A Note Slipped Under the Door: Teaching from Poems We Love
"WHATEVER SHIRLEY OR NICK TELL YOU-BELIEVE THEM."
- Naomi Shihab Nye
How do we read a poem? What can we teach from a poem we love? How can we name what poets do in order to inform our writing, our teaching?
In their staff development work with teachers, Nick Flynn and Shirley McPhillips have often encountered these and similar questions. This book invites preservice and inservice teachers, staff developers - anyone who wants to make a lasting place for poetry in their own and their students' lives - into many of these same primary through middle school classrooms for an up-close look at several thoughtful, rigorous, poetry inquiries.
Each chapter begins with a mentor poem as the centerpiece for discussion, followed by a short narrative of ways the authors view their world through that chapter's particular poetic "lens." The authors then walk the reader into a classroom writer's workshop where, through vignettes, conversations, and carefully designed mini-lessons, that chapter's key element of poetic practice is being studied over time.
Other aspects that will help teachers in designing and conducting inquiry around mentor poems include:
A Note Slipped Under the Door will show how you might help your student writers let the poems they love teach them what they need to know, and build a writing life that includes finding and crafting their own.
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A Note Slipped Under the Door is a great resource. Not a checklist of boxes and standards or a blueprint of what and when you must perform in your classroom, but an invitation for inquiry and dialogue around poetry, an opportunity for creative teachers and students to interact with and to find mentor texts, poems, and each other (Imagine the discussion that can come from the first chapter's title alone--Watermelons in My Grandmother's Car--which is about image of course).
The way the text uses examples taken from classrooms and shows progressive revisions is helpful, especially for students (and teachers) who crave instant gratification. Sometimes it takes several revisions, and maybe going back to Chapter Four about the sounds of language, before a student (like one I remember) rewrites what were invisible plane passengers so they begin "stowing baggage and sipping green tea." Through this process, when students find poems that speak to them, and they tuck them into folders, it is a rewarding thing to watch. The authors have poetry know-how; A Note is an excellent addition to your mentor catalog.
Whatever Shirley or Nick tell you--Believe them--Naomii Shihab Nye
This is a book that spends more time off the shelf and in my hands than any other book on poetry in my collection. For good reasons: It is both practical and beautiful. Practical, because if you're thinking about teaching with this book, you'll find ideas that you can bring into your classroom that are honest, and authentic. Beautiful, because the mentor pieces that begin each chapter have been written by outstanding poets--Charles Simic, Jane Kenyon, William Stafford, and Stanley Kunitz to name just a few.
I would even recommend that you spend some time perusing the appendix in the pursuit of building your own professional library. Shirley runs with the best of them.
Watermelons in My Grandmothers
It Gets Late So Early
A Note Slipped Under the Door
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