Monday, January 27, 2014

"Being Human" : A Lesson for Writer's Workshop

This weekend, the Creative Writing Club hosted the 2nd annual Regional Slammin the Sun Down competition.  Eight teams competed in a slam showdown of rhymes, passion, and courage.  We were THRILLED when we found out that our very own CHS -  THE INK took 1st place in their bout!  Julia, Maria, and Zandra performed beautifully and advanced us to the finals.  

In the finals, Ashley Anderson totally brought it with her poem "Mirror", however, the poet from Merriville, IN brought it to.  We took 2nd place - Ashley with a 29.3 out of 30, and her competitor with a 29.6.  It was a well fought battle and the audience got to experience some pretty rad poetry along the way!!

In between the first bout and the final found, Mrs. Deleon and I had the pleasure of sitting in on a writing workshop with one of our favorite Chicago poets, Adam Gottlieb.  Adam is a former LTAB competitor and, quite possibly, Deleon's long lost hippie-child :-).  He brought us a gorgeous poem from the duo Climbing Poetree called "Being Human".  My brain is spinning with ideas for using this poem in class, but below is how Adam shared it with us.

"Being Human" Writing Workshop Lesson

CCSS (provided by me, not Adam):
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.5a Interpret figures of speech (e.g., euphemism, oxymoron) in context and analyze their role in the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5 Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.

  • Writing utensils
  • Copies for all students of "Being Human" by Naima (below)
  • Writing notebook/journal
  • OPTIONAL:  projector to share the YouTube video of the duo performance

  1. PREWRITING:  Ask students to create two columns on their page.  In the first column, students should brainstorm a massive list of things they think of when they consider nature:  elements, animals, etc.  They should write for 2-3 minutes.  Next, ask if the students remember the definition of personification.  In the next column, students should make a list of ways that the nature elements could be personified - specifically, ask students questions like, "What problems could these elements have?  What fears?  What dreams?  If these elements could feel, what feeling would they have?  What opinions?"
  2. READING:  Pass out copies of the poem to the students.  In our workshop, Adam performed the poem to us as we followed along.  We briefly discussed the poem - what we noticed, what we liked, what surprised us.
  3. WRITING:  Next, Adam directed us to write!  We were to take inspiration from the poem and from our lists and create something.  Adam gave great advice to the kids - he told them that the purpose of this writing time is not necessicarily to write the next great poem, but just to write.  Students might find one great line in the time provided, or maybe even a few stanzas, but what's most important is that the students write.  
  4. SHARING:  At the end of the provided writing time, Adam asked students to share what they came up with.  This time is incredibly important!

by Naima

I wonder if the sun debates dawn
some mornings
not wanting to rise
out of bed

from under the down-feather horizon
If the sky grows tired
of being everywhere at once
adapting to the mood swings of the weather

If the clouds drift off
trying to hold themselves together
make deals with gravity
to loiter a little longer

I wonder if rain is scared
of falling
if it has trouble letting go

If snow flakes get sick
of being perfect all the time
each one trying to be one-of-a-kind

I wonder if stars wish
upon themselves before the die
if they need to teach their young to shine

I wonder if shadows long
to once feel the sun
if they get lost in the shuffle
not knowing where they’re from

I wonder if sunrise and sunset
respect each other
even though they’ve never met

If volcanoes get stressed
If storms have regrets
If compost believes in life after death

I wonder if breath ever thinks
about suicide
I wonder if the wind just wants to sit
still sometimes
and watch the world pass by

If smoke was born knowing how to rise
If rainbows get shy back stage
not sure if their colors match right

I wonder if lightning sets an alarm clock
to know when to crack
If rivers ever stop
and think of turning back

If streams meet the wrong sea
and their whole lives run off-track
I wonder if the snow wants to be black

If the soil thinks she’s too dark
If butterflies want to cover up their marks
If rocks are self-conscious of their weight
If mountains are insecure of their strength

I wonder if waves get discouraged
crawling up the sand
only to be pulled back again
to where they began

I wonder if land feels stepped upon
If sand feels insignificant
If trees need to question their lovers
to know where they stand

If branches waver in the crossroads
unsure of which way to grow
If the leaves understand they’re replaceable
and still dance when the wind blows

I wonder where the moon goes
when she is hiding
I want to find her there
and watch the ocean
spin from a distance
Listen to her
stir in her sleep

effort give way to existence

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Snowball 2014 ~ Teens Making a Difference

Just got back from from an amazing weekend away with these kiddos.  If you've never heard about SNOWBALL, its a program for high school students that provides a safe space for them to get to know new friends and find alternate ways of having fun that don't involve alcohol or drug usage.  

The best part about this weekend is the time of year that it lands on the calendar...just when I'm fed up with the everyday shenanigans of my classroom, I get this weekend, out in the wilderness, out in the beauty of Loredo Taft Camp, and I get to spend time with kids as PEOPLE, not as students.  

If you've ever wondered about "today's generation" and if they're ready to take care of us when we're old...fear not.  These kids are passionate, loving, and powerful.  

Monday, January 20, 2014

Blackout Poetry

Every time I get a new group of Creative Writing students, I can pretty much divide the room in half:  students who can "go with it" and students who are "stuck".  It always amazes me that for some of the kids in my room, some of them have never simply written something that wasn't prescribed or "graphic-organized" for them.  This lesson is for the kids who feel "stuck", who feel like they don't have words of their own to contribute.  Blackout Poetry is a great way to help students get over that road block in their creative process.

I copied random pages from random novels I had sitting around my classroom.  I instructed the students to choose an abstract concept (hope, friendship, fear, revenge, etc.), title their poem "Friendship is..." or "Fear is..." and then find their poem within the text provided.  The tables were full of markers and extra pages of text.  I gave students about 12 minutes to write, we shared, and that was that!  This lesson was taught as a small workshop for our Snowball weekend, so we talked a lot about the importance of vulnerability and sharing their stories.

The lesson that I did was pretty informal.  If you're interested in seeing another formal lesson plan that I've written, please just comment below and I'll send it to you

Other great resources for Blackout poetry: