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

13 thoughts on “seeing students’ voices

  1. So much to love in this post. These lines stand out to me: “ Even in the tiniest of a spaces, the quietest of voices are heard with writing.” And “writing is the place I see my students and they see each other.” I’m so glad to have this opportunity to visit your class through this post.

  2. I too liked what you wrote about writing. I used to write letters to my doddamma, my father’s sister-in-law. She passed away last October. I wrote to her every week for three years. We both loved those shared moments.

  3. Your students are fortunate to have your as their teacher. You have developed a writing community will to explore, share, and expand their craft. Bravo!

  4. How wonderful that they have this opportunity even virtually (especially virtually). Those voices do come out and need to be heard. Poetry speaks to so many! I love the freedom they have!

  5. I love that you incorporate freewriting as part of the regular routine, and Ioved your reflection about how they still feel compelled to ask if they can still write something.

    AND… I LOVE that you’re slicing and I get to connect with you throughout March. It sounds like you’re finding peace and joyful moments in this time.

  6. Including the student voices in your post is like a window into the screen of your classroom. I love, love, love your conclusion, how writing is the window into your students’ hearts.

  7. I love that you begin your week with choice writing. What a terrific way to set the week up for success. Reading your post with the conversations made me feel like I was back in the classroom. Thanks for showing your student the quiet beauty of poetry.

  8. I love visiting in your classroom again. I’ve thought about you and wondered how things were going in California. My son moved to Virginia, so we won’t be heading that way anymore.

  9. Thanks for taking me into your poetry lesson! I loved it. I loved their responses.
    My favorite line: Though we are distanced, writing is the place I see my students and they see each other. This made me think how grateful I am to be HERE in this writing community so I can SEE you!
    Thanks for capturing writing class and sharing.

  10. That final line gave me goosebumps! Writing is also where I see and hear my students this year. Their words in the chat, their text messages, their creative use of emojis to punctuate every high and low of class.

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