Thursday, March 26, 2020

Read. Analyze. Emulate

During our break from school as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, my two boys and I have been using our morning to complete reading and writing prompts.  Yesterday, we pulled our inspiration from George Ella Lyon's poem "Kitchen Table."

In an activity similar to one I do with my high school students, I asked my boys to read the excerpt, analyze the moves that the writer makes, and emulate the style in an original work of their own. Last year while attending the Michigan Reading Association conference, Penny Kittle engaged us in a very similar activity using an excerpt from Alice Hoffman's book Faithful. In using a small excerpt from a piece of writing, students of any age are able to engage in analysis and bring those writing craft moves into their own work.  Using shorter excerpts from a variety of texts gives emerging writers the opportunity to play with their writing. 

In yesterday's activity, my 9 and 11 year old boys talked about repetition, imagery, and shifts in tone. These are the same concepts that my high school writers were unpacking in their rhetorical analysis of a variety of speeches just prior to our break. My high school students were tasked not only with analyzing a selected speech, but using their analysis to craft their own speech. This is what it means to use a text as a mentor. What can we learn from writers about the craft of writing? 

The result of our writing endeavors yesterday with my boys were poems about our living room furniture.

By H. Ward

This chair stands where
no chair has stood,
where I have read for
hours on end,
where my father
plays guitar,
where my dog frequently
jumps up to play.
A place of comfort,
and fun,
where I sit
from the green

By L. Ward

This end table is where 
coffee sits in a cup,
where Mary sleeps under,
where my dad read
the New York Times,
where my mom
grades her students'
and where I wrote
this poem about the
end table.

By Jennifer Ward

This coffee table stands where
a folding chair first sat when
we moved into this space.
Months later I jigsawed
this table into the Prius,
seats folded down, the two
boys buckled into the front
passenger seat, giggling as
this table bounced between us.
This is the table where we gather to play
Munchkins, Exploding Kittens, Pandemic,
where dad used the wax
from his bees to polish
out coffee cup rings that
left O’s in the grain.
This is the table where
we lean into computer screens
to chat with friends while
sheltering inside during the pandemic,
where we would rather be gathered
together in person
laughing, chatting, playing music
as we had in the past.

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