Friday, October 6, 2017

Capturing Scenes & A Poetry Peek!

Easel Draft at Hamilton School
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Last week, I was very lucky to visit Alexander Hamilton School in Glen Rock, New Jersey.  As part of my visit to NJ, I took the train to see our daughter Hope at college in New York City.  On that trip, the moment you read about in today's poem....really happened.  So of course I wrote about it in my notebook.

Then I wrote about it in front of students at Hamilton School on the easel above.  And I couldn't stop thinking about it.

Certain scenes are like this - they stay in your head, stuck like peanut butter to the roof of your mouth.  Something so beautiful, peaceful, frightening, fascinating...wants to live on.  Writing helps us hold such scenes close.  Writing gives us our lives back again.  

Cesare Pavese wrote, "We do not remember days, we remember moments."  It's true.

Today it is my pleasure to welcome my friend Shirley Thacker, a wonderful teacher friend who studied with the Indiana Writing Project and taught primary students for 42 years.  A believer in writing and in building "communities of respectful brothers and sisters who accept all people and their strengths and weaknesses," Shirley joins us today to share how she writes poetry with second through fifth grade students after school and in summer Comp Camps at Wes-Del Elementary in Gaston, Indiana.  Shirley says, "Sharing is key...this is why I write. I want someone to listen."  Welcome, Shirley and welcome, young writers!

I believe there has to be a reading/writing connection.  If you read like a writer and write like a reader, your life is forever changed.  So that being said, I give a couple of weeks of choice writing while we immerse ourselves in reading in the genre we will write next.  Then when our new writing cycle starts, students will some background information to hold onto.

Before our poetry writing cycle, we have had a couple of weeks to look at poetry, reading a great variety of poems, so by the time we start writing poetry, we have learned some writing craft: onomatopoeia, just right word choice. bold nouns, vivid verbs, magic three, simile, metaphor, and more. 

Day one of poetry, students are sitting on the carpet and I tell them we will be learning how to write poems.  I invite them to watch a poem in the making. . . I am by the chart paper.  I usually choose something they won't want to copy, a topic such as coffee or my dog, Yuri.  They are watching me ponder and think.  They know that to write, you have to choose something you know about.

"I think I will try Yuri. .  .. I need a word bank to form the poem. I will write all the words that I can think of along the and down the right side of the chart paper. . . . "

Shirley's Poem Draft
(Click to Enlarge)

"Now I am ready to shape my poem. . .  Let me think. . ..hmmm"

by Mrs. Thacker

My little golden doodle,

Furry with beautiful eyes. . . 

like Yuri Zhivago.!

Reddish-brown like dried  pine needles.

Loved doggy school,  . . TWICE!

Can sit, shake paw, and go down. . . 

Naughty boy . .  .

Chewed Bic razor! . . .

Off to animal hospital 

lots of x-rays!  

My little lap baby,


After this demonstration, I invite students to "Have a go at it"  . . . students go back with notebooks and have a no walk, no talk period of 10-15 min. . . while I write too!  Then we can buddy up for help and suggestions or sharing.

The next day I write a poem on a chart or return to my first poem to show revision in a different color marker. I want the students to get the idea that revision is part of writing.

When they are peer editing/sharing , I might be conferencing, walking around listening to their poems.  Students may publish or write new poems at any time.  Sometimes students will want to read more to get ideas. The room looks like a newspaper office with everyone doing what they need to do! This is the best 45-60 min in our day.

Here are a few poems from students in last year's Comp Camp.

by Chloe (grade 2)

Splash, drip
The thunder growling
Flashing through the windows.

It's getting louder,

Then it stops.
The sun is out!
See you later, 

by Alaina (grade 3)

Pink is the color of...
A highlighter, my hair tie, my bed and blankets

Pink is the color of...
My shirts and pants, my notebook.

Pink is the color of...
Watermelon, jolly rancher, and sweatshirt.

by Brock (grade 3)

I make people fright
I make them cry
I make puddles
I make sparks and electricity!

by Norah (grade 3)

I am a MAD chair!
Kids fall on me...
Kids slam me,
Kids sit on me...

Huh, huh, huh!

Pay back time!!!

Mrs. Thacker
by Carter (grade 3)

Mrs. Thacker is the bomb!
So the best hugger.
The best storyteller
The best singer.
Awesome teacher!
Book Lover
Nice person

by Callie (grade 5)

The sun is so dark
I see a
Person. Oh wait, it's
A rock
I hear a horse
Oh Wait, 
It's Mr. Shaffer
I see the Darkest soul
Of them all!

Oh yes,

by Ella (grade 5)

The wind was blowing through the trees,
The wind chimes sing a song with keys,
Around around everywhere we go.
Nature tells us something we don't know
Over there and over here
There's nothing ever to fear!

Summertime Storms
by Jennah (grade 5)

I don't have much fear
When storms are near
But when wind blows
My scared expression shows!

Crashes of thunder
Flashes some lightning
This weather is
My heart's everything

Hail starts to fall
From a sky full of gray
I wish I could
Be outside to play,
But Mom says," "NOT TODAY!"
Branches of trees 
Scatter the ground
There are so many things
Making a sound

Not a tornado was in sight!
I'm really glad!
Didn't take flight
Storm has passed
It went by
Very FAST!

by Kasen (grade 3)

Orange is the color...

Morning and dawn.
Lawn in winter
Lava at the center of a volcano
Lots of things
On our beautiful earth!

Please Don't Go
by Malachi (grade 4)

Don't go bye bye
In front of my eyes.
Just don't die...
I love you KYE!

Please don't go
You stole my heart.
I know...
I will fall apart.


Thank you so much, Shirley and poets, for joining us here at The Poem Farm today! It was a treat to have you here and to read your words.

I would also like to thank the amazing Donna Farrell, for her gorgeous work redesigning the look of The Poem Farm, Sharing Our Notebooks, and my website.  I am incredibly grateful to her.

Please visit the latest post at my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks and comment by Saturday, October 14 to win a copy of Caroline Starr Rose's latest book!  She's sharing a poem AND a peek inside of her notebooks.

You can find more poems and poemlove over at Violet Nesdoly/poems as the warm and wise Violet is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup, where everyone is always welcome to read, comment, and link in with us!


  1. Yes, poetry does capture those moments lived so they don't slip away and can be shared. I enjoyed reading the poems from Shirley (Hi, fellow Hoosier!) and her students. What fun they had writing.

  2. Totally loved the student poems that Shirley shared. And I love how you share that some scenes stay in your head, stuck like peanut butter to the roof of your mouth. Something that wants to live on. Thanks for reminding me of why poetry matters!

  3. It's great to see how others approach writing poetry in the mentoring of students, helping them learn they too can write poems. Thanks, Amy and Shirley. The student poems are a delight.

  4. These words, like those certain scenes, will stick with me: "Certain scenes are like this - they stay in your head, stuck like peanut butter to the roof of your mouth. Something so beautiful, peaceful, frightening, fascinating...wants to live on." This cuts to the heart of it for me. Thank you.

  5. The subway scene stayed with you...and now it stays with us!

    Appreciations for the work Mrs. Thacker does! Carter's poem seems to say it all (about her)!!

  6. The moment you captured, Amy, is magical. Life is filled with visual and experiential gifts such as this. Hooray for a notebook to preserve them in! And Ella is a poetry soulmate for sure -- "Around around everywhere we go. Nature tells us something we don't know." Thanks for sharing all this poetry goodness, Amy! xx Christie

  7. Ah Amy, you're the warm wise one (*grin*). I always pick up such great tips about poem-writing from you and your friends. Thanks Mrs. Thacker. She is the Bomb!! Loved these kids poems and yours too, with its perfect surprise ending that had me taking a long deep breath of relaxation.

  8. Amy, your new web design is gorgeous! And how much do I love the cover of WITH MY HANDS?! So much goodness... and wow Mrs. Thacker and students... some great poems and poets growing there. Thank you! xo

  9. Love these student poems - and I liked yours, as well, although I feel like I want to know what happens next!