I’m a terrible poet.
No really, I am. Whether it’s over-using simplistic imagery devices, abusing similes, or providing rather juvenile metaphors that make other novice poetry writer’s efforts seem sublime, I can’t write consistently decent lines of verse to save my life. Which is why I need practice! So much of our educational experiences, including our own and those we thrust upon our students, is building up to the holy grail of reading and writing, the all hallowed “final draft”. We become so fixated on that final goal, it’s often easy to miss all of the tiny little daily writing opportunities that help our students become better incrementally, and emphasize the process and practice over the final product.
I don’t think I’d find many teachers that would argue with me on this point, but I do know many teachers that are often shoe-horned into instructional practice that has been prescribed by their school district or programs that are designed with a focus on “the test” or some other end goal. Which is one reason why I’ve been heralding certain aspects of the Common Core State Standards, specifically the “College and Career Readiness” standards for Grades 6-12 in ELA:
Taken from the Common Core ELA Standards for College and Career Readiness for Writing - Grades 6-12
- Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
- Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
- Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
- Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.
There are many aspects of the Common Core State Standards which give teachers opportunities to participate in regular, online writing endeavors, and last year I created one such tool, the Poetry for People project. It was a bit clumsy, and I locked it down so that people had to be registered users, but I focused on just a few simple ideas; short daily writing tasks, publishing of student writing to the web in a collaborative manner, and focus on appropriate task and audience. This year, I’ve opened up the platform a lot (you can participate without an account), and emphasized ease of access by including Twitter and email subscription integration. I did away with all of the large trappings of a social network, and tried to make the Poetry for People project a very open, lightweight tool that teachers and students could do every day in about 5-10 minutes, or ignore for a week or two without worrying about not participating. It’s very much akin to the ds106 Daily Create site; you participate when you can, and no apologies for not participating.
So with that, I’d like to invite you to come write some crummy, or magnificent, poetry with me each day in April. I know that I’ll get better the more I write, but more importantly, I’ll get better faster if there are lots of people writing along with me, sharing their poetic expertise, and providing me a glimpse into other perspectives, voices, and experiences!
I’ve made it fairly easy for a teacher to use it with their classes. Every day in April, the site presents a daily poetry-writing prompt (around 10 AM eastern standard time). Each prompt takes the form of an inspiring image, and a suggested poetic form. Users of the site are encouraged to come back each and every day in April to share, read, and inspire others. It doesn’t matter if you’re a poetry novice, or a master wordsmith. The mood, style, or feeling of the poem is up to you, but please make sure to read the project guidelines before posting your poem. The project is dedicated to providing poets of all ages with a place to practice their craft, and give them a big audience. In addition to meeting several Common Core Teaching standards, this project hopes to serve as a model for effective and responsible online sharing, learning, and collaboration within a K-16 educational setting. For extra fun, feel free to submit an inspiring image to the project, because it’s more fun when you’re a part of any activity when you’re helping to shape it.