Clays Mill second-graders share from heart in poetry café

Author: Tammy L. Lane • First Posted: Thursday, December 15, 2016

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The December unit culminated with a poetry café, where families enjoyed an hour of conversation, refreshments, and readings.

The December unit culminated with a poetry café, where families enjoyed an hour of conversation, refreshments, and readings.

The December unit culminated with a poetry café, where families enjoyed an hour of conversation, refreshments, and readings. Parents, grandparents, and others joined their students around the small tables and thumbed through the portfolios before the individual presentations.  Gayla Anderson and the other teachers projected the children's work for their audiences.“You take a big moment and turn it into small thoughts,” said 7-year-old Hannah Plattner, in describing the poet’s writing process. Her selection, titled "Horses," was a shape poem.The teachers had rearranged their classroom space and added colorful tablecloths and vases of fresh-cut flowers for a coffee shop atmosphere. The poetry café is an annual tradition at Clays Mill.

At Clays Mill Elementary’s poetry café, second-graders wowed their families with talk of literary devices and free verse, and boldly stepped forward to read their favorite selections for the classroom audiences.

“Poems have a meaning, and they’re not just like a story,” said Hannah Plattner, who shared her piece titled “Horses.” Having chosen a shape poem, she drew a horse and wrote the verse around the outer edges, closing with the line “I think horses look as handsome as a prince on his birthday.”

“We learned how to describe an object with a poet’s eyes – (taking) something that’s everyday to make it special,” 7-year-old Hannah explained.

All five second-grade classes spent the past 2½ weeks on a poetry unit. Students tried different approaches such as writing down the middle of the page and explored rhythms to add interest. They also practiced incorporating imagery like “Her legs are as sturdy as a tree” as they learned about such devices as similes, metaphors, alliteration, and onomatopoeia. For their illustrated portfolios, the children wrote various types of poems – some rhyming and some not, some focused on a particular color, and others expounding on popular themes like pets, friends, holidays, and winter.  

“We teach that poets write about things that give them a big feeling. Some do choose sad topics, like a grandparent who has passed away. ‘Poets write from the heart’ is part of our instruction,” said team leader Jennifer Cook.

“All their poetry is created – it’s not fill-in-the-blank. They’re choosing their words and making their poetry from scratch. We go through the whole writer’s process – brainstorming and idea development, conferencing with the teacher to revise and edit, and printing on fancy paper for the café,” Cook added.  

The unit culminated Dec. 15 with the annual poetry café, where second-graders’ families enjoyed an hour of conversation, refreshments, and readings. The teachers had rearranged their classroom space and added colorful tablecloths and vases of fresh-cut flowers for a coffee shop atmosphere. Parents, grandparents, and other guests joined their students around the small tables and thumbed through the portfolios before the individual presentations.  

“Poetry reading at a café is authentic, and it helps them make connections to the future and also to community,” said Kelly McMaine, a deaf education co-teacher.

The project presented no barriers at Clays Mill, which happens to be the district’s elementary hub for deaf/hard-of-hearing children. “This activity is accessible because the students can make everything personal, from their experience,” McMaine said. “It lends itself nicely to any level.”


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