seeing students’ voices

On Mondays we explore poetry in our writing block. We read, notice, and then have choice writing.

Students can choose to re write and illustrate the poem, respond to it in a narrative or expository way, or use it as a mentor text. I never know what will come of it. Some poems are hits others misses with my ten year old souls. As much as I try to pick something they will understand, connect to, or simply enjoy, responses are sure to be uneven, unexpected, and unique. And in the end, I am always pleased if a few jewels come out of the mix.

Today we read Amy VanDerWater’s “Window Panes.” I love the rhyme, structure and message it sends. But would my kiddos.

I read it as I shared the image on my screen. I can’t see their faces or read their body language.
I read it a second time, asking them to take it in.
And then, I ask into the screen of spaces that are in bedrooms and living rooms and who knows where, “What do you notice?”

Until there starts a trickle of comments.

“She cares.”
“The structure.”
“She repeats, We’d…”
“She has big emotions…
“talking about having power and seeing into their heart”
“maybe seeing into their emotions”

Then quiet.

And I wonder, did they get anything out of this? Was this a hit or a miss?

“Alright,” I say, “Now you have choice. To write as you like. Be inspired by this. Write in your notebook or on the padlet.”

And more quiet, until, “Mrs. Harmatz? This is inspiring a memoir for me. Is it ok to write that?
(It always amazes me that they still ask if it’s ok to write something during choice writing.)

“Yes! Of course. Poetry is like memoir and it inspires it.”

And then, quiet, until, “Did you read mine?”
“Not yet.”
“Will you?”
“Of course.”

As the end of the writing block nears, posts appear.
Though we are distanced, writing is the place I see my students and they see each other.

Time and time again, writing in a chat, on a group jamboard, a padlet, or a google doc, what they feel and think rises up. This is how I find out who is tired. Who doesn’t feel like they have a friend, whose grandfather passed away this December. Who sees the power and the problems in something. Who sees the fun and improbable.

Even in the tiniest of a spaces, the quietest of voices are heard with writing.

Day 2, Slice of Life 2021, read more slices here