Sunday, January 24, 2016

Inspiration and Beautiful Words

Join us at Margaret's blog to share posts about digital literacy. 

Writing instruction for me this year is challenging. I feel like I'm waging a battle against short attention spans and technology and a serious dread of writing. It's taken me awhile to feel like I'm in my groove this school year, in terms of writing. I desperately needed inspiration.

Beautiful Words. Two years ago the amazing Penny Kittle shared this practice from her teaching at the Language and Learning Conference (presented by the Northern Virginia Writing Project). She shares poetry with her students. They annotate and write all around and over and on the poem. We do that, but now we do that digitally on Google Docs.

It's different. As an avid notebooker, I miss the physical interaction with paper and pen but as I watch my students work with these poems, I realize that everyone has their own process. After we read and interact with the poem, we use the beautiful words of the poet to inspire our own beautiful words. Some student imitate form, while others borrow a line and create an original poem. Other students use the inspiration and write something completely different and new. It's amazing!

The most important part of this process is the sharing. Every class ends with a couple of students sharing their own beautiful words. They come alive! We snap for our poets. We laugh and sometimes cry.

I am inspired by their creativity! They inspire me with their bravery and their willingness to take a risk. We just began this practice and now we are home with three feet of snow...but I will share more beautiful words, through Google Classroom and ask them to take the steps of reading, annotating, interacting, and writing on their own. I will ask them to share via their blogs.

We read two poems by William Carlos Williams. Many students imitated the form of his poems. We analyzed the apology poem, "This is Just to Say" and the classic poem, "The Red Wheel Barrow".  Here are some beautiful words written by my sixth graders inspired by the amazing William Carlos Williams,

The Sweet Surprise
This is Just to Say Sorry
This is Just to Say

We also read and listened to the poem, "I Am a Poet", by the talented Charles R. Smith, Jr. Students loved the rhyme and rhythm of this poem. They looked surprised. I heard some of them question, "This is a poem?!?!" Below are some of the poems that Smith's words inspired.

One of my favorite poems is completely unrelated to any of these poems. A student used this as a starting point to let the poems inside of her out! I just checked her document on Google Classroom. She's written ten pages of poems! I'm going to share one below...

Thank-you Teacher, English Teacher
Thank-you English teacher.
Thank you
one more thing
I don’t know exactly what to say.
It's hard to put what you feel into words.
But somehow in a melody it always seems to works.
I love the way you call my name when I raise my hand
I love the way you make funny jokes even when you're blue
so I’d Like to say one thing..
Thank- you English Teacher

Oh, I'm so inspired!!!


  1. Wow! This really MADE MY DAY! Thank you so much Michelle. You inspired me.

  2. The English teacher poem looks like a ballerina. I love how poems can inspire students to think deeply and to more freely express themselves. Your students are so lucky to have you. Looks like you'll have another snow day tomorrow. Enjoy this little "selah."

  3. Michelle, inspiring students to be young poets is such a wonderful task for any teacher. I enjoyed your post and left a comment on the student who used William Carlos William's poem as a mentor text. The video is great and will have to show teachers I work with. You're inspired and I am inspired by what you offer your learners. Please consider having a couple of students and you create a digital inspiration for Winter Wanderings. (Invitation at

  4. This is all so great!! One of my weaknesses as an ELA teacher is that I don't do enough poetry. I love your ideas here. Thanks for the INSPIRATION!


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