Sunday, June 5, 2016

Teaching at the end of the year...

It can be a real challenge to complete a poetry residency at the end of the year. I had the privilege of teaching two more third grade classes at Stevenson Elementary School in Mountain View this spring. (Here's my post about the first class I taught last fall.)

Ms. Jolie and Ms. Luper worked hard to get all the classes scheduled in between testing, field trips, class photos, more field trips and more testing. One of the biggest challenges is getting the kids to focus, when they are understandably itchy to be out of the classroom. One way we figured out to deal with that was to let the kids out onto the field to investigate a big eucalyptus tree. In one class we brought bits of the tree back with us and wrote poems; in the other class the teacher passed out little notebooks she had, and the kids collected words while out in the field. Both techniques worked: the kids had tactile sense imagery literally at their fingertips. This photo is the group poem we wrote in Ms. Luper's class before I set them loose on their own work. I particularly love "little chewy plus nuts" -- an apt description of those little seed pods that fall from this particular variety of eucalyptus. One student came up with the phrase, and we both wrote it down in our notebooks.

This is the slightly more composed arrangement in my notebook. (Only Blogger knows why the photo won't rotate.)

On the day of the last lesson, the day before their last day of school, we had planned a lesson in personification. So, to kick of the lesson, I brought out a photo of my cat, Freya, taken by stellar photographer and friend Hannah Jenny. I asked the kids what feelings the cat was feeling. They came up with quite a list, and we talked about how you could tell if someone was tired, hungry, just waking up, just going to sleep, scared, lazy, or angry -- just by looking at their bodies, faces, hands, movements.

Then we listed all the feelings that the students were feeling about the end of school. Excitement was a big feeling, but they were honest that they also felt sad, confused, anxious, and happy, in some cases at the same time! The instructions for the lesson are to choose a feeling, and imagine that feeling as a person (or animal). Personify the feeling.

These are the personification poems we wrote about two of those feelings.

List of feelings about the end of school on the left; prompts on the right. 

Fear, described as a cat

Tiredness, described as a person, a boy and a girl

Personification is a fun lesson. Sometimes students needs a helping hand, so we ask them to think about what they like, what makes them afraid, happy, sad, excited. One boy in this class wrote (approximately):

Excitement feels like going to Florida for the summer.
Excitement is your heart beating hard, running, dunking a basket. 
Excitement wears a blue and gold t-shirt!

That last line imagines the feeling "excitement" as a Golden State Warriors fan. This young poet was so happy that he'd done something that surprised him. 

Go Warriors!! And thanks for the fun, Stevenson Elementary! 

Spring Fundraiser in Los Gatos

On Saturday, June 4, 2016, poetry lovers and new poetry learners gathered in the home of California Poets in the Schools board member Guarav Khanna to go "poemcrazy!"

The house party, an invitational to help raise funds for CPitS, included a fine wine tasting, lovely hors d'oeuvres, and a chance to hear poems read by two of Board President John Oliver Simon's students from Claremont Middle School in Oakland.

Check out this link for the live streaming video!

Special Guest Susan Wooldridge, author of poemcrazy: freeing your life with words, lead the collected friends, students, teachers, neighbors, board members, and parents in her famous Word Pool exercise. Here's a photo of our word pool!

It was a great afternoon. Here are some of my photos.

Erica Goss and Suan Wooldridge poem crazy!

Jennifer Brown, Susan Wooldridge, Guarav Khanna, Erica Goss

Read more current CPitS news here. Donate to this wonderful cause here.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Stevenson Elementary School, Mountain View

Jennifer Swanton Brown is teaching right now at Stevenson Elementary School in Mountain View. Here are some photos of the work she is doing with third graders in Ms Katrina's third grade class.

This is the word list generated by the students during a lesson on bees. 
These are words generated during an exercise about fall ...
... and these are examples of haiku about fall, using season words
This is the tree lesson word list ...
... and these are the words the students came up with for what eucalyptus trees smell like. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

2015 CPITS Anthology "My Mouth The Galaxy"

The newest CPITS anthology was published in September and is now available from the CPITS website.

The first poem in the book, "Toss Me into the Leaves," is written by fourth grader Briceila Avila,  from San Benito County, taught by Amanda Chiado (poet-teacher). Amanda has a poem of her own, "Our Parents' Crater."  (Amanda is an honorary member of Santa Clara County, as she teaches in neighboring San Benito County and works often in SCC.)

Four poems by fifth graders from Santa Rita Elementary School in Los Altos were published this year, all taught by Jennifer Swanton Brown (poet-teacher). Jennifer had her poem, "Her Multiple Sweet Tongues" publishes as well.

  • "California Scenery" by Sofia Mujica
  • "Sadness" by Jade Daujean
  • "Secret Places" by Cameryn Krauss
  • "Energy" by Aidan Brenner
The anthology is beautiful and full of many engaging and moving poems by kids from all over the state. A great team of editors worked hard to sort through the many submissions.  Two of the above mentioned poems from Santa Clara County are reproduced below, with stanza formatting corrected slightly from what appears in the book.

Secret Places
by Cameryn Krauss

My secret place

The lightning yells as it flickers on and off
as the trees sing in harmony, the wind is so
faint it is a whisper in the shadow
the clouds take me to the rainbow slide and it happens
all over again.

Our secret place

We jump over the sky and sleep on the clouds
it smells like sweet sugar cane and sounds like a
boom crack
we dance on the river and lay in the trees
we fly on a cloud and land on tomorrow.   

Her secret place

First she walks into a hall and drops to the floor
she disappears into the dust and junk
she goes there and waits there and no one knows
where she goes, until she tells us it was grand
that's her secret place
no one knows where

The secret place of the world

The secret place of the world
is where you and me can hide
it is where there is
lurking around every    corner
this secret place no one can escape
it is the world of torture
it is the    it is the   land of fear
it is the    it is the   land which no one goes to
even if it's a dare

My secret place

Is where all my fans come to
greet me it is where my castle shines
like the sun
it is the best place in the world.


Her Multiple Sweet Tongues
by Jennifer Swanton Brown 

there is enough envy for both the present and the past even enough for the future enough envy for gardens that will be more beautiful friends who will be more true for poems that could always be better for poets always younger envy like worry expands to fill all the space you set aside all the space you imagine dream and plan with her trailing skirts envy obliterates the landscape with her song like a happy child she lays claim to all your listening with her baroque table envy will tempt you and feed you and each jewel-like morsel will taste buttery and spicy the way hunger hides a rotten seed or rancid bone with her multiple sweet tongues

walking in the neighborhood
counting her failures

poppies wave to her


Writing Poems with Kids and the Cupertino Library at the Diwali Festival

Read about the great adventures at the October 17, 2015 Cupertino Diwali Festival.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Great Poetry by Students in Baltimore

Black Words Matter.

Writers in Baltimore Schools is a non-profit organization that -- if these poems are any indication-- is doing important and powerfully beautiful work. (Photo from their Facebook page.)

Here's the first stanza of one of the poems published in the article.

I feel most colored when
by Jaida Griffin (grade 11)
I feel most colored when the pen bursts. When spurts of pigment mark my palms I see that brown and blue is not a combination so common as black and blue.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Media Poetry Studio Screening August 1st

My two good friends, Erica Goss and David Perez, are running Media Poetry Studio, a summer day camp teaching video poetry to young women. This program is fiscally sponsored by California Poets in the Schools. 

Each student is producing a short film inspired by her creative writing. As such, we are holding a screening to showcase their work! 

We are so proud of our students' work thus far. Every day they come with fresh insights and a willingness to experiment with new technologies and filmmaking tools. 

Join us to help celebrate their work in this exciting genre. 

Milpitas Library (in the Auditorium)
Saturday, August 1st. 1 - 2 pm