Last week, I declared my intent to help Isabelle like poetry. But, on Thursday night, Ari spent most of the night crying. He required soothing by his one-and-only mommy. By noon, he was diagnosed with double-ear infections. Then, on Saturday, I came down with something and have felt crummy ever since. But despite all of that, I managed to place poems in Isabelle’s snack bag every day and chat a little bit about poetry with her at night.
Despite feeling miserable all day yesterday, I went in search of amusement park poems to share with Isabelle since her teacher informed me Isabelle expressed interest in writing poems about Hersheypark. After an internet search that left me wanting for more, I went to Amy LV’s Poem Farm blog. Unfortunately, I came up empty-handed. So I emailed Amy to ask her if she knew of any amusement park poems I could use for inspiration with Isabelle. Not being an avid ride fan, Amy didn’t know of any (which explains why she hasn’t written any!). However, Amy suggested looking at Marla Frazee’s Rollercoaster, which happens to be one of Isabelle’s books since it’s poem-like. Therefore, Isabelle and I studied it together yesterday afternoon. We talked about line breaks and the many reason poets might choose to break lines. Then, we spent about a half-hour looking through various poems on Amy’s Poem Farm website before Mommy needed to lay down.
Even though I still felt awful today, I ventured into Isabelle’s classroom since the next two weeks are filled with consulting commitments and manuscript work. There’s something about being amongst children — in writing workshop — that helps me forget my misery. I find I journey far away from my ailments when I’m sitting on the floor, beside a child, talking about writing.
I conferred with one of Isabelle’s friends first since my daughter was taking awhile to settle in. Therefore, I taught her friend about line breaks and coached her through revising an existing poem by adding line breaks. Next, I went to Isabelle. I discovered she’d written a poem about a ride, Helicopters, she’d taken with Ari over the weekend. The poem read:
I think there was one more line, but I don’t remember it. Whatever it was, wasn’t memorable. I asked Isabelle about why she ended the poem when she did. “I ran out of room on the paper,” she replied.
That’s when I taught her a paper trick she could use anytime so she wouldn’t feel constrained. We visited the paper center and grabbed more paper. I showed her how to tape on a piece so she could write more. Once we made that quick fix, I asked some questions about what she was trying to show. She said it was important for her reader to know that Ari was saying hi to everyone as the ride went in a circle and that she held Ari. I encouraged her — now that she had more paper — to write about those things with precision. (While I wanted to encourage her to start anew, I knew I was skating a thin line between mommy and literacy coach, so I opted to stay a little bit on the side of the mommy role.) I told her to come back to me once she had shown her reader what she was really trying to say.
Towards the end of the workshop, Isabelle found me while I was conferring with another friend. I asked her to wait — and she did. Once I was finished, I found this:
I complemented her on writing longer and reminded her she could do that any time in writing workshop. Then, I noticed what she did by writing about the important parts of the ride: Ari saying hi and holding onto him.
At the end of the workshop, I pulled Isabelle aside and gave her a charge for tomorrow. I talked to her about trying to make the reader feel they’re alongside her at Hersheypark, riding rides with her brother. I encouraged her to pay more attention to the feeling she has when she’s holding her brother on their rides rather than the describing the rides themselves.
I won’t be in next week, but I am hoping her teacher will send home Isabelle’s next attempt so I can see what kinds of poems she writes going forward.