Sunday, 26 January 2020

How can I use simple poems to build community and respect in our classroom?

 I always begin the year by teaching poetry.  We start with a simple simile, “I am as quiet as a feather landing on the grass.”  We learn together about each other through the construction of a variety of personal poems.

First Peoples Principles of Learning, “Learning requires the exploration of one's identity.”

We have learned through our Learning Maps, our class composition of our strengths and our stretches.  We know, as a class, before moving into this poetry unit who in our class needs support to write, to speak in front of everyone, to finish a task and to remain in class.  We pledge together to support each other.  We reflect on what support looks like, feels like and sounds like.  We built a community of trust and compassion.  We learn the Indigenous ways of listening with our hearts, minds, ears and body.  We train together to keep our mouths shut when our opinions and our thoughts are not kind or necessary.

This year, Marcus wrote, “I am as brave as a tiger.” This short poem impacts our class community in several different ways

1)  I know as a teacher that Marcus considers himself to be brave.
2)  We are supporting an inclusive model as we complete our first assignment in our home class by working together to help one another. 
3)  We are learning that we are all writers which supports the confidence that we require to continue writing for further assignments.
4) We support each other in spelling and grammar.  
5) We encourage others to share their own work out loud.  
6) We build the confidence to read our writing in a sharing circle. 
7) We collect all of our poems from different genres and make a poetry book with a decorated title page.  8) Together we practice and prepare for our Poetry Cafe.

During an evening early in the school year, I book a cafe like the Craft Corner or the Nest and Nectar.  I invite the grown-ups in our class to come to the cafe for an evening of poetry.  As families arrive, I am able to meet them, learn their names, their family make up and hear some of their stories.  The learners find seats for their families.   They order tea, coffee and snacks and we listen to the learners as they go up to the stage one at a time and read their poems.  

At first there is always a reluctancy as it takes bravery, courage and a Growth Mindset to read what you have written out loud to others.  I believe teaching a Growth Mindset is an essential component of building a personal identity and something that learners need to succeed in their education and their lives.

As learners begin to read their poems and encourage each other, bravery grows among our class.  The more the bravery grows the more learners want to read and share their work.  One year on our poetry stage, a couple of learners sang a song they had written, this year Jaiden said good-bye to his Grandfather who passed away early in the fall.

By the time the evening has concluded I have had the opportunity to meet and connect with each family member in our class.  I have noticed interactions between family members, and I have learned who has siblings, grandparents and blended families.

Once we are back at our class, I use the cafe as an example of grit and perseverance.  We have learned that some things we do at school are hard and that sometimes we have to try things we have never tried before.  We have learned to support each other in our writing, our reading and through some of our fears.  Together we have had a great deal of fun and accomplished a major task.

No marks are given for their 15 poems that we, including me, each write for our cafe.  The marks are not the point.  We have learned a great deal about one another, our families, our learning strengths, our stretches and like a well-oiled machine with all of the parts working as one, as a class, we have learned to become a team where no one is left behind.  

Blog by:  Corrie Goessman, Skaha Lake Middle School

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