#TeacherPoets – Week 3 “Assignment”


Hi TeacherPoets.

Thanks for another great Saturday session!  The highlight for me was Betsy and Michelle sharing their poems with us, and the caring, thoughtful responses from all of you. It was inspirational to have we, educators, come together over a love of writing.  Thanks for that gift.

I want to make sure I mention the great contributions many of you are also making to our TeacherPoets community page. Links to original poems, published poets, even whole conversations are popping up even in comments you are leaving each other.

If you haven’t looked around recently, I highly suggest getting lost in there for awhile (shout outs to many of you, including Jennifer’s supportive comments, Catherine and Fran’s recent revisions they both posted, Sheri’s holy-cow-you-took-notes-as-poems(!!), and Kevin’s always-coolness in combining great writing and awesome tools).

Everyone is welcome, no prior poetry writing experience necessary to join in the fun.


Recap of Week 2:

During the second Saturday session we talked about specificity again, this time in descriptions of things. We looked at how evocative poems can actually be quite literal in the way they detail objects. It is the micro-details, the specific ways of calling our attention to bits of these things, that brings them to life. So often the poet’s gift to us is helping us notice details we may too often overlook.

The archive of our first and second live Hangout on Air is here (the videos have already been viewed more than 300 times!):



As I mentioned at the start, we also workshopped two original poem from TeacherPoets. What I love about these conversations is that we not only help to improve one poem, we also learn more about how readers receive our written words.  It’s a process of helping others while also helping ourselves grow as writers. Betsy and Michelle were our brave first time sharers, and the community – including those of you on twitter – did a terrific job with specific, caring feedback. It was an awesome experience.

Assignment for Week 3: Ideas are Puzzle Pieces

A Writing Invitation:

  • Try on the writing exercise we practiced last Saturday.
    • Pick an object, a photo, or something else to observe.
    • Then, describe the small details. Aim to not be mysterious, instead say exactly what you see (see the video).
    • As you write, try to capture surprising details others might miss. Play with language, but again be clear. Don’t leave your reader confused about what you are describing.
    • Write a new poem (or revise an old one) with this strategy.
  • If you’d like, post a link to your poem (or leave the full text in a comment) on our TeacherPoets Community page, file it under “Session Three”.

Mentor poems to read:

  • Mosquitoes by Aimee Nezukumatathil (second poem on this page), for how she connects a few concrete experiences to tell of a larger experience
  • It Took All My Energy by Tony Wallace, for how he leaves some mystery for us as readers but grounds this in a series of very clearly described events
  • Also, share links to other poems you love that dive deeply into specific descriptions.  Add them to our TeacherPoets Community Page.

Workshopping This Week:

This Saturday we have a three more TeacherPoet’s original poems! Please download each of these, write all over them, and be ready to share your comments live on Saturday.  These poems are in draft form and ready for your input:

Comments can be given live on Saturday via twitter using our hashtag #TeacherPoets.

And remember:

Kinda like Fight Club: don’t talk about the TeacherPoet poems outside of TeacherPoet workshop. Wait until Saturday to share your feedback!

Session Three Live Stream

Here is the direct link to Session Three’s live streaming session on 4/26 from 11-noon EST.  All you need is an internet connection to view:




See you Saturday! Happy writing!




#TeacherPoets – Week 2 “Assignment”


Hi TeacherPoets.

Saturday was a lot of fun! Every moment of our conversation, the tweets coming in, most of all the passion and joy of everyone participating.  Thanks for helping me rise up out of the blues of March into this great new spring. It was much needed inspiration for me and I hope for you, too.

Recap of Week 1:

During this first session we talked about the power of condensing time and emotion into manageable bites. That taking on huge emotions (joy, fear) or giant topics (love, death) can be not only an overwhelming task as a writer, but can also lead to writing that is too broad. Finding the smaller the pieces – almost like finding focus in a research topic – helps our writing become more specific. The more specific our writing the more universal the feelings and ideas really can become.

The archive of our first live Hangout on Air is here:


Assignment for Week 2: The Magical Specifics of Things

During this Saturday’s session we will talk about specificity again, this time in descriptions of things. How deeply evocative poems can actually be quite literal in their descriptions. It is the micro-details, the specific ways of calling our attention to bits of these objects, that brings them to life.

So often the poet’s gift to us is helping us notice details we may too often overlook.

A Writing Invitation:

  • Try on the writing exercise we practiced last Saturday.
    • Think of a big topic or emotion in your life.
    • Then, locate a sliver. You could use the concentric circles exercise or make a timeline or other strategy (see the video).
    • Write a poem about that sliver. Carry your big emotions with you, but write through a small, specific experience.
  • If you’d like, post a link to your poem (or leave the full text in a comment) on our TeacherPoets Community page, file it under “Session Two”.

Mentor poems to read:

Workshopping This Week:

Last week we practiced “workshopping” Dorianne Laux’s On the Back Porch (if you missed it, check out the video to see how).

Starting this Saturday, we will workshop 2-3 of our TeacherPoet’s original poems each week! Please download each of these poems, write all over them, and be ready to share your comments.  These poems are in draft form and ready for your input:

Comments can be given live on Saturday via twitter using our hashtag #TeacherPoets.


Kinda like Fight Club: don’t talk about the TeacherPoet poems outside of TeacherPoet workshop.

While you may want to strike up a conversation with any of our poets, it is best to wait until we’re all in the safe, sharing space together and collecting feedback as a group.  So keep good notes, but wait to share them until we’re live again on Saturday.

Session Two Live Stream

Here is the direct link to Session Two’s live streaming session on 4/19 from 11-noon EST.  All you need is an internet connection to view:


I’m so grateful to be a part of this amazing profession with all of you.  Happy writing!



Yay #TeacherPoets! (Archived Video of Session One)

teacher-poetsHere’s a quick post to first just thank all of the Live teachers poets and the ton of you viewing online and tweeting along with us. If you could have seen the screen that I saw, it was a rush of tweets and Google Q&A comments.

This experience was the caffeine I needed. I’m leaving today’s session feeling joyful and energized, my hope is that we collectively gave that give to you as well.  Thanks all.

Here is the archived video of our first session.

  • We introduced our group.
  • I led a writing strategy and shared some of my own revision process.
  • We then “workshopped” a published poem.
  • Finally, I set up our work for next week.



Feel free to share the video with your TeacherPoet friends. Then, join us live (or recorded) the next three Saturdays from 11-noon EST.

Until then, join our Google+ TeacherPoets Community to share with fellow educators.

Also, on Wednesdays the new “Assignment” will officially post. I shared this upcoming week’s assignments at the end of our session (see the video), but the official post is Wednesday when the EXCITING addition will be the original work of a few of our TeacherPoets, which you can read and prepare to “workshop” on Saturday along with us.

Thanks for all you do, all you give, and all you believe in.  Happy Writing!

#TeacherPoets – Assignment Week 1

teacher-poets Hi TeacherPoets. We’re gearing up for our first live session, this Saturday (4/12) from 11:00-noon EST. Join our community page to join in the conversation that has already started, to catch the live stream from that page (or the direct stream below), and to catch weekly “writing assignments.”


Each week on Wednesday, I’ll post a reading and writing “assignment” for the week.  These are invitations to engaging with poetry and our work together.  Take on as much or as little as you’re able.

Assignment for Week 1: Slivers Are Big

During our first live streaming session we will talk about the power of taking on manageable bites.

Our lives often interact with huge emotions (joy, fear) or giant topics (love, death) but trying to take them on can be not only an overwhelming task as a writer, but can also lead to writing that is too broad for a reader.

The smaller the piece – almost like finding focus in a research topic – the more specific our writing becomes. Then, the more specific our writing becomes, the more universal the feelings and ideas can come across to readers of our poems.

 A Writing Invitation:

  • Starting next week these invitations will be specifically about writing poems. For this week your invitation is to respond to this question: “Why Poetry?”  A few sentences, a poem maybe, or a quick comment. Please leave your response on our TeacherPoets Community page.

Mentor poems to read:

  1. The Summer I Was Sixteen by Geraldine Connolly, for the one moment in time she uses to reflect on the huge topic of adolescence and growing older
  2. Making a Fist by Naomi Shihab Nye, who takes a universal fear and packages it in a tiny scene and an even smaller movement of the body
  3. You’re invited to post on our TeacherPoets Community page links to other poems that take on a large topic through a small, specific time or action

Workshopping This Week:

Starting next week, original poem’s from our Live Group educators (the folks on camera with me) will be posted in this section. As practice, this Saturday we will “workshop” this poem by a professional poet.

  • Please follow the link and print out this poem (or download a mark-up-able copy to your device):
  • Read and write all over it, prepare comments as if you were talking to this poet:
    • Compliments: Which parts were particularly strong to you? Why? How did it effect you as a reader? Where were you delighted? Happily surprised? Moved? And so on.
    • Questions: Where did you find yourself confused? Lost? Where did your reading become choppy or confused? Which points did you want a little bit more? A little less?
    • ConsiderationsWe can’t write the poem, that is the poet’s task, however we can raise considerations: I wonder if there are actually two poems here…  I wonder if we could hear more from… I wonder if the second stanza could… I wonder…
  • On Saturday we will then practice “workshopping” this poem, so bring your written-all-over copy.

If you would like to read an example of responding to a poem through “workshopping,” then read (or listen to) Workshop by Billy Collins (in which he workshops his own poem as he’s writing/reading it… it’s pretty funny stuff.).

Happy reading, writing, reflecting, and rejuvenating!

Join Us Live! Session One of #TeacherPoets this Week!

Here we are – yes in the midst of standardized testing season, yes in still pretty rainy and still somewhat cool April, but also yes in Poetry Month!

To pull ourselves out of the doldrums and return to our enthusiasm and passion for teaching and learning, join me and some fellow educators for #TeacherPoets! We’re an online community/course/experience/cheering-crowd-of-enthusiasm that is joining together for four weeks this month to write, reflect and rejuvenate.


Each week for 4 weeks we will meet online on Saturdays from 11-noon EST to do a little poetry reading, writing, and then work together in a poetry workshop, giving feedback to our fellow TeacherPoets.  April 12, 19, 26, May 3.


How to Join

Super simple!  We will stream live on YouTube. (I told you it was simple.)

Grab your pen, paper then watch and write along with us. On Saturday you can come back to this post and click the little play button on the video down there (try it now!):



During the broadcast tweet us at #TeacherPoets to share your insights and ideas.

Want to Get More Involved?

You can join our TeacherPoets community page.  There you can join in on posted “writing assignments” and interact with fellow educators. Each Wednesday the new “assignment” will be posted.

You can also ask questions and leave comments each week before live broadcasts, by going to the Session announcement and clicking the little “Q&A” on the video screen: here’s Session One.

If you applied to the Live Writing Group (on camera!) those confirmations have started going out, you will receive an email today or tomorrow at the latest.

If you registered for the streaming video (or didn’t but still want to attend) you are all welcome! Just join the TeacherPoets community page or simply watch the live stream on Saturday.


Looking forward to joining together! Happy Poetry Month! Happy Writing!

Join! Let’s Rejuvenate with a Poetry Workshop

I tweeted yesterday that I stumbled upon inspiration. Deep in the murky weather, just as schools across the country are marching towards standardized testing season (here in New York the first round begins on Monday), I – like I’m sure many of us – have been feeling a bit gloomy.

One piece of inspiration was when my friend Monique tweeted with the hashtag #testprepdetox.



Test Prep Detox!



The other is that I opened my subscription to a professional magazine and right in the center was a fold out poster about poetry month.





Writing Poetry in the Company of Others

A little known fact about me is that I was a few credits shy of double majoring in creative writing, poetry to be exact. I studied with incredible poets – Quan Barry, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, and others (I’ve even been in the same room as MacArthur Fellow–“Genius Award” recipient–Alice Fulton. Amazing.).

While this English major eventually turned, instead, to education. The process of being in adult writing workshops, in the company of other writers, to this day inspires my work.

“Workshopping” a poem, story, or play is similar to, but not exactly the same as, a school-based “writing workshop.” It does, however, shares similar threads.

It’s a representation of what the writer-reader relationship really is… you write but then turn over everything to your readers, they now make their own ideas. When workshopping a poem you get the unique opportunity of being able to hear your readers (other members of your workshop) and then make revisions with those voices in mind. You learn so much about how your words are received and how to make your purpose and voice clearer.

I found those times were inspiration packed, soul-filling, and reflective. I think it’s a big reason why I love writing and studying responsive writing instruction with educators.


An Invitation to Our Own Poetry Workshop

This April, in honor of #testprepdetox and Poetry Month, I’m organizing a four-session, online, adult poetry workshop I’m calling TeacherPoets.

Here is a downloadable flyer: TeacherPoets Announcement

Who Should Join? Educators and authors involved in K-12+ education interested in writing and talking about your own poetry.

Be ready to write poems, share them openly with others, revise with feedback, and share your passions and talents with fellow educators.

We’ll use the hashtag #TeacherPoets and here’s a button you’re welcome to add to your social media:


What We’ll Do

From 11:00AM-Noon EST on 4 Saturdays:

  • April 12,
  • April 19,
  • April 26,
  • and May 3

we’ll join together in an online poetry workshop.

We will not be focusing on the teaching of poetry to students, per se.

Instead, our focus will be on fostering our own adult writing lives through weekly writing exercises, sharing of our work, and the hallmark of our sessions—interactive feedback conversations called “workshops.”

These sessions are designed to keep us actively writing, exploring, reflecting, and, above all, inspired.

We’ll be using Google’s Hangouts on Air – their newest incarnation of Hangouts. It’s like a Skype call only on steroids. As in Oprah has done one.


How to Join

Involvement is free. I’m donating my time because I love the power of poetry to help us reflect and connect and because I need this battery recharge as much as you do!

There are two ways to join:

  • Watch the video streams live and tweet along with us. I’ll post how during the week of April 7.


  • Apply to be in the Live Group. You’ll be broadcasting live (from the comfort of your laptop or device) with me and fellow TeacherPoets! During one of the 4-weeks a poem you submit will be workshopped live, receiving feedback both from our Live Group and online viewers. (Did I say how excited I am!)

Google has strict limits on the number of on-camera participants, so to be a Live Group member please apply.

The application will go live THIS WEDNESDAY AT 10AM EST on my blog and will remain live for just a few days. Application reviews will be done on a first come basis.

Here is the downloadable flyer once again: TeacherPoets Announcement


I can’t wait! Let’s write, reflect, and rejuvenate together!