Last night our Advent activity was to work on a homemade card for my eldest’s teacher. Despite last week’s “lesson”, I let him use glitter and buttons. Other than that, no direction. He decided he wanted to write a poem to his teacher. And then promptly asked, “What’s a poem, again?!?!? Oh, wait….it’s all about rhyming. But Mom, I don’t want to do a ‘Roses are Red’ poem. What do I need to make a poem?“
As a lover of poetry and working with students to write, my heart skipped about ten beats. I reminded him that the carnal sin of poetry writing is being bound by rhyme. Poetry is all about letting your emotions out, writing what is on your heart. Not worrying about punctuation, capitalization or phrasing. Instead, it’s about creating an image through words. I love how you can let go of the grammar rules and share things you wouldn’t in a traditional paragraph or narrative essay. When I was teaching in Sunnyvale two years ago, the students really struggled with writing. Most were English Language Learners and you could see the fear and apprehension on their faces when asked to write. Too many competing rules, reminders, “must haves” almost left them stymied. When we began our poetry unit, I will never forget the collective, unconscious exhale that happened when they realized the freedom found in this writing genre.
Back in May of 2012, this same class wrote their first group poem about Moms for Mother’s Day. It was filled with some silly images, for sure, but there are some real gems too. I remember them sharing their ideas as we wrote together and clapping for each other without prompting. It was a little messy, but oh so magical. A few days later, the students were writing individual poems and were given the opportunity to stand up and read a portion or all of what they’d written. I remember one girl sharing her poem through tears. It was one of the only times you could have heard a pin drop in that classroom and one of my most challenging students got up, walked across the room and hugged her. I am not making this up. It was amazing & memorable for me and hopefully for the students. Poetry has the power to break down some strong boundaries, walls and barriers.
Here’s their Mother’s Day poem in case you need a smile:
My Heart Grows
Because of Her Love
My mom is sweet like cupcakes,
Delicious like a pizza,
grander than the Grand Canyon.
My mom rolls her eyes like turning wheels when she’s mad, becoming red as a tomato.
When angry, she screams like a gorilla.
She is a tough engine that never gives up, tougher than an ox.
as loud as speakers on full volume.
My mom is bright as the sun,
pretty and sweet as an angel.
She shines like crystal diamonds.
My mom sparkles like a polished vase, reflecting the sun.
My mom works harder than a toy factory,
More than the president,
never sitting down or taking a break,
My mom is helpful, comforting others like a special stuffed animal.
Her eyes are the bright North Star,
More sparkling than a shooting star.
When she smiles, the whole world sings.
Her beautiful face is a chrysanthemum blooming.
My mom is sapphire,
A heart of rubies
And shimmering eyes of emeralds.
She is as joyful as a balloon that never pops.
She is a shopping list that never ends.
My mom is kind like a dolphin,
extreme like a giraffe,
graceful like a ballerina,
fast as a road runner,
higher than an eagle,
fierce as a shark,
angry as a bull,
gentle as a baby.
My mom lights up my world,
Lights up each morning, everyday.
She is a cool ocean breeze,
Strong ocean waves.
When she is sad, she is a bike with no wheels.
She is a car that never runs out of gas.
My heart grows because of her love.
Last night, after my little poetry diatribe with Alex, I was cleaning up the kitchen and the peeked over to see what he’d written. His teacher’s name is Mrs. Stone and we adore her. I could write a whole post about her influence and presence, but his poem summed it up pretty well and brought a smile to my face.
Stones are beautiful
But “your” more
I love you
Short. Sweet. And to the point. Suffice it to say, don’t sweat the fearful unknowns of poetry. Just say what’s on your heart. Connect your emotions to an image and paint the picture. Personify something inanimate. Write an Ode to something your savor and love. Take a few moments to express your heart to those you appreciate.