Making Thinking Visible

Making Thinking Visible
Making Thinking Visible

Arts Integration

Arts Integration
Arts Integration
Powered by Blogger.

Wild Child Designs' Email List

Teaching Poetry In a Virtual World

Greetings teacher friends! It has been far too long since I've written about my teaching life. Like everyone else, I've been surviving the pandemic, quarantining, teaching virtually and now hybrid. I often thought of writing and the things I wanted to say to my teaching colleagues across the globe, but after 7+ hours on my computer, my eyes couldn't take more screen time. Blue light glasses only provide minimal relief. But I'm back and excited to be writing again. Today, I'm welcoming my poet friend, Andrew Green from Potato Hill Poetry,  as a guest blogger.

I first met Andrew in a weekend workshop in Phoenix, Arizona.  As a teacher-learner, I watched as he inspired us to experience poetry as writers, teachers and learners. And I thought to myself, “This is something special.” Fast forward fifteen years.  I am teaching in Michigan, and I stumble over Andrew’s materials in my filing cabinet.  I find his website.  I reach out to him. He travels from Boston to Michigan to be our writer-in-residence.  I watch our students, eating poetry out of the palm of his hand. I think to myself, “His work. It’s still something special.”  He brings a unique perspective to teaching the  as he travels the greater New England area and the rest of the United States. And yes, he’s still something pretty special. 

And now, he travels virtually. My colleagues and I have just booked Andrew for our March is Reading Month celebrations. I couldn't be more excited to welcome his mastery into our classroom again. 

.     .     .
When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.
                                       —Dalai Lama, XIV

 I work as a poet in the schools. My job is to inspire, motivate, and encourage kids to read and write poetry. I do this by sharing my love of poetry with them. I read them poems. I share my writing notebooks and writing habits with them. We read poems out loud and talk about them. We write poems together on the board and then we all write our own. If we have time, we revise them. Finally, we share and celebrate them in pairs and as a large group. We notice what we like. We ask questions about things we don’t understand. We encourage revision. We applaud the effort. And kids love it. Especially the sharing out loud.

It’s that simple. The trick is to help each student find a connection to poetry. This can be done by sharing many different poems so that students see all the ways poems can be written. Once students discover a poem about a subject they like, suddenly a light goes off. Bingo. Poetry speaks to me. Poetry is about something I care about. Poetry has purpose and pleasure and power.

This year, we took the act of kindness as one of our main themes to explore in our poetry. We talked about what kindness is and how we show it? We talked about the different ways people can be kind to each other. We read poems about kindness and then we went on “Kindness Hunts” to see where and how we might witness it. We discovered these acts all around us.

Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.
                                                —Henry James

Kindness was everywhere. In our classrooms, lunchrooms, at recess, on the playground, in our kitchens and homes, on the sports fields, in parking lots and stores, on the sidewalks and in traffic.

And we wrote about it. We wrote poems describing what we observed. We shared them. We passed them on to others. We gave them as gifts.

When writing poems about acts of kindness, one learns that there are many different kinds of kindness. There are small momentary kindnesses to strangers – holding the door for someone, picking up someone’s dropped pencil, letting someone slide into the long line of morning traffic.

There are planned kindnesses – writing a poem for someone, taking a day off from work to stay home and nurse someone back to health, surprising someone with a special gift.

And then, there are the daily kindnesses to those we love: packing a lunch for someone, driving someone to school in the morning, helping someone with homework or reading them a story before bed.

Poetry is one place to acknowledge these acts of kindness, to write them down and measure them out, to describe them in words on the page. By describing these moments on the page, we make them come to life in a poem – it’s a way of saying thank you to those who make our lives better.

Writing Time:

When you write a poem about an act of kindness you have many choices.

Your job is to write a lot about a little act of kindness you witness. Here are some questions, strategies, and thoughts to consider when writing:

Questions to Ponder when Writing:

1.What are different types of kindnesses you can write about?  This is a good classroom topic for discussion as a pre-writing exercise.

2.What kinds of things can you include in your poem?

3.Will the five senses help you to convey the scene?

    4.What observations can you make about the people, the setting, 
        the light, the time of day, the weather?

5.Could you include a line (or more) of dialogue – what are people actually saying?

6.What are some examples of your topic that you could show us?

7.What struck you the most about this act of kindness?

8.Will the Five W’s help you? Who? What? When? Where? Why?

9.How did the people involved act and react?

10. What thoughts do you have about this act of kindness?

Ten Exercises for Writing a Poem on Kindness:

1.Write a poem about an act of kindness that you observe between two people. This could be in a coffee shop or school cafeteria or anywhere you observe people.

    2.Write a poem about an act of kindness that someone you live    
       with does for you each and every day.

    3.Write a poem about a friend who does something kind for you.   What do they do that makes you feel good about yourself and about them?

    4.Write a poem about a relative and some act of kindness they     have done for you in the past.

5.Write a poem about an act of kindness you have done for someone else. Don’t be bashful. Describe it in detail.

6. Write a poem about an act of kindness from a teacher or coach.

7.Write a portrait poem describing a person you know who is kind to you.

8.Write a poem describing your thoughts on what kindness is and why it’s important.

9.Write a poem using only simile or metaphor describing what kindness is.

10. Write a poem about the kindness of a pet or an animal or something from the natural world.

Remember, the best poems are those that don’t tell us, but show us and therefore leave the conclusions up to the reader. Put on your discovery hat and go discover kindness out there. Then write your poems.

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.


Here are a few sample poems:

At The Grocery Store

By Andrew Green

As he walks up behind her

She turns

At the last minute

And decides

To hold the door for him

Who gladly accepts

And in return

Holds the inside door for her

Each of them

Thanking the other

For that brief moment

Before they scurry on their way

He to the produce aisle

For a box of strawberries

She to the deli

For a quarter pound of pastrami.

The Kindness of Grass
By Maisie

The first thing you do

Is see the grass.

It catches your eye.

You smell the grass.

It smells as beautiful

As perfume.

The grass is as fresh

As a strawberry just picked

From the patch.

I love the grass.

It tickles between your toes

And it’s as soft as your pillow.


By Samantha

He stops unloading the light bulbs

Out of his red van

To push me on the swings

With his dirty hands

He hugs and kisses me good-bye

Every day sending me

Well wishes

He always has time

After his long and weary days

To play with me

On the hoverboards

He kills the evil spiders

When I am too scared to

He asks me how

My day was every day

After school

He kisses me good night

Each night.


By Findlay
B flat, F, F, G, F, D, E flat, F —

Mr. Harlow stopped me.

He told me:

Chin up, elbows down.

I continued:

F, G, G, F —

My hands started to hurt.

D, C.

He told me:

Take a break.

I calmed down and continued:

B flat, B flat, B flat, B flat —

I felt dizzy.

Then Mr. Harlow stopped me again

And said:

Smaller embouchure,

Slower breathing.

It helped.

I kept playing.

.     .     .

If you're getting tired of the same old virtual routine with your classes or struggling to teach poetry in a virtual setting, why not shake things up a little and offer them a poetry writing workshop with Andrew? Andrew Green, who founded Potato Hill Poetry in 1994, has conducted thousands of writing and poetry workshops for students and teachers in schools across the country. Now, he is offering Virtual Poetry Writing Workshops for students and teachers of grades 1-8. Join in the fun!              

Class size: 10-25. Class time: 45-60 minutes.          Fee: $125-250 per class.   References available.

Now Scheduling Winter/Spring/Fall 2021

Website:         Email:

Online Poetry Writing Activities from Potato Hill Poetry: ©  2020

Cages & Cheetahs: The Untaming of Teachers

You are a goddamn cheetah.
                                                                                                   -Glennon Doyle, Untamed

A cheetah. We are all "goddamn cheetahs." 

Glennon Doyle's new book, Untamed, begins with a memoir in which she takes her daughter to a zoo. While there, they watch Tabitha the cheetah's feeding. Once Tabitha is away from her handlers and the crowd, Doyle observes the changes in the cheetah. In the field, Tabitha's head becomes high; she stalks the periphery and paces. Her eyes stare at something beyond the fence.  It's as if the big cat remembers her wildness. Doyle imagines a conversation with Tabitha in which she admits her dissatisfaction with her zoo life. Tabitha longs for something more...something that doesn't exist. Doyle assures Tabitha that she's not ungrateful or crazy...she's a goddamn cheetah. The memoir reads like a parable. 

I haven't blogged since Pandemic Panic set in on March 13. On March 16, I began teaching online, every day, five days a week. I spent the remainder of my time creating curriculum resources that would help me teach the grade level standards my district tagged as imperative for the remainder of the school year. I was quarantined by myself, away from family members and loved ones. I only left the house for trail hikes and groceries. The rest of the time, I paced inside my cage.

I snagged Untamed during a hurried trip to Target for toilet paper, and it sat on my coffee table until I reunited with my podcast friends to discuss our summer episodes. Lo and behold! They had all purchased it, too. Untamed is the first book in our summer reading series for teachers. And of course, we have curated some recipes to go with your reading of this powerful book!


I love the way this memoir/self-help book is organized. The first memoirs are about the cages in which women find themselves, either built by society, family or self. They are expected to marry, child-bear and rear, housekeep, and have a career. But what if those expectations aren't what they want? What if they're cheetahs, instead? I couldn't help thinking about the cages we teachers enter as we move through our careers. What realities do we have thrust upon us? The standardized tests, the unrealistic expectations, the lack of respect, the acceptance of that lack of respect, of resources, of adequate pay, of public derision and distrust. In this section of her book, Doyle encourages her readers to feel all of the feelings. It reminds me of the stories I've told myself at low points in my career, when I've wanted to give up. I stuff the feelings down, because coming out of that cage feels a bit terrifying. If I admit that I'm unhappy or dissatisfied, then I must do something about it.  If I can't admit my feelings to myself, how can I possibly grow from them? 


This section is my favorite. Doyle passes us a few hacksaws so we can break out of our cages. Her short memoirs are action plans. My favorite one is "Be Still and Know." She talks about getting quiet inside in order to listen to herself. When I think about how many voices I allow in my decision-making (my colleagues, my parent, my friends, my sibling, my principal), I realize that I seldom listen to my own voice. And then I must ask the question: Do I trust myself? This part of the book moved me into action. As teachers, how often do we listen to our own voices? How often do we assert our voices?


In the final section of Untamed, I found myself reflecting on two words: Burning and building. Glennon's analogy about burning the old cages to build new realities for ourselves reminds me of an article I read about the Australian wildfires. When Australia was done burning, within weeks, new growth appeared. Green appeared everywhere. In this section, she talks about her own burning and building, and it is inspiring. Again, I asked myself hard questions: What are my beliefs about myself as a teacher? As a 
human being? What do I need to edit? And finally, what will take its place?

This read is the perfect book to reflect on our quarantine, our school year, and our personal lives. We had a great time discussing it. You can listen to We Teach So Hard right HERE

P.S. It's good to be back with you, my readers. I've missed you. Until next time, I'll be burning and building! Click below to find out more. 

Small Wonders & e. e. cummings: Poetry and Mindfulness

The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.
                                                                                                        -e. e. cummings

It was my father who taught me how to observe the world. After watching him with my nieces and nephew, I'm sure my education began at a very young age, but what I remember most are the forced nature hikes through the state forest behind our house. I say, "forced" because my mom made me go with him. She had some cockamamie idea that getting my nose out of my book so I could get some fresh air might be good for me. 

On our nature hikes, my dad would point out animal scat and tracks. He taught me how to find deer crossings and showed me where the bucks used trees to rub the velvet off their antlers. He taught me to identify trees by their bark and leaves. I learned to always walk away from bear cubs...quickly. 

To be a poet, one must be a close observer of the world. One of my new favorite poetry book discoveries is enormous SMALLNESS A Story of E. E. Cummings by Matthew Burgess. 

  • I think of this books as a hybrid text, because it tells the story of how e. e. cummings became a poet, from childhood to adulthood, but it also weaves his poetry into the story. Throughout the book, readers see how cummings learned to observe and experience the world around him. The title especially makes my heart strings zing. As a teacher and poet, I want my students to know that paying attention to the little things in life is often what makes life joyful. It makes us mindful of the present moment.

Activity #1

I've chosen three of Cummings'  poems to share with my students. They just happen to be on the end pages of the book. Reading his poems are like unwrapping a puzzle box. The language play is so much fun, as are his inventive line breaks. One of my favorite things to do is experiment with how we read his poems out loud. We read them as he wrote them, trying to pay attention to the way he has broken up lines and words. Then, I challenge my students to rewrite the poems with their own line breaks. We read them again and discover how powerful line breaks are in poems. With this activity, we're examining Cummings' writer's craft and answering the question: Why did he write it like that?

 Activity #2

Next, we talk about mood and imagery. We reread the poems and highlight images and language that jumps out at us. I curate a collection of visual arts and ask my students to pair the art with the selected poems. 

"Love Flight of a Pink Candy Heart" Florence Stettheimer
They spend a lot of time discussing their choices. The best part of this activity is that my students must think deeply about the poet's language, imagery, and meaning when pairing the poems and artwork. Check out the three paintings below. Which poem (shown above) would you pair them with? Why? I'd love to hear your thinking in the comments!
"Lake George Reflection" Georgia O'Keeffe
"The Pink Peach Tree" Vincent Van Gogh

Activity #3
I´ve been hoarding a collection of Altoids tins. This past fall, I sent out an email to my entire school district asking teachers to save the tins for me. I was rewarded with over 60 tins. Before our covid-19 quarantine, I brought them home and began to find small treasures to place in each tin. My plan was for each student to receive a gift-wrapped tin. Upon opening their tin, they would closely observe the treasure in their tin. Now, I'm uploading photographs into my Google Classroom site. Each student will choose a photograph to use for his/her prewriting and poetry writing exercises. 

The pre-writing routine I'm going to use with my students is called 10X3. It was developed by Project Zero. It helps students look deeply at an object or picture. The cool thing about this routine is that it's generic enough to be used for any type of writing. My students will use it to capture their descriptive writing ideas for a small wonder poem. 

We'll be writing all kinds of poetry in the next few weeks. This is a routine I'll be tapping into. As students develop their poems, we'll be sharing them in our Google Classroom site. If our quarantine goes longer (as I'm anticipating it will), we're going to have a virtual Poetry Slam using Google Meet or Zoom. I'll keep you posted on how that goes!

There's nothing easy about this covid-19 quarantine. The fear is paralyzing.  The schooling and routines that would've grounded our students is gone. I'm trying to help them make a little lemonade from the lemons they've been served. 

I hope the freebies below will help you out with your online teaching efforts. Please take care of yourselves. 
Click the pictures below to access the free Google resources.
You can access the newest episode of the We Teach So Hard podcast by clicking on the graphic to the left. It's all about using poetry in your classroom.  
                                        Finally, be sure to stop by Retta, Deann, and Kathie's blogs. They're chocked full of teaching ideas and resources for more poetry-themed books. You do NOT want to miss out on these posts!        

Teaching Data, Graphing & Scientific Process With Paper Airplanes!

This story begins like many of my teaching stories begin...curriculum crunch! With mandated state testing occurring in April, I needed a high-interest way to combine several learning goals in math, science and language arts. So my fifth grade kiddos and I flew off into "the wild blue yonder" together, because let's face it, after state testing, everyone's brains are mush. Worksheets and internet learning programs just don't cut it. We had been sitting in front of our computers for weeks as we clicked answers on a screen. We needed to move!

We began by researching types of paper airplanes on the internet. Students identified a type they wanted to fold. They took their research sheets home, finished their research there and brought their completed airplane back to school.  When I used this project in summer school, we did the research together.

Once they had their airplanes at school, we shared their different designs. We read about thrust, force, and aerodynamics and watched some online videos about aviation and design. Then my kids were ready to fly.  One of our learning targets in this project was to learn about the scientific process. Students wrote hypotheses before testing their planes. They conducted five flight trials and recorded their distances in inches. 

My kids needed more practice with converting customary measurements, so after they had recorded their data in inches, they converted it into feet and yards.   We were able to review range, median, mode and mean as well.  I used this project to also teach my students about line plots by plotting our class data together. In addition, we reviewed bar graphs and learned about line graphs. 

This portion of the project took us about a week of one-hour sessions. However, we had touched on so many math and science 
concepts, it was worth every minute. Plus, my fifth graders were ENGAGED! For this time of year, that felt miraculous! After this, I was ready to teach more about controls and variables. We spent time learning about why controls and variables are so important in the scientific process. I used a lunch room example in our discussions. If the lunch ladies wanted to know which pizza was the most popular with fifth graders, and they ordered pepperoni pizza from Little Caesar's and cheese pizza from Jet's Pizza, would they be able to answer their question?  My kiddos determined that all pizza needed to be ordered from the same restaurant in order for the question to be answered with accuracy. From this discussion, we
moved on to applying control and variable to our paper airplane investigation.  I gave each student the folding directions for a basic dart airplane. These airplanes became the control for the assessment phase of this project. 

 I wanted to test my students ability to conduct the experiment on their own. I designed this part to assess their mastery of these concepts: Measurement, customary measurement conversion, graphing skills (coordinate, line and line plot), problem-solving, writing a math/science response, comparing and contrasting two sets of data, and identifying the control and variable of an experiment. 

My kids flew their control airplanes, recorded their data and analyzed it. Next, they took that same airplane and added one feature to it. This became their variable. Some students taped the fold together. Others added a paperclip to the bottom of the plane. Some taped a rudder on. There were many different variable designs. However, each plane only had ONE variable. Then they tested their airplanes
again and recorded their data once more. Finally, they created line graphs showing the two sets of data, and wrote compare/contrast responses that analyzed their data and made conclusions about their variables. 
I developed a quick rubric for my assessment. I had shared this rubric with my kids at the beginning of the assessment phase of this project, so that they would understand the target expectations. 

This project rocked our world for two weeks, but it also saved our sanity.  We have so many curriculum expectations, and I've found that melding subjects into creative learning experiences is the way to go. My kiddos were engaged, excited, and on fire!

I've also used this in my summer school teaching experiences. Summer school is often a special kind of misery for many of our kids, isn't it? It needs to be focused, but it MUST be fun, too. 

P.S. Be sure to check out the links below. I've included some free resources you can use with your kiddos when you're teaching them remotely. Such a stressful time. I hope they help you in some way. Simply click on the images to access and download.

You can access this project below, by clicking on the image.

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter