Sunday, July 16, 2017

Teachers Write 2017 - Tale #1 From the Classroom

Welcome to our first official Sunday Check-In of the summer! How is everyone feeling?! I can't wait to read about your reflections in the comments. I've been doing the exercises, got going with my first draft of the YA contemporary I'm working on this summer, and jumped in on Friday Feedback. Woo hoo!


I'm super excited that Andy Starowicz is here to talk about how he took his experiences from Teachers Write into his classroom with a special poetry project he did with his students and the art teacher at his school. Andy has been a Teachers Write participant from the very beginning and I'm so glad he's here to share his tale from the classroom. 
What a fantastic start to Teachers Write! It is without a doubt the highlight of my summer, and each summer, I learn so many writing strategies (and activities that I need to modify a bit – remember, I teach sixth graders) that I can take back to my classroom in September. Because of Teachers Write, I now have a writer’s notebook (actually, a few notebooks) that is dedicated to just lesson/unit plans and project ideas (see below). These experiences within the Teachers Write community have had a major impact on my ELA lessons and units, including the poetry/art project that I am posting about today.
After years of teaching poetry to sixth graders (figurative language skills, alliteration, imagery, personification, onomatopoeia, repetition, tone, mode, simile, metaphor, rhyme scheme, and stanza) and accessing them with quizzes and tests (identifying the aspects in poetry; mostly multiple-choice questions), I needed something different. While researching to find how other teachers assess poetry skills, I found an interesting poetry project in which the students write the poems and the advanced art students create the art that brings the poetry to life. The problem was that most of these projects were done by high school and college students, so I had to do some major tweaking in order to create a fair assessment for my sixth grade students (and the art students that did the artwork).  
The key aspect to making this an effective project is that I needed the art teacher to help me with the creation of the assignment and the rubric with which we will assess the student poets and artists. The art teacher was more than willing to help me, and the fact that she was a writer (I did not know this before working with her on this project) was even better. We talked how important it was that the student poems were rich with descriptive details so that the artist could visualize the poem and then produce an image that represents the poem.  
The most powerful part of the project was that my sixth grade students would write the poems, but eighth grade advanced art students would bring the poem to life visually. The sixth graders would have three class periods (each period is forty minutes) to write their poems. They would use all of the skills that they learned during the three-week unit (I sprinkle in poetry during the entire school year, but the poetry unit is in January). The art students then had two weeks to create the art piece that accompanied the poem. Each sixth grade student worked with an eighth grade student, and they met four times (each session was twenty-five minutes) to work together on the project (including many revisions – they even met during free periods to tweak their poetry and art). During this time, the art teacher and I did mini-lessons on visualization and using sensory details.  
The finale of the project was the poetry/art show in the school library from 3:30 -5:15 for family and friends to see the final poems and pieces. The show was very well attended (especially by friends of the sixth and eighth grade students - close to 75 students came to the show). The students were assessed separately. The art students had a rubric and the poets had a rubric that was similar but focused more on the writing skills. The project was a great success (although, I am already looking at tweaking the directions and rubric for next year). Please feel free to offer any comments or suggestions that would make the project an even more effective learning experience in the future.
This summer with Teachers Write, my focus is on revising and assessing. As I provide positive feedback to my writing peers, I have been creating a list (in my school dedicated writer’s notebook) of writing skills and different aspects that I will be assessing this coming school year (for example, focusing on sentence/paragraph flow with strong transitions). As always, I am carefully reading each day’s lesson and the feedback that I’m receiving from all of you with the hopes that an activity or project idea will surface that I can use in the coming year. I hope that you will give me some feedback about the poetry/art project. I also hope that you have a productive summer of writing and learning with Teachers Write. Thank you, Jen, Kate, Gae, and Jo, for organizing this wonderful opportunity for all of us.

A big giant high five to Andy for sharing how he has been able to take Teachers Write into his classroom. If you'd like to hear more about Andy's poetry project or see the directions and the rubric he used, feel free to email him at 

And now, I've been waiting and waiting and waiting to hear...

How awesome was week one!?!?

I eased my way into Teachers Write after Nerdcamp Michigan at the beginning of the week. I did all the exercises Kate posted on her blog, started a shiny brand new draft of a young adult contemporary novel, and shared a snippet on Friday Feedback. I have a little over 1,000 words and even though it's not that's a start. I'm hoping to add at least 5,000 more by the end of the week two (hopefully more!). 
Hanging out with Gae at Nerdcamp Michigan earlier this week!
Today, in the comments:
How did you do this week? Did you meet your weekly goal(s)?
What was the pit of your week? (The hardest part, the not-so-fun part?)
What was the peak of your week? (The best part, the most-totally-fun part?)
What are you looking forward to and planning for the week ahead?

A reminder of my rules for Teachers Write Sunday Check-Ins:
1. We respect each other and the type of writing we do.
2. We only offer constructive criticism.
3. We are positive and encourage each other at all times.

4. We recognize and maintain this as a safe environment.

Happy writing all!
P. S. Thank you for replying to each other's comments! 
While I read them all and do my best to reply and 
reply as soon as possible it doesn't always happen.
I so appreciate you cheering each other on through Teachers Write! You r-o-c-k!

Psst! Yes, you! One more thing...
Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter here!

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