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Teaching Artist

This Is Just to Say: I'm very sorry for tying you up and making you watch educational television

Elizabeth Falconby Elizabeth Maria Falcón

Teaching 5th grade this spring at Corbett, I had a tendency to over-pack my lesson plans.  There were so many activities, poems, discussion topics, and other exciting things I wanted to share that it was often a challenge to finish the lessons in the sixty minute class period.  So one day, I decided to simplify.  I created a lesson plan that involved only reading and discussing one poem, individual writing time, and sharing time.

We started out by reading William Carlos Williams' poem, "This Is Just to Say."  I asked a volunteer to read the poem aloud, then I read it aloud, then we talked about the speaker and the intended audience, the motivation behind writing the poem and the tone of the poem.  

My students needed no prompting to know that this "apology" note was no apology--they loved how the last stanza of the poem rubbed in the crime:

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Coltrane and the Haiku: A Mélange of Form, Music, and Play

By Nina Vega-Westhoff

Nina Vega-Westhoff

Christina (Nina) is a recent graduate from The University of Arizona's MFA program in poetry.  She has worked as a teacher, translator, and community organizer.

A classmate one day brought in to Laynie Browne's course "At the Intersection of Writing and Teaching" the Michael Stillman poem "In Memoriam John Coltrane."  The poem was exciting, an immediate encounter with repetition, rhythm, and word play.  As a class, we seemed to have a collective a ha! moment with the poem--I personally felt I should have discovered this poem long before--and so it seemed an ideal literary model around which to structure a lesson.  But I wasn't sure how to do so--there were so many possibilities immediately suggested and yet I wasn't sure where I wanted to go with it.  

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Unleashing Young Poets

by Glen Grunberger

Glen GrunbergerGlen Grunberger worked for many years as a somewhat sane, relatively stable attorney in Austin, Texas before committing the decidely un-sane, entirely destabilizing act of moving to Tucson last summer to enroll in the University of Arizona's MFA program in Creative Writing.  He has just completed his first year as a fiction writer in the program, and while he's quite certain he's no longer certain of anything, he loves being able to say he hangs out with poets.  Glen is accompanied by his fearless wife Sara, who teaches biology at Cholla High School in Tucson, and their dog, Maya, who teaches them both how to be human.

Of all the lessons I taught this past spring in my residency at Corbett Elementary, one of the easiest and most fun was writing poems "by" the children's pets.  I introduced poems from the book Unleashed: Poems by Writers' Dogs[1] as a springboard for the children to channel their favorite animals' voices.  The goal was to tap into the ready enthusiasm and imaginative connections kids have for their pets and write poems from the first-person perspective of the animals.    The lesson turned out to be a great way to exercise the young writers' skills with personification and dialogue and to develop that most essential of writerly muscles, empathy.

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Monday, June 7, 2010

Pographies: The Poem-Story Behind Your Superhero

Erin Armstrongby Erin Armstrong

Erin Armstrong lives in Tucson, AZ and loves the unbearable heat that the desert offers. She is currently working on her M.F.A. in fiction at the University of Arizona and is trying to tackle the short story form. Her primary interest lies in the intersection of the genres, and the creation of hybrid pieces. She has read for Sonora Review, interned at Madden Media in the editorial department, and will be working with the magazine CutThroat next fall. She recently finished teaching at Keeling Elementary as a Teaching Artist and will be working for Summer Fine Arts this summer.

I don't think anyone will disagree that television, movies, and the Internet are entities that surround our students. I recently taught two fourth grade classes at Keeling Elementary, and one of my most successful lessons was allowing students to incorporate the characters that they have come to love, through these mediums, into their writing. I found that students weren't as exposed to reading books as I had expected, but television was something in their everyday life. While my ultimate goal was to promote reading and writing, I found that referencing a medium that students were familiar with helped me encourage the act of reading and writing. Students talked about this lesson plan for weeks, and I could often use this lesson as a reference in explaining other aspects of writing. This lesson gives students the chance to explore back-story, character development, description, and if they chose to mimic the literary model (the poem) they have a chance to explore rhyme.

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Monday, May 17, 2010

Body Mapping

handsby Ann Dernier

Asked to lead a Kore Press Grrls Literary Activism Workshop, I saw myself as "activator" charged with bringing poetry to and coaxing it out of the lives of teen girls ages 14-19 while guiding them on their own path to activism in a public setting. But mainly and not so secretly, I began every workshop with poetry while on our journey to the center of our social justice issues.

We started by "waxing poetic"--a printing process using wax paper and newsprint.  The girls chose random words or phrases from the newspaper, (or even with an eye for random invention), and rubbed them onto the wax paper, and then "reprinted" by rubbing them in the same or new order onto white paper.  You couldn't rub them the wrong way! In the end, the girls had "found" poems with unexpected, activated language such as "A day ripe for Cadillac opportunity."

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Thursday, April 29, 2010
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