Thursday, April 2, 2009

Langston Hughes in the 4th Grade

My students have experienced several different types of poetic forms since September. I use specific poems and certain poem forms (haiku, list poems, auto-biographical) to encourage English language development with my ELLs. Since the beginning of the year, my students have made enormous gains in English proficiency. Even more remarkable, is that they have emerged as thoughtful writers and thinkers.

Yesterday I kicked off National Poetry Month with "Poem" by Langston Hughes. It's one of the most touching and simple poems I know.


"I loved my friend.
He went away from me.
There's nothing more to say.
The poem ends,
soft as it began-
I loved my friend."

The students discussed the poem in groups; they touched on how "short and simple" the poem was, and how sad, "even though the poet didn't even say sad!" I then asked them to write a five-paragraph essay about a time when they lost someone or something they loved. They got right to it, first planning, then writing their first drafts. I did not have to coax anyone to write. Writing flowed freely, even from the three children who are often reluctant writers.

I was able to conference with half of the class yesterday, and the rest today. I was floored by the quality writing they had produced! My students wrote about lost friends, lost relatives left back home in their countries, lost pets, and a lost necklace. While they read to me, some of them got a bit choked up, and some managed to provoke a tear or two in my eyes. (Of course, I had to look away, or pretend like I was distracted by something on the other side of the room!)

Several students started to publish their work today. The rest will do so tomorrow, I'm sure. And today we read another poem, Life Doesn't Frighten Me, by Maya Angelou. They loved it and want to write their own poems about their fears.

These days... are magic. There's nothing more to say.


TeacherDee said...

I enjoy hearing about other peoples' lessons. It sounds like you are doing great writing with your kids. Happy Blogoversary, by the way!

Nardeeisms said...

Cassy, Hughes and Angelou have been staples for me over the years. During my teenage and early adult years, I do believe thaat reading their works helped to keep me sane. (smile) Thank you for sprinkling their "pixie dust" over your students. What an inspiring teacher you are. Glad I stopped by...~Nards~