An Invitation to a Community Poetry Project by Laura Shovan
Dear Educators and Parents,
I am putting together a community poetry project for kids. Adults can play along too.
For several years, I have run an annual poetry writing project. For one month, participants receive a daily writing prompt related to a theme. (In 2014 we wrote in response to Pantone paint colors; in 2019 the theme was Food). The goal is to write and share a newly drafted poem with the group every day. It’s a way of practicing writing with others.
With so many schools closed or meeting online, I am adapting this project for kids. And to make it extra special for everyone during this stressful time, I have invited some author and poet friends to create the writing prompts for us!
The theme: WATER
The environment has been on my mind this year. Our oceans and waterways are not only at risk, they affect all aspects of life on this planet.
Water can be:
solid, liquid, gas,
a favorite place,
home for living things,
in the news,
a hot drink,
Let’s spend this month focusing on the beauty, danger, nourishment, and fun we experience with water.
The prompts: Writing prompts from authors will be posted each evening on Laura Shovan’s blog, beginning Sunday, March 22. These may be shared with children in the evening or the following morning. Prompts will also be posted on social media with the hashtag #WaterPoemProject.
Posting response poems:
If school is online, use Padlet, Seesaw, Flipgrid or a similar work-sharing platform. Make a separate page for each new prompt. Throughout the day, students can add their poem drafts or videos of themselves reading what they wrote.
The point of this project is to practice the habit of writing regularly – just as musicians practice scales and athletes practice drills to improve their skills. The reason we share our response poems with the group is to help us focus on generating ideas and writing freely. Feedback should always be positive.
Because all of the shared writing is brand new, emphasize encouraging *signed* comments using your preferred platform. Setting expectations for feedback is key to a successful community project. For those who post a poem, make a rule of thumb: Read and comment on at least three other poets’ drafts.
Thanks to school librarian Linda Mitchell of Virginia for researching the learning standards related to this project. Linda Mitchell blogs about poetry and being a school librarian at A Word Edgewise.
Linda recommends the #WaterPoemProject for third grade and up because, “Writing Standards for children in third grade switch from learning to write to writing for many purposes. [Below] is Virginia’s third grade standard. These standards repeat in middle and senior level grades with more complexity. But these ideas could be used to support the project in general.”
Grade Three Standards of Learning: 3.9 The student will write for a variety of purposes.
a) Identify the intended audience.
b) Use a variety of prewriting strategies.
c) Write a clear topic sentence focusing on the main idea.
d) Write a paragraph on the same topic.
e) Use strategies for organization of information and elaboration according to the type of writing.
f) Include details that elaborate the main idea.
g) Revise writing for clarity of content using specific vocabulary and information.
Source: Virginia Department of Education, Writing 3.9. “The Standards & SOL-Based Instructional Resources.” VDOE :: The Standards & SOL-Based Instructional Resources, 2010, www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/sol/standards_docs/index.shtml.
For Educators and Adults
Q: How do I find the prompt of the day?
A: Writing prompts from authors will be posted each evening on Laura Shovan’s blog and on social media with the hashtag #WaterPoemProject.
Q: I can’t share this with my students right now. Can I use the writing prompts later?
A: Please consider this a resource and use as you see fit. If you’d like to save it for National Poetry Month in April, during an annual poetry unit, or for Poetry Fridays, go for it.
Q: Will adults/the general public be able to comment on children’s poems?
A: My suggestion is that each classroom do this project as a closed group. However, teachers who wanted to share the project and invite adults to comment on kids’ poems could do so through a blog or other platform. If you do make your project viewable by the public, it is important to credit the authors for their writing prompts.
Q: Can I use these writing prompts again in the future?
A: Yes, with one stipulation. Always credit the authors for their writing prompts.
Q: My school is still in session. Can this project be set-up offline?
A: Yes! I recommend dedicating a bulletin board to the #WaterPoemProject. Clear it each morning and encourage students to pin up their new writing over the course of the day. Give students time to read posted writings during the day. They can write their positive comments on sticky notes, sign them, and post them on the poems.
For Kids and Poets
Q: Do I have to describe water in my poem?
A: Not necessarily. The prompt of the day might make you think of a happy time, remind you of a song or a person. You’re encouraged to use all of your senses, but what you write is poet’s choice.
Q: Can I share my poem outside of my classroom or group?
A: Of course. It’s your poem.
Q: If the writing prompt includes art or a photograph, can I post or share the image my poem was written about?
A: Each author posting a daily prompt, if it includes an image, should note whether or not we have permission to share the image outside of our group. If permission is given and you post the image to a public forum or on social media, be sure to credit the artist/photographer (if known).
Q: If I really like someone else’s poem posted in the group, can I share it?
A: You must ask the author’s permission first and give credit when you post the poem.
Q: What if I miss a day or two?
A: It’s okay! Write as many days as you are able to. You can always come back later and write in response to any prompts you missed.
Q: What if I want to do this project independently? Do I have to share in a group or class?
A: The writing prompts are available to anyone who wants to use them. The only rule is: If you share, publish, or post a prompt, give credit to the author.
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that this project teaches growth mindset. It reminds us that writing and creativity are not always about outcomes (publishing, getting a grade). They are also a practice. If you write a poem every day for a month, you are going to have some winners and some stinkers! But at the end of the month, there will be a few new pieces that you’d like to revise and continue working on.
Thank you to all of the authors who have donated their time and writing prompts to make this project happen. I look forward to hearing about what your students and children create in response to the #WaterPoemProject.
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Laura Shovan’s debut middle grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, won several awards, including NCTE 2017 Notable Verse. Her novel Takedown was selected by Junior Library Guild and PJ Our Way, and was on the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer list of feminist books. A Place at the Table, co-written with author/activist Saadia Faruqi, publishes on May 12, 2020 from Clarion/HMH. Laura is a longtime poet-in-the-schools in Maryland. She likes to knit, bake bread, and doodle robots.