Monday, July 7, 2014

Guest Blogger Chelsea: OWP Poetry Take-Aways

Back by popular demand (okay, she actually asked if she could write something for me...even better!), I have a post for you today from the one and only Chelsea Wirtz.  

Chelsea wrote a great post for me a few months ago (has it been THAT long?!) using Screencast on Exploding the Moment that you should check out here along with an introduction to Mrs. Wirtz too.  I'm so glad she's drinking the OWP Kool-Aid and can't wait to steal hear more of the great ideas she has worked on this summer!  Be sure to check out hew new blog here.

When I thought about going back to school for my Master’s degree, (after not being a students for four years!!) the idea of joining a program and adding yet another thing to my plate was exciting, stressful, and yes, overwhelming.  Many friends (including Amy!) suggested that I try an Ohio Writing Project class to see if it might be something I’d be interested in.  I took an OWP weekend workshop in February called "Revision and Reflection."  Needless to say, I was instantly hooked.  When the workshop ended on Sunday afternoon, I left with a plethora of resources that I could use in my very own classroom.  This was the first class that I had ever attended where I didn’t feel like I was just completing busy work.  I knew that OWP’s courses would help me become a better teacher. 

Lucky for me, OWP offers of Master of Arts in Teaching in English program, in which you earn a Master’s degree through their courses and research.  The first step to this program is to complete OWP’s four-week class, a workshop called "Teaching of Writing.Throughout the past four weeks, I’ve met some phenomenal teachers, made some friendships that I know will last a lifetime, and gained a variety of ideas that I plan to implement in my own classroom. 

Although this summer seems to be sneaking away quickly before my very own eyes, I’m excited to try some of the great ideas my friends have given me.  I’m truly inspired to spice things up!

This year, I plan to teach poetry at the beginning of the year as a personal writing unit.  In my experience, 5th graders are hesitant to write poetry, but through Love That Dog by Sharon Creech, they gain an appreciation and love for poetry.  My goal is to deepen this love.  During my OWP four-week experience, I gained some insight that I’m excited to share with all of the poetry-loving teachers out there!  Below are my top three favorite ideas that I’m excited to try out in just a few short months!

1. This I Believe

The This I believe project is one that awakens the heart and observes who each participant is individually.  According to, “During its four-year run on NPR, This I Believe engaged listeners in a discussion of the core beliefs that guide their daily lives.  [NPR] heard from people of all walks of life – the very young and the very old, the famous and the previously unknown.”  What better way the start the year off by asking your students what they believe.  How many opportunities do children get to tell others what’s most important to them?  This is an excellent way to get your students thinking about what makes them unique, and I’m quite sure that you will instantly learn a great deal about your kids by the end of this activity. 

You might start this activity by showing students an example for inspiration.  For his 100th day of school Tarak Mclain, a seven year old from Austin Texas, chose to write 100 This I believe statements.  Listen to Tarak read thirty of his statements using this link: Tarak Mclain

After hearing Tarak’s ideas, have students create a list of This I believe statements in their Writer’s Notebook.  You can specify a number, if you wish, or have students write as many as they can think of.  Have students choose their top ideas to form a This I Believe poem. 

This I Believe by Chelsea Wirtz

I believe in exceptions to the rule.
I believe in compromises.
I believe in laughter and fun.
I believe in the motto “everything happens for a reason”
I believe in making the most of each day.
I believe in being thankful for what I have.
I believe in giving back to my community.
I believe in thinking of others before myself.
I believe in saying “I love you” before I hang up the phone or leave for the day.
I believe in walking in someone else’s shoes before reacting.
I believe in second chances.
I believe in getting to know new people.
I believe in “it’s okay to be different."
I believe in the motto “God will only give you when you can handle."
I believe in kindness.
I believe in “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Another great way to incorporate this activity into your classroom is to have students write statements about which rules they think should be applied to the classroom.  This would be an excellent way to create a “classroom constitution”.   

2. 6 Word Memoirs

This activity is one that would be fantastic to use to get kids to START writing, especially at the beginning of the year!  I mean hey, you only have to write six words!  Easy, right?
 The idea of a 6 Word Memoir is to tell a story in just six words.  If you try this out on your own, you may realize that it’s probably harder than you initially expected. 

Examples of 6 Word Memoirs:

·         Going back to school is difficult.
·         Who knew I was still shy?
·         Huge weight is off my shoulders.
·         Some people need to open up.
·         Classroom community makes the room exciting.

This would definitely lead to some fascinating stories that I’m sure your students would be excited to expand on in their Writer’s Notebook!    

Visit to see how your students can post their memoirs on the official 6 Word Memoir site!

3. Class Symphony

For this poem, students will choose their favorite song.  Encourage students to not only consider the most popular songs that are currently playing, but songs that also have a deeper meaning to them personally. 

Then, have the kids write their favorite line(s) on a sheet of paper or a sentence strip.  Post the lyrics on a bulletin board or wall, and there you go – you have your very own class symphony.  It’s amazing how beautiful the words to the many different songs sound when you read them together as one.

I hope you can use these ideas to build a safe and fun writing community for your kiddos!  Happy writing!


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