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Summer SAVY 2022/Session 4 – Writing with Fire for Rising 7th/8th Grade

Posted by on Monday, July 11, 2022 in blog, SAVY.

Friday: What a whirlwind day as we wrapped up the July session of Writing With Fire!

Today, students shared their final projects together with Dr. Banks’ Anthropology class, showing off a small sample of what we’ve been working on together this week. Our class’s final projects consist of verse memoirs—the story of students’ lives told in poetry—that students will bring home in hard copy this afternoon. Students worked hard writing and revising these projects, building upon the work of renowned professional poets in order to think deeply about questions of self, culture, and identity.

A few questions you could ask students about their projects might include…

  • What types of poems did you have to write this week? What kind of poem was your favorite?
  • How did you poems change over the course of the week?
  • What is one new thing—a word, a skill, a feeling—that you are coming away from this week with? What is something you are proud of from this week? (Students had to write briefly about these questions, so they should have ready answers!)
  • How are your verse memoirs similar to the books you read this week?
  • What was your favorite poem you read this week?
  • What did you title your memoir and why?
  • What did you put on your mask and why?

An enormous final thank you to the families of our SAVY students for the work that you all have done in raising such thoughtful, diligent, and kind thinkers and writers! I am looking forward to seeing their work in print sometime soon.

Thursday: It is incredible what the students in Writing With Fire have accomplished this week!

This morning, students finished They Call Me Guero. Students did an incredible job writing sonnets, one of the oldest and most difficult poetic forms.

Next, students encountered a new poet and were inspired to write a “Golden Shovel Poem” based on their favorite line of poetry of the week.

After wrapping up their writing, students met with a special guest poet via Zoom. Students heard more about the process that goes into published, professional poetry and were able to get feedback on their own original work.

After lunch, students did an excellent job helping each other revise their poems with questions and feedback. I was blown away by how kind and thoughtful students were when reading each other’s work.

All that is left to do now is finish revising, sequencing, and titling our memoirs! Tomorrow, students will finish reviewing their poems and making changes before making a cover page. Students will be able to take home a hard copy of their work this week and will have access to their poems in soft copy as well.

I am going to be sorry to say goodbye to this cohort of writers!

Wednesday: Today, our students had another jam-packed day of poetry, art, and music. In the morning, we finished reading and discussing Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming. Students thoughtfully reflected on the intersection of place, culture, and identity, doing a flash-research project about a city, town, or country that they call home. Students have already written well over a half dozen poems towards their personal memoir, drawing inspiration from Woodson to reflect on their values, beliefs, and essential aspects of themselves. In between poems, we continued to practice improvisation and mindfulness to help students develop their focus, communication, and sensory awareness.

After lunch, we began to engage with David Bowles They Call Me Guero, practicing our Spanish as we read Bowles’ multilingual tale of growing up as a “border kid” in Mexico and Texas. The highlight of the day was making masks inspired by the one that Bowles describes in his book. Students blew me away with their artistic skill and created fascinating representations of their identity! PTY Admin Staff took pictures of some of the finished products. These masks will become a part of many students’ final projects when we collect their poems later this week.

Tomorrow we look forward to a special visitor as we finish our second book and begin to revise our poetry!

Tuesday: Day 2 of Writing With Fire saw our students continuing to enrich their understanding of poetry as a means of expressing and exploring identity. During the morning session, students continued to read and discuss Jacqueline Woodson’s work. Together, we read and wrote our own versions of poems from Brown Girl Dreaming, exploring topics from our favorite songs to representation in literature, film, and T.V.

Interspersed with lots more improvisation and some Jeopardy! breaks, our students used the afternoon to practice writings sensory details through mindful listening. Their poems continue to reflect a growing arsenal of literary techniques and figurative devices, as well as attention to more and more specific details.

Tomorrow we will wrap up our selections from Woodson’s story and move on to David Bowles’ They Call Me Guero, another verse memoir that will inspire students to think about new aspects of their own life stories. Later this week, students will encounter other esteemed authors/storytellers like Nikki Giovanni and even get a virtual guest visit from a real-life poet. They will finish the week by revising their writing and sequencing it into the first draft of their very own memoir. I look forward to seeing their creativity and confidence continue to grow!

Monday: It was such a pleasure to meet the burgeoning poets/memoirists in “Writing With Fire: Storytelling in Verse.” We had a blast today as students began to read, analyze, and write their own poems.

In this course, students will study award-winning work by contemporary professional writers, using their works as a jumping off point for crafting their own unique stories. After some improvisatory warm-ups designed to build our classroom community and help students tame their self-doubt, we began with a bang by studying a piece by Sarah Kay, a fellow Brown alum who has garnered acclaim for her poetry and performances. After some discussion and reflection (as well as more games and activities, including a turn with Taylor Mali’s Metaphor Dice), students worked to create their first free-verse poem, reflecting on an important educator in their lives and incorporating significant literary and poetic devices such as stanza breaks, metaphor, onomatopoeia, and more. Their poems were a delight to read and all showed real poetic promise, even those by students who initially said that they didn’t think of themselves as authors or who struggled to trust the potential of their own voice.

After lunch, we dove into the first of two books that we’ll be using as primary texts in this class: Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming, a verse memoir that describes the impact of pop culture, civil rights struggle, and family on the main character’s developing sense of identity as a pre-teen. Students volunteered to read aloud, pausing to discuss the book and build on each other’s ideas in a collaborative discussion of the sort that students will be called upon to participate in during their advanced middle and high school English classes. After dissecting Woodson’s style and ideas, our students turned her themes into fodder for their own haikus on the idea of listening.

Each time I teach this class, it’s a privilege to see students develop their faith in their own voice as they learn to incorporate the same elements of figurative language that professional poets use to create meaningful stories out of seemingly small moments. This group is already well on its way towards becoming verse memoirists in their own right, and I look forward to seeing what they will write tomorrow!