell me where you fall within your reading skills.  Actual skill assessment will do that.  Explorations where you do something with the reading you do will tell me this.  The amount of books you have read will not tell me what you are still struggling with or what you have accomplished.  Instead it will tell me of the practice you do with the skills that I teach you.  With how you feel about reading in front of me and when I am not around.  About the habits you have established as you figure out your very own reading identity.  These habits are just that; skills you practice until something clicks and it becomes part of who you are.   Those are not gradeable skills but instead a child practicing habits to figure out how to get better at reading.  A child figuring out where books and reading fits into their life.

So just like we would never grade a child for how many math problems they choose to solve on their own, how many science magazines they browsed or how many historical documents they perused, we should not grade how many books a child chooses to read.  We should not tie pages read with a grade, nor an assessment beyond an exploration into how they can strengthen their reading habits.  Number of books read, minutes spent, or pages turned will never tell us the full story.  Instead it ends up being yet another way we can chastise the kids that need us to be their biggest reading cheerleaders.

So when we look to grade a child on how they are as a reader we need to make sure that the assessments we provide actually provide us with the answers we need.  Not an arbitrary number that again rewards those who already have established solid reading habits and punish those that are still developing.  And if you are asked to grade independent reading, ask questions; what is it you are trying to measure and is it really providing you with a true answer?  Are you measuring habits or skills?  Are the grades accurate?  If not, why not?  And if not, then what?

PS:  And for those wondering what we do assess in our reading, here is a link to our English standards.  

If you like what you read here, consider reading any of my books; the newest called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like to infuse global collaboration into their curriculum, was just released.  I am currently working on a new literacy book, called Passionate Readers and it will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

 

Books That Teach Us About the Experience of Refugees and Immigrants

This year in English we have really been focused on learning about others.  Others whose life experience may be so very different from our own.  Others who have so much to teach us. Others who some may tell us to fear.  So our collection of chapter books and books have grown with a focus on breaking down biases and broadening understanding.  I, therefore, thought that it would be helpful for others to see which books have helped us do just that.  Many of these books have been on other lists that I have posted, but there are a few new ones.

Picture books

What’s in a name?  As educators, we know the inherent power of pronouncing a child’s name correctly to make them feel accepted and included.  This picture book from 2009 shares the story of Sangoel, a refugee from Sudan, and what happens when he comes to America.  A must add as we try to break down walls and build understanding for others in our classrooms.
One of the most powerful picture books to be published in 2016, The Journey is about a family as they flee from war and the decisions they have to make as they search for safety.  Beautifully illustrated this picture book packs a punch.
Also a picture book about a family that has to leave their country in search of safety, the artwork is all done by stone.  With both English and Arabic text, I am so grateful for the vision of this picture book.
Why would a child set out on foot toward America, knowing that there were thousands of miles filled with danger ahead of them?  This picture book illustrates the journey that more than 100,000 children have taken as they try to reach safety in the United States.  Told in poetry, this picture book helps us understand something that can seem inconceivable.

A Piece of Home written by Jeri Watts and illustrated by Hyewon Yum

Fitting in. Feeling lost.  Appreciate differences.  What happens when a family chooses to move to the US and all of a sudden does not fit in anymore?

The Name Jar by Yanksook Choi (Having a name that no one pronounces correctly in the USA really makes me love this book even more).

Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation by Edwidge Danticat (Author), Leslie Staub (Illustrator) brings us the story of a little girl’s longing for her mother as they are separated.  The mother has been sent to a detention center and does not know what will happen to her.

Sharing the story of Oskar, a young boy who has escaped the horror of the Jewish persecution in Germany and arrives in America with only a photograph and an address of an aunt he has never met.  He must make his way through the streets of NYC, but rather than being afraid, he sees the blessings he meets along the way. Another must add as we discuss refugees, and not being afraid of others in our classrooms.
Taken from his own life; this story of having to hide in a planetarium as the government looks for his activist father is one sure to get students talking.  What happens when you speak up but the government does not want you to.  Reminding us that even when it is scary, we should still stand up for what is right, and sharing the story of why some people have to flee, this is another must-add to your collection.

In The Seeds of Friendship by Michael Foreman a boy is not sure how to make a connection with others.  That is until he is given seeds and he has an idea of how to make this new gray city more like home.

What happens when a father and his young daughter set out toward the border?  In 

My Two Blankets by Irena Kobald and Freya Blackwood speaks to how hard moving is, but also about finding a new friend.  This is all about finding the beauty in someone else’s culture.

 Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale by Duncan Tonatiuh.  This allegory tells the tale of Pancho who is waiting for his father’s return from the north.  When Papa doesn’t show up as expected, Pancho is determined to find him.  The author, Duncan Tonatiuh, is a Global Read Aloud contender for picture book study.
 In Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say I am reminded of how split we can feel when we belong to two countries.  Beautiful and still relevant more than twenty years after its release, this is a wonderful way to discuss what it means to feel home.
 Sometimes the books that tell us the most do not even have words.  The Arrival by Shaun Tan wordless graphic novel/picture book is one that will mesmerize readers.

Chapter books

The Reading Identity Challenge

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At the beginning of the year, I asked my students to tell me how they felt about reading.  I do this every year as it offers me a baseline, a glimpse into their reading truths.  I was not surprised at the results, 25% told me they loved it, 50% told me they didn’t mind it, and the final 25%?  They told me they hated it.  Perhaps slightly higher than normal, but nevertheless, teaching 7th graders, I was not worried.  After all, every year it seems this happens and every year, children change their minds.

This year, though, some have proven to be stubborn.  Those kids that hate reading, they still were fighting me every step of the way.  Abandoning books, which we do embrace, every single day.  Refusing to book shop even.  Flipping pages aimlessly day in and day out.  Not having any desire to change their hatred, content with being part of the statistics of kids that don’t read.

So I created the Student Reading Identity Challenge.  Not just for the kids who still hated reading, but for those that needed a spark, those that needed to stretch their reading legs a little.  For myself to challenge my own reading life, nervously glancing at Hatchet and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry as two books I had no desire to read but knew I should.

A reading challenge for us all, so we all could get better, whatever better meant to us.  The concept is simple; over the course of three weeks or so students would select one aspect of their personal reading life and challenge themselves to make it better or change it.  Much like a personal goal; there was no right challenge, instead, it was based on the individual’s needs, the hopes for the future.   There was no limit to what they could work on and they would be given around twenty minutes every day to read, rather than our usual ten.

We started with this five-page survey; yes, five pages.  I needed students in all their stages of reading relationship to uncover new truths about themselves.  It needed to go beyond whether they liked to read or not and into their actual reading habits.  Where are they reading, what are they reading, why are they not reading more?  Where are their book gaps?  Where do they get book recommendations from?  All those little things that play into who they are as a reader.  It took the kids almost two days to fill it out because I asked them to please slow down, please really think about it, and then show your goal to me.

The goals varied; I want to enjoy reading again, I want to try a new genre, I want to read every day.  Some couldn’t think of one until we looked through all of their answers and something jumped out at us.  Whatever the goal was there was a reason, a personal one, that this was the one thing they felt would help them become a better reader.  Some kids even chose a read aloud with another teacher so they could have a shared experience around a book, trying to help them actually like reading more.  For every goal there was a story; a story of reading blossomed or reading gone wrong.  For every goal there was either excitement or reprehension; how would this actually change anything?  Once all the goals were in place, I asked the kids to somehow keep track – how will you know you are working on your goal?  Some chose a calendar to write down minutes or rank their reading of the day, some chose a peer to speak about their reading.  This is the one component I am still working on, I did not want it to be a writing experience, one where the students would have to jot down their thoughts every day, but instead, an organic process for them that helped them have a great experience, not one more thing to do.

So we began; some kids book shopped the first few days, having to find a great book as part of their goal as well,  others dove right in.  I taught a mini-lesson every day and then the rest of the time was for them to read.  I pulled small groups, conferred with students, and otherwise watched.  Were they actually reading?  Was this actually working…

One child told me she was so confused in her fantasy book and this was exactly why she never read fantasy because “It doesn’t make any sense!” and yet because of the challenge she read on, declaring at the end of the book that she couldn’t wait for the sequel. Another told me she was stuck in the boring part and this was always when she abandoned a book, but now because of the challenge, she read on.  A child who has yet to read a single book this year, no matter my support, is on page 60 of Hatchet, telling me yesterday that he read 20 pages in one day.

Whatever their goal, I saw it gradually start to happen; kids finding a way to make reading better for themselves.  Kids realizing more deeply who they are as readers, where they are on their reading journey.  For some, it has proven to be a huge revelation, for others just a small one.  But for most, it has changed something in them as a reader.  For most, there is a deeper urge to make reading enjoyable, no matter what they are reading.

So yesterday, I taught my first two classes, followed my lesson plan to the tee.  But in my 5th hour, the students asked if they could please read for ten minutes today, knowing I had only allocated ten.  Of course, I said.  When the fifteen were up, they asked for five more minutes.  Of course, I said.  When the five were up they asked if they could please just read the rest of the class.  As twenty-five students stared at me, seemingly holding their breath, I said, “Of course.”  And then watched the thickest of silences fall over the room as they each retreated into their books.  Even the ones who tell me they hate reading.  Even the ones who used to flip pages.  I did the same for the rest of my classes, and it didn’t change; silence, except for the pages being turned, and one child telling me triumphantly that they had read fifteen pages today – more than they read all of last week.

The reading identity challenge is not the end all be all, but it is another step in helping students uncover another aspect of who they are as readers.  It is another tool to help them become empowered in their own reading journey.  It is another step to tell all of my students that reading matters and that they control so much of their relationship with reading.  That new genres await, that it is possible for reading to be fun, that they can make it through the boring parts, that they can go deeper in their text.  That reading should be a part of who they are and therefore also should be something they mold and shape as they develop further.

As for me?  It turns out that Hatchet and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry were amazing books.  That I have realized that perhaps I should be looking at other classic children’s book gaps to make sure I am able to recommend them to kids.  That even though I love reading, I still have things to work on.  Just like my students, just like we all do.

PS:  Here is the reflection sheet I had them fill out at the end.  The standard referenced is one that measures providing evidence for their thoughts.

If you like what you read here, consider reading any of my books; the newest called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like infuse global collaboration into their curriculum, was just released.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  I am currently working on a new literacy book, called Passionate Readers and it will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.  I also have a new book coming out December, 2017 .   Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

 

 

Some Favorite New Chapter Books, Part 1 2017

If my early reading of 2017 is any indication, this year is shaping up to be a powerhouse of a year in children’s literature.  And for that I am excited.  So what are some of the great books I have read, loved, and now am sharing?

Fenway and Hattie and the Evil Bunny Gang by Victoria J. Coe

If you have been within a mile of me and asked for a book recommendation for younger classrooms (1st grade and up you will have heard me mention Fenway and Hattie by Victoria J. Coe.  After all, this new series written from the perspective of a dog captured my heart last summer and is now a GRA contender.  So I am delighted to add the second book in the series as another must read.  How can you not love the adventures of Fenway as he tries to navigate the very confusing life of being a dog?

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor 

Yes, I am aware that this book was originally released in 1976 and subsequently won the Newbery.  It is by no stretch of the imagination a “new” book, but it was for me.  As part of our reading identity challenge, I wanted to close some of my classic American children’s literature gaps (growing up in Denmark, there are just some books I have never read), and so I chose this amazing book.  I am glad I did.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen 

I may be the only teacher left that had never read Hatchet before, at least that is what it felt like.  I now get why it continues to pop up in contemporary classrooms as a must read book.  I was hooked once that plane went down.

In my opinion, right now there are three must-read YA books this spring; Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson, American Street by Ibi Zoboi, and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.  All desperately needed in our classrooms but not just to be read by students, no, these also need to be read by us adults.  And then we need to sit with them for a long time and take a long hard look at ourselves and see where we need to start our work with checking our privilege and our bias.

As mentioned above, American Street by Ibi Zoboi is another must read.  As an immigrant, I related to it, but as someone who is viewed as another white American (even though I am Danish), it was an education. Raw, poetic, and sure to make you think, this needs to be in our 8th grade and up libraries.  

I am a sucker for fantasy series that pits good against evil.  Throw in a slight romance and I am hooked.  I loved the concept of Frostblood (The Frostblood Saga) by Elly Blake, and while there certainly were similarities between this and other books in this type of vein, it didn’t matter.  It was a great read; entertaining and worth my time.  I cannot wait for the next book in this YA series.  

It is not often that a middle-grade novel about a girl who suffers from OCD is this well-written.  I simply loved Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz for its lack of sugarcoating, for its brutal portrayal of a girl who realizes what she is doing is not normal and yet cannot stop herself, for the story.  OCD is sometimes portrayed almost as a gimmick, but not in this book.  It was heartwrenching to say the least and written in a way to bring all readers in.  
In my book, Dav Pilkey can do no wrong.  His genius is one that ensures that so many kids see themselves as readers and I will never be able to personally thank him enough for his dedication to creating amazing books.  So Dog Man Unleashed (Dog Man #2)  was a natural read for me.  I laughed out loud, I did the flip-o-ramas and then I book talked it to my 7th graders.  I have not seen the book since.  This addition to this list also shows me how randomly I read at times, which I totally love.
I read  Scythe (Arc of a Scythe) by Neal Shusterman in two nights and then handed it to one of my students.  A week later she handed it back and said, “This is the best book I have read all year.”  Enough said, this is PG13, but a must add and read.
I grabbed  Armstrong and Charlie by Steven B. Frank  from my ARC book pile on a whim.  Two hours later I finally looked up and realized that I was not supposed to be sitting in my chair still reading.  I love this middle-grade novel for all of its nuances when it comes to sharing the story of one school’s integration in the 1970’s and so will you.  I also hvae two different students reading it right now and they agree; this book is a must add to 4th grade and up.
Yes please to a YA book where the female lead character doesn’t need to be saved, isn’t waiting to be changed by the boy she falls in love with, has a family that actually is functional, and is also not a hopeless mess.  I am a fan of First & Then by Emma Mills .
So there you have it, a small slice of my reading life from the past 7 weeks.  To see more up-to-date shares of what I read follow me on Instagram.  And to see all of the lists I have created through the last three years or so of favorite books, go here.
If you like what you read here, consider reading any of my books; the newest called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like infuse global collaboration into their curriculum, was just released.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  I am currently working on a new literacy book, called Passionate Readers and it will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.  I also have a new book coming out December, 2017 .   Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

Some Favorite New Picture Books – Part 1, 2017

As I have been busy sharing favorite books on my Instagram account, I realize that I have not shared many new finds on here.  This quiet Saturday morning, where I am up much too early thanks to my kids, is, therefore, the perfect day to catch up.   So grab a cup of tea or coffee, make your list, borrow from your library or add them to your classroom, I promise you won’t regret it.

 Deborah Freedman has been on my list of amazing authors and overall human being for awhile now.  Het latest picture book is simply breathtaking.  Telling the story of a house and the parts it is made up of, it made me think of how to speak to our children about the birth of ideas and how it takes many different parts to make something beautiful.  What a beautiful message for us all right now.  This is released February 28th.
 I was unsure about a picture book that tells the story of the Manhattan Project, the creation of the atomic bomb, and yet the beauty of this book is exactly in how hard of a topic this is.  Powerful and moving with an author’s note that is sure to generate discussion, what a book this is.
While technically not a picture book but rather an early reader, we are obsessed with Charlie & Mouse in our household.  This brand new series from Laurel Snyder is laugh out loud funny and a must for anyone with younger children.  My eight year old loves it as well and reads it on her own.  This first book in a new series comes out in April, it is definitely worth the wait.
I had certainly heard of Lena Horne, however, I honestly knew very little about her.  This picture book has set me straight; her inspiring life not only as an entertainer but also a civil rights activist is one every child should know of.
A first for this blog; a recommendation of a board book, but Peep and Egg deserves to not only be read aloud to our littlest ones but also in our classroom.  The story of an egg that does not want to hatch made me laugh but could also lead to conversations about fear and how it holds us back.
While we have all heard the famous I Have A Dream speech seeing a collection of photographs from the days leading up to it and the march itself, really made me contemplate once again this immense moment in history.  These pictures coupled with the text are sure to bring a deeper understanding of the significance of the speech.
If you ever have to teach onomatopoeia then this is the picture book for you.  With gorgeous illustrations this book follows a fox as it tries to find shelter in a rainstorm.  I would whisper Caldecott but alas the illustrator does not fit the criteria.
A picture book about death not meant to frighten but meant to help children understand the beauty of a life well lived, this Danish picture book, is truly one to add to your collection.  Picture books can help us broach such difficult conversations in our classrooms and this one certainly does.
What’s in a name?  As educators we know the inherent power of pronouncing a child’s name correctly to make them feel accepted and included.  This picture book from 2009 shares the story of Sangoel, a refugee from Sudan, and what happens when he comes to America.  A must add as we try to break down walls and build understanding for others in our classrooms.
Sharing the story of Oskar, a young boy who has escaped the horror of the Jewish persecution in Germany and arrives in America with only a photograph and an address of an aunt he has never met.  He must make his way through the streets of NYC, but rather than being afraid, he sees the blessings he meets along the way. Another must add as we discuss refugees, and not being afraid of others in our classrooms.
Taken from his own life; this story of having to hide in a planetarium as the government looks for his activist father is one sure to get students talking.  What happens when you speak up but the government does not want you to.  Reminding us that even when it is scary, we should still stand up for what is right, this is another must add to your collection.
One of the most powerful picture books to be published in 2016, The Journey is about a family as they flee from war and the decisions they have to make as they search for safety.  Beautifully illustrated this picture book packs a punch.
Also a picture book about a family that has to leave their country in search of safety, the artwork is all done by stone.  With both English and Arabic text, I am so grateful for the vision of this picture book.
Why would a child set out on foot toward America, knowing that there were thousands of miles filled with danger ahead of them?  This picture book illustrates the journey that more than 100,000 children have taken as they try to reach safety in the United States.  Told in poetry, this picture book helps us understand something that can seem inconceivable.
There you have it, a few new favorites, I hope this list is helpful.  To see all of our other favorites through the year, please go here.