The View from the Classroom Window

Friday, April 20, 2012

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!

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