Rolling and Writing Collaborative Poetry with Verb Whiteboards

Rolling and writing with Verb whiteboards and easels
Rolling and writing with Verb whiteboards and easels

Yesterday my fellow librarian Jennifer Lund, Language Arts teacher Darrell Cicchetti, and I did a little impromptu planning to organize a fun end of the year celebration of the year-long “Independent Reading” initiative for Darrell’s 7th period 10th CP Language Arts students.  After some housekeeping business of checking each student’s library account for any outstanding books, we gave students a tour of new furniture arrivals(choices inspired by our colleagues at North Gwinnett High and Peachtree Ridge High and funded by grants from the Norcross High School Foundation as well as the GCPS Foundation) and let them try out the new seating.   The reaction was overwhelmingly positive—students loved both the color and comfort!


We then asked students to sit in small groups at our regular tables and to do some spontaneous collaboration to craft a poem either about their independent reading choices from the past year or the current group read The Alchemist.   Some groups created mashup poems with each student writing a line about a character, theme, issue, or image from one of the IR choice books; others created acrostic poems using a character name from The Alchemist and crafting lines that related to some aspect of that text.   We provided dry erase markers to each student and groups used our new Verb whiteboards to draft their lines of poetry.

Collaborative Poetry Writing with Verb Whiteboards
Collaborative Poetry Writing and Sharing with Verb Whiteboards

When each group finished, they placed the whiteboard on our new Verb Easel.  Each group then had a volunteer who came up to read the poem and share with the large group.  All of us were not only pleasantly surprised with the quality of the poems students drafted in a short time, but we also relished the performance aspect students put into the reading of their poems.  One of the students, Gwenisha, quickly invented the hashtag #rollingandwriting at the beginning of our period, and it captured the spirit of our work for the period.

The experience of 7th period was an exciting glimpse of the collaborative work we hope to foster with teachers and students for 2014-2015 as our physical space redesign is in full swing to support our concept of library as learning studio to not only re-imagine our role at NHS but to also help impact pedagogy and the possibilities for learning for teachers and students together.

Related links of interest

Poetry and Possibilities: Do They Live at Your Library?

Those of you familiar with my work over the years know I am a passionate advocate for poetry.  Thanks to a life-changing course I took with Dr. JoBeth Allen at the University of Georgia during Spring Semester 2003, my world changed, and so did my outlook on the importance of poetry in the classroom, libraries, and life. In my work as classroom teacher at Cherokee High and then Polaris Evening School, I tried to give my students many kinds of experiences in immersing themselves into reading, writing, and dwelling in poetry. As a librarian at The Unquiet Library, I published student works of poetry via blogs, bound books, leaflets we hung on our poetry clothesline about the library, and on posters we created from students’ original compositions and placed throughout the library on easels as part of a “poetry gallery.” I also worked with teachers to help students compose their own poems and then share that work as part of a poetry reading celebration; we also captured images, audio, and video from these shared poetry reading experiences.  I know many of you in public, school, and academic libraries are also champions of poetry—not as a brutal exercise in explication but as a means of creative expression and providing community.

Many of you know I am also a huge fan of Natasha Trethewey, our U.S. Poet Laureate.  Trethewey has partnered with PBS for a new series, Where Poetry Lives, as she explores the places poetry takes root in our lives.  Tonight’s segment featured a visit to the Marcus Garvey Academy in Detroit where PBS NewsHour explored the ways that poetry integration into the school is making a difference in the lives of its young students who are blossoming as learners, writers, and individuals.  With the help of the InsideOut Literary Arts Program, poetry is a medium opening doors of possibility as part of the learner experience at Marcus Garvey Academy.   Take a listen to what these three young wise poets have to say about the ways poetry reflects what is important in their lives and their thoughts on the importance of writing poetry:

How does your library honor poetry as a medium of art, exploration, participatory learning, and civic discourse? How might your library create these kinds of experiences to help people find their voices and to make the invisible stories of your community visible?  ,I encourage you to now take a look at these links from tonight’s feature story, which includes Trethewey’s recollections, thoughts from the InsideOut founder Terry Backhawk, the school principal’s reflections on the importance of poetry in his school, and additional commentary from the students.

Additional Resources:

Sometimes I Need to Read the Print Version: When the eBook Doesn’t Evoke the Same Reading Experience

Original photo by Buffy Hamilton

Now that I’ve been reading books on the iPad/iPhone for about two years, I’m taking stock of some evolving patterns in my reading preferences.  A few trends I’ve noticed about myself as a reader:

  • I enjoy reading books that I would consider as “fluffy” or “light” (while still very gratifying!) fiction on the iPad or iPhone.  Not only do I seem to concentrate better on these types of texts in digital format, but I also seem to read more quickly.
  • Nonfiction is a mixed bag for me–initially, I didn’t notice a difference in my reading experiences of nonfiction from print to digital, but in recent months, I have felt a need to read nonfiction in print—the digital form of highlighting and notetaking just doesn’t seem to meet my needs like sticky notes, highlighted passages, and marginalia composed in my own hand.
  • Rereads of favorite fiction are definitely more enjoyable for me in print—I would say the sensory experiences I’ve associated with previous readings of a text in print are the primary reason for this preference.

I had not tried reading a book of poetry in digital format until this weekend.   In the midst of a poetry reading binge on Sunday, I finished two and a half books in print format and one in eBook format.   While I enjoyed all of the poetry reads, I quickly realized the experience of reading a collection of poems in the digital format was not gratifying, and in fact, felt quite uncomfortable—it was akin to putting on a cozy, familiar old sweatshirt and discovering it was suddenly scratchy and ill-fitting.  I literally had difficulty concentrating and soaking in the sensory experiences of the poems; the poems almost seemed sterile in eInk.  Now perhaps this is just a personal reading quirk, but the experience left me with these immediate reactions:

1.  I will purchase all future collections of poetry in print (unless I have a desperate midnight craving for a book that I feel compelled to read in the wee hours of the morning)

2.  Do others have preferences for certain genres in print vs. digital formats?  I’m guessing they do.

3.  How and to what extent is the sensory aspect of reading impacted by a print version versus a digital edition?  I know that question has been the subject of some mockery, but I think this is a legitimate and serious question to consider as readers have diverse needs.

4.  What are the implications of these kinds of questions or points for consideration when thinking about print and digital collection development?

What are your experiences as a reader?  Do you have a preference for certain genres in certain formats, or have you noticed your preferences evolving over time?  I realize what I experienced this weekend and the patterns I’ve noticed are not unique or earth-shattering, but the absolute dissonance I felt with my transaction with the poetry text in digital format are prompting me to think a little more critically about these questions.