I love visiting schools. Sometimes kids will ask me what grade level I like best and I say, honestly, I like mixing it up. “Does that give you whiplash?” asked the Headmaster of the Korea International School as I went straight from a high school assembly to a kindergarten writing workshop. The answer is no, I think it keeps me fresh.
With books for all grade levels, I have different presentations for primary, intermediate, middle, and high school as well as for colleges and teachers (see professional development). I have visited schools all over the USA and international schools in over a dozen countries.
Most often when I am working at a school, I am working with my partner-in-rhyme, Michael Salinger. For more info, visit us at www.outspokenlit.com.
We write on white boards, in notebooks, on computers and IPads. We write about the world, what we know and what we wonder about. We collaborate, gathering details like scientists and write using precise and concise language. We hit many of the common core (CCSS) standards without students even noticing, writing across the curriculum to build literacy skills and strengthen our understanding.
Often a day at an elementary consists of 2 assemblies (one primary, one intermediate) followed by one or two writing workshops for a selected grade or group of children. We talk about imagery (visual language), using comparisons to clarify those images (simile and metaphor), and how we can define words and experiences using “snapshot writing,” (poetry). My assemblies are interactive and curriculum based.
At middle schools I often do grade level poetry performances, involving the audience and getting students excited about finding their own voices thorugh poetry. Here we are also talking about the value of poetry to writers. I stress to them that learning to write better poetry means that they will be able to write better stories, essays, and science reports. Poetry is both precise and concise, which means the language of poetry can benefit us in our of our writing and across all subject areas.
Sometimes I visit a school on my own and sometimes I am working with my partner-in-rhyme, Michael Salinger. When Michael and I work together, we ask that we first meet the students through one or more assemblies and then we divide up to do writing or poetry performance workshops.
When I work at high schools I am drawing from my adult work and talking to students about poetry and how writing poetry has helped me clarify my own thoughts and priciples. Often when I work at a high school I work with Michael Salinger and again, we begin with an introductory assembly and then split up to do writing workshops.
Here is a link to Michael and me performing at Korea International School in Seoul. Our bit starts at about time marker 1:56, but the kids do such an impressive job on these morning announcements, it’s worth viewing. Oh, and stay tuned for the final frames where Michael performs a poem about cooking up ideas.
For students at any grade level, a poetry performance should be fun, but it must also be a learning experience. It always helps if the students know the poet and have been somewhat familiarized with the poet’s work before the day of the visit.
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