"Poems explore everything. You can go anywhere," explains Amy VanDerwater, author of Poems Are Teachers . In her new book, VanDerwater argues that poems should be the backbone of writing instruction, instead of being swept under the carpet as an afterthought. She shows us that there is a poem for every kind of life experience, big or small.
The following is adapted from Poems are Teachers: How Poetry Strengthens Writing in All Genres by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
Many texts grow from idea-and-belief-soil. Writers write about what they believe is important, what they believe is wrong, what they long to preserve. Editorial writers, reviewers, and cartoonists lay their beliefs bare on newsprint, greeting sleepy morning readers with coffee and opinion: Where is the hottest new restaurant in town? For whom should I vote? What’s up with concussions in youth sports?
National Public Radio featured a show titled This I Believe for many years, and at the website thisibelieve.org, you will find hundreds of belief essays by people of all ages and walks of life, essays about everything from attending funerals to being kind to the pizza dude.
In her book Writing to Change the World (2007), Mary Pipher asserts, “Writers can inspire a kinder, fairer, more beautiful world, or incite selfishness, stereotyping, and violence. Writers can unite people or divide them”
When we write, we nudge change, and it is our responsibility to think about what kind of writing change agents we wish to be. Which beliefs do we hold dear enough to share?
The following essay by Penny Kittle appears in Georgia Heard’s newest book, Heart Maps: Helping Students Create and Craft Authentic Writing.
Tune in to Your Heart Map Playlist
By Penny Kittle
Music unlocks memories.
Pachelbel’s Canon in D Major puts me at the back of a church on a snowy December Saturday, trembling as I hold my father’s hand. He pats my arm and says, “Easy now,” as we start toward the altar.
When a song I once labored to learn on my guitar comes on the radio it transports me to Oregon State’s campus, and I see a swirl of fall color as I walk from class with my black guitar case bumping my leg in a bouncing rhythm. I’m twenty again and the year suddenly returns to me in images, feelings, and songs.
Our hearts hold hidden playlists.
The following essay by Nancie Atwell appears in Georgia Heard’s newest book, Heart Maps: Helping Students Create and Craft Authentic Writing.
By Nancie Atwell
Like most of the poems Carl wrote in eighth grade, “The Bowl” was prompted by a posting on his heart map. Between Hans’s paws and potato picking techniques, using just enough words to capture the memory, he’d written breaking the red bowl. When he fleshed out the phrase, it became a poem about family, heritage, love, and regret.
Amy Greenbaum Clark is a Heinemann Fellow with the 2014–2016 class, and has been an educator for 15 years. In today's post, Amy provides an update on her action research project, which asks, "In what ways does the study and composition of poetry impact other modes of student writing; in particular, narrative and scholarly essay writing?"
With classroom-tested tips from our Curricular Resources authors on how to improve your teaching of writing at any grade level, each Writing Masters installment will share author insights and practical suggestions on teaching writing in the classroom that you can use the very next day. This week in the Writing Master series, Ralph Fletcher asks, "When is a mentor text helpful to a student and when is it an anchor that weighs that student down?"