Saturday, May 21, 2016

Emulation as Inspiration: A Student's Poetic Response to My Poem

     On my other blog, "Writing Memorable Words," I published a poem titled "View from Another Bench," which I recently used as a writing prompt with one of my previously featured middle-school students, eleven-year-old Aashi. I was greatly impressed with her apt emulation of my theme about how the assumptions we make about others often lead to our misguided actions, which, in turn, lead to our embarrassment. I proudly present to you here Aashi's poem, born of her response to mine: "Tied." Feel free to leave your comments for her below (and if you want to read my poem, the prompt, just click on its title, above, and the link will take you there).

by Aashi M.

The little girl bends down                          
to tie her shoes,
with a pout on her face.

My mother would tie my shoes for me
when I was her age.
But her parents are busy.
So instead, I walk over to her,
untying my own shoes,
to show her how to tie them.

"First, make bunny ears," I tell her,
making two loops with my own laces.

"I know how to tie them," she cuts me off.
I stare at her, shocked, 
as she finishes tying her shoes with perfect loops.

Making me look like a fool,
tying my own purposely untied shoes,
as she breezes past me.

     Emulation exercises provide an excellent launching pad for creative writing; having an actual poem or prose piece to model as a prompt can spark ideas much faster, in my experience, than a conceptual prompt. For instance, if I had given as a prompt only the description of my poem (written above), merely telling her the theme of "View from Another Bench," I guarantee that my student would have not experienced her "aha moment" before my delighted eyes. If a writing teacher provides vague or purely conceptual guidelines, young writers end up toying with possible ideas and false starts for a while before venturing, tentatively, to create a first draft. I have found that by offering my students a first line to launch their original works (and then they can modify that given line later in the final revision), or by presenting them with another poem or piece of fiction to emulate, their inspirations arrive quickly and the resulting written works generally have depth and clarity. Furthermore, the young authors have more confidence that they have fulfilled the goal of the writing prompt.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Exploring Tone Through Poetry

  Tone can show itself in a single word or phrase, evoking different contexts and implications. One of my creative eighth-grade students, prompted by my own poem, "Aah" (which explores the various ways that one can hear and interpret the exclamation "aah!"), wrote this thought-provoking poem:

by Enan A.

The sound of an epiphany or…
A scream of someone who stepped on a spider

The sound of disappointment or...
The end of that awkward conversation

The sound of someone who wants to know more or…
The sarcasm of someone who is not falling for the other person’s tricks

Enan's poem allows us to hear the exclamation in different ways, and to view different contexts--positive and negative--for each context. This is a poem that begs to be read aloud and enacted. I will certainly share it with future students!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

How To Add Fun to Writing Short Essay Responses to Literature: Have Them Write About Each Other's Works!

THE PROMPT: Write a paragraph about a theme in the following poem, using Susan L. Lipson's mnemonic device, E-IEI-O (Establish topic; Illustrate with quotation; Explain illustration and its context; Interpret implications of deeper meanings; Overall conclusions about how those implications relate to the theme).

The Defiant Man
by Rupin M.

The rain batters a person continuously,
While the man wallows in pain
And the people in their houses laugh.

The rain batters him harder and harder.
The fear of sickness reaches his brain.
The man decides he will not let the rain make him sick.
He defiantly puts up an umbrella

So the rain stops,
And the people are silent.

That poem, written by one of my 12-year-old students, in response to a poem from my book Writing Success Through Poetry, clearly impressed one of my other students, Aashi, age 11, so I decided to turn that poem into a response-to-literature exercise for her. I instructed her to refer to the poet formally, as if he were a famous poet. Please note that the poet is actually HER BROTHER! (:

Here is her E-IEI-O response to "The Defiant Man." I consider both the poem and the short essay exceptional. These writings appear here as written by the students, without editing from me except for the addition and subtraction of a few commas. 

The theme of the poem “The Defiant Man,” by Mr. Rupin Mittal, is that often what it takes for people to gain confidence to defend themselves is the very need to defend themselves. However, when people get rid of insecurities and gain enough confidence to put up defenses against the enemy, they can defend themselves. The lines “While the man wallows in pain/ And the people in their houses laugh” show how not everyone will sympathize with people about their problems. Some will simply laugh at the lack of assertiveness. Sometimes this laughter and criticism can help people build up the will to defend themselves. Mr. Mittal writes, “He defiantly puts up an umbrella/ So the rain stops/ and the people are silent.” This shows that the bullies and bystanders may laugh at people who are defenseless, but once they gather the courage to defend themselves, those bullies may no longer be able to put them down. [written by Aashi M.]

Using excellent creative writing pieces by other students as prompts has definitely inspired awe and awesome writing. Kids find essay writing about another writer's work more meaningful when they know that their written response is actually being heard by the author. And the authors feel successful at having clearly communicated their visions or messages, knowing they have left memorable words in their readers' minds.