Treasure

You know how dragons have their hordes?

Well, mine happens to be books. Five years ago when I moved to my current school I installed a wall of a Billy bookcases. I gleefully filled them with books to entice kids to develop a love of reading. Student choice is paramount in creating a positive attitude towards reading, so I mindfully curate a diverse and engaging collection, all at my own expense.

Imagine my dismay, when walking into my room today after an extended medical leave, to find sections missing. My graphic novel section is a shadow of what it once was. Narwhal and Jellyfish series no more. Bye bye Bunbun & Bonbon. Dog Man is done. So are many other series. My heart left a lump in my throat.

Graphic novels are vital in getting reluctant readers hooked on reading. I am now missing an important tool in my reading program.

Students are gone for the summer. We reconvene the day after Labour day in September. The first day back before kids switch to their next grade, I plan to sit kids down and show them exemplars of past student work – One Pagers and Title Acrostic posters – based on missing books. I’ll explain that kids in the upcoming school year will miss out on doing projects on these books unless they are found. I’ll request that students go home and take a close look in case books accidentally made their way home, and would gratefully appreciate their return, no questions asked.

In the interim, I am left with a visual of kids creating their own horde at home, and that books are their treasure.

Change Sings

Books + art = winning combination

Better yet, a poet laureate + talented artist = stunning picture book

The answer to the above equation is Change Sings, A Children’s Anthem.

I love this book so much it was a quick addition to #ClassroomBookADay The book provided a rich springboard for discussion. I informed students we all have the potential to be a change maker, even with something as simple as a smile can make the world a better place.

The next day, I followed up the read aloud with an art lesson. I started by rereading the book and pausing to show how the artist’s use of colour, shape, and line enhanced the story. We then set out to emulate the artist’s work.

Materials Required:

White crayons, water colours or diluted food colouring, brushes, Sharpies, crayons, large sheets of heavy paper, pencil

Process:

1. Use white crayons to draw brick background.

2. Select bright colours to do the colour wash over the crayon. (I used diluted food colouring.)

3. Let dry overnight.

4. Use a pencil to write a word that you will do to be a force for change.

5. Colour in word with crayon then outline it in Sharpie.

6. Optional – use Sharpie to draw cracks on wall.

Results:

Priceless!

These 3rd Graders are a force for change. Change sings.

I’m Not a Horse, I am a Zebra!

Yes, I am special – a medical anomaly of sorts. Medical students have been taught for decades that, “When you hear hoofbeats behind you, don’t expect to see a zebra.” In other words, look for the more common and usual, not the surprising, diagnosis.

Why do I bring this up in today’s Slice? May is EDS and SPD awareness month – the zebra is our mascot. So, I am doing my bit by sharing my journey with you.

In my early twenties, while at university, I was constantly shuffled between the campus sports medicine clinic and physiotherapists. They couldn’t quite figure me out – if there was a joint to sprain I did it. I was sent to a Rheumatologist – he was equally baffled. No one could give me a concrete diagnosis.

There was the time I fell down and dislocated my right shoulder. It hurt like the dickens so I reached over and slurped it back into place. I didn’t bother making a doctor’s appointment and just phoned my physio for an appointment. Doctors already told me they aren’t sure what is going on with me, so why bother seeing them yet again?

I fortunately started seeing a massage therapist who advised me that my joints are hypermobile leading to a lack of proprioception. That made sense. If I don’t know where my body is in space, no wonder I kept injuring myself! She advised me to take Iyengar Yoga classes – this form of yoga uses props and focuses on forms. This was a turning point for me. I gained awareness of my body in space and consequently reduced injuries. My body is quirky and I still had other issues, but I was able to work full time.

Fast forward two decades and a car accident later and my world fell apart. I became deconditioned and experienced a cascade of symptoms which prevented me from working. I attended a pain clinic where one of the doctors had an interest in chronic pain and hypermobility. He asked me, “Have you ever heard of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome?” I said “no.” “I think you have it and need to be seen by a medical geneticist.” It took two years for the referral to go through. My family doctor first referred me to a Rheumatologist, who told me that I don’t have EDS because it is rare. He informed me, “You just have to exercise more. It’ll be a challenge but you’ll get better.” I looked at him as if he had his head screwed on backwards. I was seething inside. At this point walking was even a challenge for me. How the bloody hell was I supposed to exercise more? I informed him that I respectfully request that he refers me to a geneticist because the pain doctor insisted I be screened by one. He acquiesced, thank goodness.

The geneticist and her resident spent the morning assessing me. It was a fascinating experience, especially overhearing tidbits such as “I just read a research article that a marker of EDS is that individuals lack a frenulum.” They had me stick my tongue out and voila – no frenulum.

After all was said in done, the geneticist sat me down and the first words out of her mouth were, “You are not normal. You injure easily and require life long physiotherapy, massage therapy, and OT services.” It was such a relief to be validated. It all made sense now.

The physiotherapist that I was seeing at the pain clinic subsequently referred me to a colleague that is a specialist in Thoracic Ring/Connect Therapy modality. My new physiotherapist gave me hope. She increased functionality and decreased nerve pain.

I slowly was able to return to full time work. Pacing is key for me in all aspects of life. If I don’t listen to subtle body clues I flare up. I look normal but symptoms constantly fluctuate. I’ve accepted that I have an invisible disability.

Next time you see someone accessing a handicapped service, but they look normal – suspend judgement. They, like me, may have an invisible disability.

Poetry Wrap Up

When was the last time you truly felt satisfied with a unit that you taught? For me, it was the poetry unit that I just finished teaching in my friend’s classroom. Student feedback reminded me of the why I teach – sparking student love of learning and belief in themselves. Students shared with me how much they enjoyed writing poetry and were surprised as they never saw themselves as poets.

Students published their poems and bound them into a booklet including the following self reflection:

Poetry Self-Assessment (Grades2/3)

Name:_______________________              Date:_______________________

   Smile Neutral
Face
  Frown
I enjoyed learning about poetry.   
I enjoyed writing poetry.   
Poetry can be a source of creativity and joy.   
Playing with language in poetry helped me discover how language works.   
In group lessons I shared my ideas.   
I reviewed my writing and edited for word choice.   

Which is your favourite form of poetry and why?

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What did you learn about poetry? _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

A couple of responses to “What did you learn about poetry?” made my heart melt:

“I learned that it is a beautiful way of speaking about something or someone.”

“I learned that its not just about drawing and writing its about putting your love and care in it and expressing yourself too.”

When was the last time you were reminded of the why you teach? Please share.

Walking Through Words

What is the most creative tourism ad you have ever viewed? Bar none, for me, has to be a video highlighting my province’s lush landscape set to exquisite spoken word poetry.

A powerful poem by Canadian spoken word artist Shane Koyczan about the wild within British Columbia, Canada.

This video was today’s hook for our poetry lesson. The spoken word poetry provided a powerful anchor text for students. My friend had her grade 2s and 3s write their own poems inspired by Walking Through Words in British Columbia.

Here is the process:

1. View video

2. Think-Pair-Share : What do you notice about language, images, mood, subject, word choice? (reverence for nature)

3. How did the poet structure his poem?

4. Model creating a poem based on Shane’s structure.

5. Brainstorm on chart paper a list of topics – items from nature.

6. Select a topic and collaboratively create a class poem using the structure:

Its just a _______

Until it verb. . .

Until it verb . . .

Until it verb . . .

7. Send students to their desks to write their own individual poems. Pause to read aloud completed poems, highlight powerful phrases or effective techniques.

In the future I would like to have a follow up lesson. I’d print out the word’s to Shane’s poem and have small groups of students highlight or circle various elements of the poem. I’d prompt students to answer, “What did Shane do to provide such rich imagery?” I’d then have students write another poem using the same structure seeing if they could further evoke imagery.

This video evoked awe and wonder. I hope it inspires you and your students to write your own poems.

Fib Poem

What’s a Fib? Math plus poetry.​

Greg Pincus, a writer and librarian, created Fib poetry in 2006. He wanted to write something which highlights the importance of word choice and how you can say so much with so little.  He figured if he could write poems like this it would help him be a better writer.​

A Fib is  a six line, 20 syllable poem with a syllable count by line of 1/1/2/3/5/8 – the classic Fibonacci sequence. In short, start with 0 and 1, add them together to get your next number, then keep adding the last two numbers together for your next one.​

I wanted to write a fun poem that second and third graders would enjoy. I used today’s lunch for inspiration. (We had a professional development day and organized a favourite meal.)

Yummy Lunch

Chomp

Munch

Baked

potatoes

Loaded with toppings!

Gobble gobble munch munch – whiz gone.

Lune Poetry

A Lune poem is a short poem with just three lines.​ There are two variations: one that counts syllables, and one that counts words. The name Lune, French for moon, is inspired by a crescent moon – the shape that the form of the poem imitates.

Jack Collom, an American poet, created the form that counts words..​

Each line can stand alone as a complete thought, or the lines can run into each other (known as enjambment).

Line 1: 3 words​

Line 2: 5 words​

Line 3: 3 words​

I created two poems to share with grade 2/3 students. I started the lesson by displaying the poems on the projector and asking students what they notice. They first started counting syllables. I had them compare syllable count on both poems and they realized that they aren’t the same. Students said that the poems reminded them of Haiku. I pointed out that word choice is key. You see phrases, not sentences. You paint a picture with words. I asked them to draft several poems and challenged them to write one without naming the subject. They had a lot of fun with this form of poetry.

Here are my exemplars:

   Mirrors, windows, doors​

Gateway to worlds beyond us​

   Books are transformative


   

Fluffy white fur​

Purrs contentedly – her gentle nature​

  Steals my heart​

          ©Heidi Clark, 2022

Cherita

“Cherita (pronounced CHAIR-rita) is a linked poetry form. It consists of a one-line stanza, followed by a two-line stanza, and then finishing with a three-line stanza. Cherita is the Malay word for ‘story’ or ‘tale.’
The Cherita aims to convey a story. It was created by Ai Li (A UK poet and artist) on June 22, 1997 in memory of her grandparents, who were renowned storytellers. A Cherita poem does not require a title, something that adds to its unique qualities. The three separate stanzas are in effect 6 lines: a single line, a couplet, then a tercet. The line lengths are at the poets’ discretion.” https://alanjwrightpoetrypizzazz.blogspot.com/2018/10/cherita-poem_26.html

Many thanks to Mo Daley from Ethical ELA for introducing me to this type of poem. Here is my creation:

Weary bones ache, muscles throb

Injuries, accidents and overexertion

deplete ancient feeling body

Slowly sink into bathtub of steaming hot water

generously laced with Epsom salt ~

the elixir of Magic Dust melts tension and pain away. Ahh . . .

Sploosh

Plip, plop, splish, splash

Shrug on raincoat

Batten hatches!

Drippity drop

Umbrella up

Plip, plop, splish, splash

Wind whipping rain

Face drizzled wet

Step, step, dodge, dodge

Puddles, oh no!

Plip, plop, splish, splash

I’m getting wet.

Rubber boots, yes!

Jump in puddles.

Wet all over.

Plip, plop, splish, splash

©Heidi Clark 2022

This poem was inspired by Denise’s post at Ethical ELA. She described how to write a 4×4 poem.

There are four “rules.”

4 syllables in each line
4 lines in each stanza
4 stanzas
Refrain repeated four times in lines 1, 2, 3, 4 of stanzas 1, 2, 3, 4.
Bonus: Try writing a title in four syllables

Other than those four rules, anything goes. There are no rhyming or rhythm restrictions, and you can write on any topic. The 4 x 4 poem is a slight variation of the quatern. It’s also similar to the Tricube Poem.

I have never written a 4×4 and was keen to try. I also wanted to write one that kids would like, specifically second and third graders. I wanted this to be an anchor text for them. I plan to give copies of this poem to small groups and to get them to analyze it. Specifically I want them to understand that:

  • poetry is different than prose
  • no long sentences, but phrases instead
  • the absence of ‘the’ & ‘and’
  • its joyous and fun
  • onomatopoeia
  • assonance
  • alliteration
  • repetition
  • imagery
  • notice amount of syllables
  • understand what is a stanza, and how many of them
  • familiar topic: Vancouver is smack dab in the middle of a temperate rainforest. This poem was inspired by the deluge of water we had in the past few days.

Is there anything else that I should get kids to notice? Any other advice? This would be an introduction to a poetry unit. I want them to be excited.

Six Word Summary

Made it to the end. Felicitations!

Less angst, more self acceptance.

Living in the gray of the not quite perfect slice

Accepting my voice, big or small, words sparse or loquacious

Taking the time I would have spent endlessly reworking a piece, and instead invested it reading other Slicers.

Feeling more confident and identifying as a Writer

Developing a sense of belonging within the group (Its taken all of these 5 years!!!)

Grateful for Two Writing Teachers leadership

Hoping next year is a go.

Year 6, here I come!