Three Days With Fourth Graders: The Good

Back in April, my first trip was a three-day poetry residency with fourth graders. Four classes, an hour per day with each class. Most of my school visits are large-group presentations, so I hadn’t worked with classroom-sized groups on multi-day projects in ages.

I had a great time with the kids, but afterward, I wondered whether my approach was “poetic” enough. Was it thoughtful enough? But then I chatted with an illustrator at a luncheon Sunday and realized (again) that I can only share my approach to poetry, not anybody else’s.

Here’s what I think worked really well in my poetry residency, and I think these are things that could be incorporated into any kind of writing workshop–IF the approach fits your own personality and writing style.

1. My goal was to make poetry fun, accessible, and not scary at all! That was mostly for the kids, but for the teachers as well, to try to lessen the “poetry intimidation factor.” I worked on this goal mostly by being fun and casual and not putting a lot of pressure on them. We were working mainly on first drafts, and the idea was to start writing and see what comes out. Find out what’s in your brain by checking out what you just put down on paper. I tried to create a really encouraging, supportive, risk-taking atmosphere. I talked a little about the bad poems I write. I gave them numbers (like 9 out of every 10 first drafts I write totally stink–but that’s ok!). I gave them time to share their work, but sharing was always optional, and I told them that up front.

2. We did a ton of short, varied exercises. We did book spine poems, 15 Words or Less poems, paint chip poems, and more. I used little timers and we wrote FAST! That also helped take the pressure off. If you have 15 minutes to write 15 words, the pressure is on to produce something good. If you have 3 minutes, you have to just dive in and see what happens. They were SO good at this. I would say, “Ready, go!” and start the timer, and by the third exercise, the only sound you could instantly hear was pencils scratching on paper.

3. I made the project physically interesting. Dominoes Pizza donated pizza boxes, and we taped all our poems in there. We wrote on different kinds of paper: scrapbook paper, post-it notes, colored index cards, die-cut shapes, all sorts of stuff. When all the paper didn’t match, I would hold a Silent Switch, where the kids had 30 seconds to trade papers if they wanted, but all without talking. They loved that, and they also loved having a nifty poetry/pizza box display of their work at the end of the three days.

So those were the things that I liked and that worked, I think! Tomorrow: things that I’ll need to rethink for next time…

I’m off to a school visit today, and I can’t do more photos right now, but here are three 30-second videos I created from my 4th-grade residency. Check them out! 

http://animoto.com/play/MaO0fmhXGdBKNp5WLRjT4w

http://animoto.com/play/0kzMX7GTRTQiFl9zs0CLLw

http://animoto.com/play/misy9x5R0qp7CjTcb8N4Ew

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,504 other subscribers

Are You Looking For?

Poetry Friday posts

Classroom Connections posts

All my poetryactions

Go to my Poetry page for:

  • National Poetry Month projects through the years
  • Small Reads Roundups (poems grouped by topic)
  • Introductions to several favorite poetry forms
Tags
#waterpoemproject15 Words or Less Poems20for2030 Painless Classroom Poems50 State Poemsacrosticsactivity pagesactivity sheetALAA Leaf Can Be...Amy Ludwig VanDerwaterA Need to FeedanthologiesanthologyA Rock Can Be...art projectsaudiopoemsawardsbad newsBarbara Juster EsbensenBilly Collinsbiopoemsblog tourbookalikesbook festivalsBookSpeak!book spine poemsbook trailersbop poembyr a thoddaidcafepresscalendar poemsCamp Read-a-LotCan Be... bookscan be... poemsCapstoneCarol Varsalonacascade poemsCatherine FlynnCCRA.W.3CCRA.W.4CCRA.W.5centoschapter bookschoral compositionschristina rossetticinquainsCLAclassified ad poemsclassroom connectionclassroom connectionsClover Kittyconferences and conventionscrown sonnetscybilsdansaDare to DreamDavid Elliottdeeper wisdom poemdefinitosdiamantesdiversitydizaindodoitsuDot DayDouglas Floriandownloadablesdrum corpse.e. cummingsekphrastic poemsepistolary poemsequation poemsessentialethereeseventsexquisite corpseFairy Tale Garage Salefamilyfibonaccifiction picture booksfinding familyfirefightersforeign editionsfound poemsfree author zoomsfree versefrom studentsgeesegeorgia heardghazalGift Taggiveawaygolden shovelgoldilocksgratitudehaikuheart of aheart of a teacherHeidi MordhorstHelen FrostHighlightshow-to poemshow to make a rainbowI Am FromI Am poemsidiomsif you want to knit some mittensIf You Were the MoonILAimagepoemsinterviewin the middle of the nightIRAIrelandIrene LathamJ. Patrick LewisJanet WongJoyce SidmanKendraKerlanKidlit Comboslailaura's board booksLaura's booksLaura's poemsLaura's readingsLaura ShovanLee Bennett HopkinsLilian MoorelimericksLinda Booth SweeneyLine Leads the WayLion of the Skylist poemslittle free librarylive writingLullaby and Kisses Sweetlyricsmadness poetrymargaret simonMarilyn Singermary lee hahnmask poemsMeet My FamilyMelissa StewartMentors for Rentmentor textsmetaphorMichelle Myers LacknerMillbrookMinnesota Book Awardsmoonmy reading lifemy writing processN+7naaninarrative poemsNational Poetry Month 2012 (haiku a day)National Poetry Month 2014 (riddle-ku)National Poetry Month 2015National Poetry Month 2016National Poetry Month 2017 (#wonderbreak)national poetry month 2018 (haiku a day)National Poetry Month 2020National Poetry Month 2021 (#EquationPoem)national poetry month 2022 (sticky-note poems)National Poetry Month 2023 (Digging for Poems)National Poetry Month 2024 (magnipoems)ncteNerdy Book Clubnifty newsnifty stuffNikki Grimesnonfictionnonfiction booksNonfiction Writers Dig Deepnovelsnovels in verseodesOne Minute Till BedtimeoppositifyOskar's VoyagepadletpantoumsparodiesPatreonpeacepersonalpet poemsphotopoetryphrase acrosticspicture booksplagiarismpoempicspoemspoems for two voicespoemsketchpoetic pursuitsPoetry 7poetryactionspoetry activitiesPoetry Blastpoetry booksPoetry FridayPoetry Friday AnthologiesPoetry Princessespoetry promptspoetry sistersPoetry Tips for Teachersprogressive poempublishing processpuddle songPutridquotationsraccontinosRandy Salasread-aloudreadaloudreading poetry in the classroomRebecca Kai Dotlichrecipe poemsrefugeesresearchreview copiesreviewsrevisionrhyming booksrhyming nonfictionrhyming picture booksRhyming Picture Books the Write Wayrhyming poemsRiddle-kuriddle poemsRock Can Be...Rock the Blogrondeau redoublesRudyard Kiplingsalas snippetsSCBWIschool visitsScotlandseasonssecrets of the loonSELsestinasshrinking daysskinnyskypeslice of lifesmall readssnack snooze skedaddlesnowman-coldsonnetsStampede!storm poemstorytimestorywalkstudent poemsstudent workSylvia VardellTanita Davistankatautogramteachableteacher resourcesteen/adult poemsterza rimasthankfulthank yous and referencesthe business sidethings to do iftracy nelson maurertrioletstunie munson-bensonvideosVikram MadanvillanellevillanellesWater Can Be...wealthy elementaryWe BelongWhat's InsideWhy-kuwinterwonderwonderbreakword of the yearwordplaywordsmithswork for hirewritingwriting bookswriting processwriting promptswriting the life poeticyoung authors conferencesYouTubeZap Clap Boomzenozentangle
Show More Show Less

Discover more from Laura Purdie Salas

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Join Laura's monthly newsletter for eductators

Get three of Laura's favorite poetry activities when you subscribe to "Small Reads."