Sunday, February 26, 2012

Weekly Inspiration: Poetry, Quotes, and Pictures

One of the ideas I came up with last summer was to create a “Weekly Inspiration” wall. I wanted my students to know how to write from inspiration. My goal was each week to have a poem, picture, and quote and throughout the week during journal writing my students could use these weekly inspirations to jumpstart their writing. I would go over the poem, quote, and picture on Monday and refer back to them throughout the week.

While I think this was a brilliant idea, I struggled to keep up with it. Finding a picture, poem, and quote each week and getting it printed it out (all in addition to normal grading and planning) did not happen as consistent as I would have liked. So my hopes is now that I have more time I am going to post a poem, quote, and picture here each Sunday so that maybe other teachers can have some additional writing inspiration for their students throughout the week.

With a lot of the writing standardized testing, there is a push for students to be able to respond to a quote or picture instead of just a prompt. Responding to inspiration is a great way to build creativity and critical thinking. For pictures, the easiest way I found to build a supply of pictures to choose from was I cut up old calendars and greeting cards and laminated them. Each week I chose from my supply of pictures based on a theme or something I wanted to get across. Other great online sources of pictures would be Pinterest or Google Earth. Rachel Lynette at Minds in Bloom has a great Pinterest board with pictures and prompts for writing. One board is titled “Inference with Pictures” and the other is “Quality Writing as Pictures.”

For the picture, this week I am including one of my favorite pictures of my cat. In this picture, I always wonder what she sees and what she is thinking.

For the quote this week I chose a Dr. Seuss quote since March 2 is Read Across America Day and a day to celebrate Dr. Seuss. I chose:

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
― Dr. Seuss from Happy Birthday to You!
Here is a printable version of the quote you could use in your classroom.

You can download it for free on TPT at:

For this quote, I would have students think about what it means to be them. What makes them unique? How are they different than others? Self-awareness is a powerful tool in the learning process. This might even be a great opportunity to have students do a quick self-awareness inventory. I made one and you can find it at my TPT store.
For the poem, this week I chose “My Shadow” by Robert Louis Stephenson. You can find the poem at this link as well as a bio on Robert Louis Stephenson:  
You could use the poem to have a more in depth discussion of the poem looking at imagery, rhyme scheme, etc. or you could strictly read the poem a couple times, talk about it briefly, and just let the students jump into responding to the poem.

Note: If you haven’t used much poetry in your classroom, a great poem to begin the discussion of reading poetry is “Introduction to Poetry” by Billy Collins. You can find the poem at Poetry 180.
The imagery in this poem is great and really gets students to think. You will probably have to guide their thinking, but it is a great way to introduce poetry.  

When thinking about responding to poetry, explain to students that poems should always be read more than once and it is good to read them aloud. So much of the power of poetry is the manipulation of sound. Laura Candler has a great handout called “The Poetry Peace Map.” I would probably give them a copy of the handout the first time they used it and then have them draw it going forward. The idea is that the students will respond to the poem three times. 

For “The Shadow,” the first time I read the poem I would have the students draw what they visualized in the poem. The second reading I would read it aloud again and have students think about how the shadow is described. What does the child think of his shadow? On the third reading, I would project the poem (or give them a copy) and have students read it silently to themselves.  This is where I would encourage them to consider how they feel inspired by the poem. How would they respond to it? Would they think about their own shadow, would they write own poem about a shadow, or imagine themselves as the child in the poem? Maybe they should consider what the shadow thinks of the child. Additional things to discuss would be the aabb rhyme scheme and imagery. Have the students find examples of what words stand out to them or look for adjectives.

 “The Shadow” by Robert Louis Stephenson

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an india-rubber ball,
And he sometimes gets so little that there's none of him at all.

He hasn't got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
He stays so close beside me, he's a coward you can see;
I'd think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!
One morning, very early, before the sun was up,

I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an errant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.
I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

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