Jonesport, Lubec and Charlotte with poet, anthologist and author (baseball enthusiast) Paul Janeczko – it sounds like a listing poem, but it’s actually a who-and-where for some great IRW school visits during November 16 – 18.
In Fall 2015, Paul worked with teachers at Jonesport and Lubec in IRW’s first Professional Learning Community setting and, while the teachers had fun and learned a lot with Paul, it seems that the time spent together supported them in working even more deeply with students in advance of visits to their school.
At all three schools, Paul presented a slideshow of poems and illustrations from a selection of his books, and called upon students to read fun poems that used the space on the page in unique ways.
Paul then visited with young students as they read aloud together, got to learn about rhyme, pattern, and the funny, silly side of poetry. The upper grades had writing workshops, during which they read two-voice poems aloud, tried their hand at acrostic poems based on their names and characteristics, and wrote mini memoirs.
Students at each school got to share what they had worked on prior to Paul’s visit as they explored his newest book, The Death of the Hat: A History of Poetry through 50 Objects. At Jonesport, students shared aloud poems they had written based on classics in the book, older students conducted a poetry reading in the cafeteria during lunch, and students posted displays in the hallways and poetry timelines on the walls.
Lubec students had also done some impressive pre-visit work – Fall Synonym Poems lined one hallway, while stories in prose of the Titanic lined another. Student questions were thoughtful – one student from the Kindergarten – Grade 1 group asked, “ How do you blend the words and the pictures?” Teachers and students used poetry in other subjects besides English/Language Arts – IRW was thrilled to see poems crossing the curriculum. A math teacher in Lubec, for example, used poetry to memorize math, and a Lubec social studies teacher used poetry to explore the history of the Titanic.
The last school visit day was at Charlotte Elementary School. Though some Charlotte students had traveled to Pembroke Elementary School to join us for a program with Kim Ridley and Rebekah Raye in March 2015, this was our first visit to their school! IRW and Paul were delighted at the intimacy of their three-room schoolhouse (those books delivered to each class and room can get heavy!)
Students in the PreK – Grade 1 group were VERY excited to receive their own copies of The Death of the Hat, and asked for them repeatedly. After Paul read poems to them, they took their turn by reading poems in unison from the book aloud to him!
The upper grades sunk their teeth into the writing workshops, and were quite interested in the economics and reality of being a published author. Paul explained with candor and humor the steps that go into the book making process and discussed associated finances, like what percentage of each book price he receives.
They were in awe of his 101 writing-filled composition books and the fact that he writes EVERYDAY. He also reinforced the power of creativity and validated that anything can be a poem – even one word – if it’s created thoughtfully. “A poem can be anywhere and small enough to fit in one’s pocket,” he likes to tell them.
Not only can a poem-in-your-pocket enrich your life, but so can a whole book of poems. When the PreK – Grade 1 group of students returned from recess, a first grader named Gaige called out to his classmates, “We got a couple minutes – we can read our poetry books!”
Cheers to a solid finish of IRW’s Fall 2015 visits in the Island Book & Author program – we’re looking forward to a busy spring!