Monday, November 26, 2012


Laura Krauss Melmed posted about having students write from what’s looming large in their lives at any given moment (“If You Elect Me” (11/12/12).  Her students had been big with feelings about the presidential election and Hurricane Sandy, and so they had yearned to write about these things.

What about a room that looms large?  Like the kitchen?  Acclaimed poet Naomi Shihab Nye offers a playful kitchen prompt in “Sifter,” from her book A Maze Me.  I love this poem for the way it encourages writers to reveal themselves through an ordinary object and in its assumption that boys as well as girls are familiar with cookware. You might share Nye’s poem after students have written their pieces so that they are not unduly influenced by her example.

1.  The prompt is actually a quote the teacher in the poem:  “Become a kitchen implement in 2 descriptive paragraphs.”

2.  Ask students to close their eyes for a moment and call to mind what’s in their kitchens at home.

3.  Have them write their descriptions; share some aloud.

4.  Read Nye’s poem, and discuss what the teacher therein says:  “This is the beauty of metaphor.  It opens doors.”  What does she mean by saying that metaphor opens doors?  In what ways is the speaker of the poem like a sifter?  How is that metaphor a “door” into better understanding her?

These days the approaching holidays are much on people’s minds.  This prompt might help your students to deepen their writing around this topic so that it emerges as a nuanced exploration rather than just a wish or to-do list.

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