Monday, April 23, 2012

Connecting with Writing

What books might help to create a bridge from reading to writing?  Which ones might help students to connect with writing as a meaningful activity in their own lives?

Recent posts by fellow Pencil Tippers Jacqueline (April 9, 2012, “Tips for Writing Poetry”) and Alison (March 19, 2012, “The Reading/Writing Connection”) got me thinking about the two questions above.

Too often students (kids, especially) don’t see writing as particularly relevant to their lives.  They’ll go through the motions of writing essays or persuasive letters but rarely realize, until they’re older, how such writing sharpens their analytical and organizational skills.  As teachers, though, we recognize the value of such writing and work to ensure that our students learn these skills.

But sometimes, especially with reluctant writers and readers, it helps to sweeten the writing pot a bit.  To give students a chance to try their hand at writing that might have a more immediate connection.

I’m talking poetry.

Students rarely seem to read poetry on their own, but when guided to explore certain elements in a poem (imagery, sound, emotion), they are quick to discuss—and often to draw connections to their own lives.

Alas, too often, young people come to poetry with preconceived notions:  a poem must rhyme and be about elevated subject matter (love, beautiful things).  To counter those notions, I’ve found it helpful to share two particular books:

Honey, I Love by Eloise Greenfield, illustrated by Diane and Leon Dillon (HarperCollins).  First published in 1971, these free-verse poems in the voice of a young girl reflect on jump roping, train riding, and the people and things that she loves.  The subject matter and style are kid friendly and accessible.  Kids discussing the poems often mention their liking for some of the same things and then write of the small joys in their own lives—and eagerly share their poems aloud.

Guyku by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Peter Reynolds (Houghton Mifflin).  These haiku on puddle splashing, stone skipping and tickly grasshoppers encourage kids to think about details and imagery and dispense with rhyme.

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