Friday, April 27, 2012

Quick note on formatting printed poems!

Hopefully some of you moms will see this.  As I printed out the poems this morning, it occurred to me that some guidelines for formatting and printing your poems might be helpful.  We can be flexible with the different ways you might print out your poem, but a few things would be helpful:

--remember to make sure each new line of the poem is capitalized
--Your child may or may not title the poem.  But do make sure you include the date, time, and place the child did her sensory immersion.  We are using that info for our poem titles.
--I would single space the poem, but use 14 pt font.
--I would leave the poem body left-aligned, but center the title and author
--I would leave two blank lines between the title and author, and then the author and first line.
--I would bold the title and author lines.

But if you end up with something different, that should work too--the only thing we really don't want is for it to take up too much room on the poet's page, so there will not be as much room for artwork.

Looking forward to seeing you all there today!  If anyone needs to come a little early, I will be there hopefully by 11:30 but definately by 11:45.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Book Project 2012: how not to do it example and other helpfulness

This moment at the beach--trying to get my kids to engage their senses and use their words--is silver,
The color of a dagger as it is thrust slowly into my right temple.
It feels like torture.
Like the whole expanse of God's grand creation laid before stubbornly unheeding minds.
It sounds like children silent, while I wait.
It smells like tears, gathering behind my tired eyes.
This precious moment with my children in nature makes me feel like
Going home and eating chocolate instead.

; )

Ok, thought you might like one last example that came to me yesterday, while my darlings and I were romping through nature, holding hands and soaking in all the amazing beauty of nature with all our senses. 

Or not.

Ok, really, I wanted you all to get a chuckle, and remember that this does not have to be an idealized project!  If your kids don't engage the way you want them to (even if, say, they absolutely love nature and are really creative and have LOTS of words and have already done this kind of poem twice before and can do it in their sleep) during the sensory immersion part of the poetry project, THAT'S OK.  Run with it. 

If you only have 30 minutes to write a poem and your baby is fussing and your kid can't come up with any better ways to describe the sky than "nice" and "blue"--FINE.  Run with it.

Even if your young poet uses "cool" three times in the poem, and trying to get her to come up with a different descriptive is like pulling teeth.  FINE  Run with it.

Even if your child gives up after the senses and says he is done and runs off to whack his brother with a pillow and you can't get him back and refocused to finish that last line. FINE.  It's done.

; )


--For that last line of the poem, where the poet should restate the subject--try having the child just describe where she is and what she is doing.  (See examples below)

--Sarah F. said her kids have been using the thesaurus and enjoying it, so if your kids are having a hard time finding the words they mean, that's a great way to take the pressure off of them to generate their own words.

--It is TOTALLY FINE to feed your kid ideas.  If she is really struggling with words, or with perfectionism, if you offer suggestion and she likes one of them, try to see if she can word it her own way, but if she just wants to write it the way you said it, FINE.  Part of the learning process is listening to other people's imagery and descriptive words and evaluating their effectiveness.  Your child is still learning!  It is still a fine way to approach this project!

Let me just make this clear--there is no wrong way to do this poem.

Does that make some of you feel better?

So, don't have high expectations, be creative and encouraging and try your best to arrange a good time for your child to be focused and undistracted during the sensory immersion/writing, BUT if your best laid plans go awry, it's FINE.  Don't let disappointment or frustration of diengaged kids, or tired little ones, or short amount of time, or whatever keep you from jumping in and trying!

I do feel differently about the overall book page, though.  So the things I do want to be more consistent and have higher quality control about:

1. kids having watercolor paper in the colors they need for the art project Friday
2. kids making artwork that uses the colors they saw during their immersion
3. the poems being printed/typed out.  No handwriting this time.
4. Don't forget to type the time, the date and the place too--it can be your poem's title, or a subheading, just make sure it is typed out on the page.

Can't wait to see you all on Friday!  Don't forget to RSVP!

I'll leave you with the poems my two younger girls came up with yesterday (after editing):

April 24, 2012.  3:00 p.m. at New Brighton State Beach.

by Bronwyn

This sunny day at the beach is tan and blue and white,
The colors of sparkling sea water, and wood and foam washed up on the sand.
It feels like hot sand in my toes,
And cool, smooth water on my toes.
It sounds like waves throwing water onto the shore.
It smells like salt.
It tastes like onion.
Sitting in the hot sand, reaching my fingers into it, makes me feel lovely,
Like making a sand angel.

April 24, 2012.  3:00 p.m. at New Brighton State Beach.

by Meredith

This sunny afternoon at the beach is light and airy,
And deep murky blue,
The colors of pure sky and gentle whales.
It feels warm and joyful.
It sounds like waves rolling and crashing.
It smells salty, with a slight scent of pollen.
It tastes like cool, clean and fresh air.
Visiting the waves and hugging the sand makes me feel happy.

See, my kids clearly had a much more fun time doing this project yesterday than I did! ; )  Take a deep breath, Momma, smile and relax.  The process is so much more important than the final outcome.  : )

Friday, April 20, 2012

Book Project 2012: The Art, and Book-Making Party! (RSVP)

This is a short post, really just a preview of what we will be doing to illustrate your children's poetry when we get together on next Friday, April 27, at noon-2:30 there in the usual classrooms at Vintage.

We're going to cut up our watercolored papers, and make pretty pictures that reflect the poems!

So, this is why you need to make sure you and your kids made paper in the colors that will suit their poems.  But we will bring all the papers we have made, and we can share with each other too. 

(When I had the girls make these a few years ago, I was not thinking of how to put them in the book, and it was a bummer to have them sideways and have to punch holes directly into the art.  Which is why we are thinking things through this year, and the illustrations will be sized to fit onto larger, stiff pieces of paper, much like we did last year for the "What's Above, What's Beneath" book.)

Here is what you need to bring to the book-making party:

--The completed poems for each child, typed out.
Last year I had the children write their poems out neatly, since they were short poems.  This year the poems are longer, and I want their words to take center stage, so all the poems must be typed/printed out.  The font (even the color) is up to you.

--The watercolor papers you made with your kids.
If you do not make watercolor papers ahead of time and bring them, your children might be discouraged that there are no papers that fit the colors they need.  This is one time we all have to plan ahead--it won't work to come unprepared.

(If your child realizes he needs a color of paper he did not anticipate, and no one else has it, we can use crayons to color paper there at the church. But this will work only in a pinch, and won't be as nice as watercolor.)

--Your Old School art kits!
Remember when we were meeting on Mondays and I told you all to bring your own glue, rulers, pencils, erasers, scissors, etc.?  Now is the time to do it again!  We can usually round up the supplies we need from the classrooms, but we can't count on it, so best bet is to bring your own!

Finally, please come on time! 
We will have plenty to do, so will start in right away.  If we get done early, then we can socialize!  This year you moms (with your kids, to the degree you see fit) will be doing the cutting and measuring for your pages, but it will be much easier of a layout than last year's page. (Which was beautiful, but took a lot more measuring.)

This is going to be fun!

Questions or comments?  Please leave a response to this post. 

**And if you are planning on participating in this project, and are coming to the Book-Making party next Friday, would you please RSVP in the comments?  Thanks!

Book Project 2012, STEP TWO: Editing the Poems

At this point, you and your young poet are basically done with the writing! 

You used the formula, and have your poem.  The only thing to do now is talk with your child about his or her imagery and word choice.  When I did this project with the Kimball girls and my own a couple of years ago, I found that if I sat down and talked with each girl one-on-one for a few minutes to help them think through their poem, they were very willing to chose the best words to say what they really meant, and the poems were so much more meaningful and beautiful. 

The most important thing:  ask questions about what your kid means, and don't let her just say, "I dunno." 

Let's say your poet said "The backyard is green."

You might say, "Well, what specific part of the backyard are you talking about?  What makes it green?"

She might say in response, "Here in the grass is green.  It looks really green because it just rained and the plants look fresh."

Ah-ha!  So, you might say, "So what exactly do you want your specific place to be, to describe for this poem?  Let's be more specific than the backyard."

She says, "OK, then. My backyard after the rain is green."

You ask, "What kind of green?"

She says, "Grass green."

You say, "OK.  So, you just said my backyard after the rain is grass green.  Hmmmm. I can think of several different colors of grass green, since sometimes it is pale and sometimes its dark.  Can you add another descriptive word to tell us what kind of grass green your backyard is after the rain?"

She says, "Baby grass. It's baby grass green."

You say, "Great!  I can really see that!  OK, so when you see that color, what else does it remind you of?"

She says, "Mmmmmmm.  (pause) Hmmmmmmm."

You wait patiently.

She says, "Ummmmmmmm. (pause, looking out of window.) It makes me think of baby frogs."

You say, "Oh, baby frogs!  I can see that.  Nice job."

And there you have a fine, descriptive first two lines of the poem:

My backyard after the rain is baby grass green,
The color of baby frogs. 

Keep on going, and get your child to add some specific imagery with good descriptive words.  Go over the whole poem one time, clarifying and adding descriptive words. 

Now if you want, you can talk to your child further about her word choice, or you can be done, depending upon how excited your child is to be doing this and what mischief your other children are getting into:

You say, "Honey, this is a great poem!  Nice job thinking through your word choice to pick the words that best describe what your senses are telling you.  You know, I'm looking at your poem, and I notice you used the descriptive word 'baby' twice.  Most of the time when you are writing poems you don't want to repeat words,  unless you really want to emphasize them.  Is baby the word you want to describe both the grass and the frogs?" 
She says, "Ummmm.  I think the grass looks like baby grass because it looks new."

You say, "So, do you want to say My backyard after the rain is new grass green?" 

She says, "Ok."

You say, "Is that what you want?  Which best fits what you are trying to say?  What you think that green is like?

And she says, "I think it is new grass green."

You say, "Ok, that sounds nice, and gives the same idea of fresh, like babies are fresh.  Is there anything else you can think of that is like this green besides baby frogs?  Do you want to add another mental picture to show your reader what kind of green you are talking about?"

She thinks, and says, "It makes me think of splashing in puddles."

Now, this is where you could get all public-school teacher and say, "Well, that's nice, but it does not really fit into the formula, so let's leave that out."  HOWEVER, I would highly recommend that ANYTHING that your kid spouts in the throes of creativity and engagement with her senses and nature--and is appropriate to the idea of the poem--goes into the poem.  Just add a line and stick it in there!  

My backyard after the rain is new grass green,
The color of baby frogs. 
It makes me think of splashing in puddles.

And then you just jump back into the poem formula and continue on!

If you moms take a few minutes after the poem is written--back when you are home and have a few minutes of quiet, uninterrupted time, so both you and the child can now engage with the words and really hear them--to talk through word choice with your young writers, you will be so surprised sometimes how creative and observant they are!

If you can get your kid to volunteer more than one descriptive for each sense, great!  But if they just want to do one, great! 

The only tricky thing that you really need to talk your kids through is the rewording of the subject in the last line.  In our example we have going above, rewordings might be:

My wet backyard
Standing in the wet grass
Here in my wet, green backyard
At this moment after the rain
Right now in my backyard
With my bare feet in the cool grass

Do you see how any of those phrases can plug into the formula to refocus the reader on where and when the poem is taking place?  If you need specific ways to help your child reword the poem's subject, ask her to consider another way of saying where she is and what makes this moment special from another moment in Spring. *Remember, that's the overall topic of the book--This Moment In Spring.*

I can't wait to see what your kids come up with!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Book Project 2012: More Poetry Examples

(Double-click to enlarge)

From another poetry project earlier than the Redwood poetry project.  You see, this little poem format is so easy to use, and your kids' ideas will end up so creative and beautiful!

Book Project 2012, STEPS TWO and THREE: Immerse in Nature, and Write Poetry About It!

OK, this part of the book project is also so much fun, and should be equally pleasurable for parents and kids.  (At least it was when I did it with my girls and the Kimball girls last year for our Redwood poetry book--oh, to be out in Creation, breathing deeply all the fragrances of the outdoors, purposefully slowing down and really looking, listening, noticing, enjoying.  I can't wait to do it again with the girls in a new setting for this project!)

--Pick your spot

So, talk with your kids and get their ideas on where it would be fun to use all their senses to explore one moment in one spot in the world.

In theory, this can be ANYWHERE.  There are lots of different spaces easily available to us here on the Bay that would be fantastic for sensory immersion: at the beach, in the redwoods, at a park, in a garden, in a field, at a farm.  But don't think you have to drive somewhere specific to participate in the project--just go to your own backyard!  The beauty of this project is that it only needs to be as much of an adventure as you want it to be--and even if every single kid writes about his or her backyard, the book will still end up with a big variety of poems, since the look and feel of every yard will be different, and will be interpreted differently by the young poets.

That said, of course it will be fun if you do some exploring too, so if you feel like being even a little adventuresome, go for it! 

Some people could even opt for an urban setting!  So if a child wants to go downtown Santa Cruz and soak in the colors and textures and sounds and smells (ew) of our own local cityscape, that can make a fantastic experience and resulting poem. (Although personally, from an art perspective, I don't think watercolor would be the right medium for the urban experience--a collage of newspaper and wrappers and something more along the lines of Ezra Jack Keats seems better suited for capturing the feel of the urban setting. That's just my opinion though--get creative and if you want to try this experience in the cityscape, go for it!  I'm perfectly fine with a watercolor and newspaper collage, or any combinations that use other materials in conjunction with watercolor paper.)

--Document your moment

It is VERY important that you remember to take paper and pencil with you when your kids head out to immerse their senses in their chosen spot(s) in nature.  You may also take the poem template and just do the poem while you are there!  But at the very least, be sure to record the following while you are there:

1. The date, the time, the place
2. The sounds, smells, colors, textures, emotional and literal "feel" of the place, and tastes, if there are any (get those kids to use their imaginations!)
3. How your child verbalizes he or she feels about that moment, in that place.

If you write down just these things, you will have enough to work with writing the poems when you get home. BUT I strongly urge you to sit down and write the poems as soon as you can after the sensory immersion, while the feelings and observances and ideas are all still fresh.  This one thing can make a huge difference in the quality of the final poem, and the ease of the whole project.

Here is your poem template:


Five Senses Poem


___(your subject/place)___ is ___(descriptive)___  ___(color)___,

The color of ___ (descriptive)___ ___(thing)___.

It (they, whatever fits) feels _________.

It sounds like _________.

It smells like __________.

___ (your subject/place)___ tastes like __(descriptive)__ __(thing)___.

___(reword subject)___ makes me feel __________.

Hmm, looks like MadLibs poetry, doesn't it?!  So, just in case that looks confusing, let me give examples--you will immediately understand not only the specific parameters of each line, but also how much you can deviate to meet your child's own writing and topic without losing the construction of the poem:

Five Senses Poems

#1: Woods
by Katie

These woods are cloudy green,
The color of bumpy lichens.
They feel cool.
They sound like Spring.
They smell like rich soil.
These woods taste like cloves.
They are beautiful and make me feel so warm.

#2: Sunlight in the Woods
by Claire

Sunlight in the woods is pale green,
The color of morning.
It feels cool and dancing.
It sounds like twittering birds.
It smells fresh and damp.
Sunlight in the woods tastes like moist herbs.
This spot of bright light makes me feel joyful.

#3: Clearing in the Woods
by Meredith

The clearing in the woods is new green,
The color of Spring.
It feels cool.
It sounds like birds singing tweet, tweet, tweet.
It smells like fresh air.
The clearing tastes like watery cucumber.
This calm clearing in the woods makes me feel
Happy deep inside.

#4: Afternoon in the Redwoods
by Gwynneth

This afternoon is green,
The color of Spring,
Fresh and majestic garden green.
It feels still, slightly stff, and prickly.
It sounds like twittering birds and trickling water.
It smells like life, like rich dark soil,
Pepper-spice cool.
The afternoon tastes like sour grass, garden herbs,
Cloves and fresh water.
This quiet afternoon makes me feel so small,
Yet calm.

Those poems were all written at the same moment, in the same place--but look at how each girl interpreted it differently!

Some more helps:

Title ---This is your poem's subject. Can be the name of the place where you are (i.e. "Seacliff Beach"), or a description of the place (i.e. "A Clearing in the Woods"), and can include mention of when you are there ("The Beach at Low Tide," or "A Moment in My Backyard," or "Afternoon in the Redwoods").  Or, since our overall focus is Spring, the title can even be something like "This Moment in Spring."  **Make sure your child has the title/subject very firmly in mind as he does the sensory immersion, so he knows how to focus his senses for each line of the poem.**

Even if your child is old enough to record her own ideas, you might consider taking notes for her, so she can close her eyes and really immerse her senses in that moment, in that place, and really pin-point everything she is experiencing. 

And no matter the age or ability of your child, it works well to guide the poetry by asking the child line by line what it feels like, sounds like, etc.

If you are not planning on doing the actual poem while in your spot, be sure to take good notes.  You could even consider taking a few photos to help your child remember what it was like later while writing.

When you are done with these two steps, you should have something that already sounds like a great poem!!!  It needs only a little more crafting to be finished, and with your kids involved, it is a great way to practice all kinds of good school things, like punctuation, spelling, proofreading, etc.  But more on that in the next installment of this series. : )