Poetry Friday: A Response Poem

Thanks to Liz at Elizabeth Steinglass for hosting Poetry Friday

Back in April, during National Poetry Month, I had the opportunity to sub in a fourth grade class. I read the book CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR?: POEMS of RACE, MISTAKES, and FRIENDSHIP by Irene Latham, Charles Waters. This was a 2018 CYBILS Poetry finalist.

As the students listened, I had them write down words and reactions to the book. Afterward we made a list of phrases. It doesn’t always work to finish the poem when I’m one day in a class and then gone for awhile as was the case with this sub job. But I know when I returned to the class we’d finish what we started.

This past Wednesday was that day. I prepared the strips and shared them. We read them aloud and determined that since we had some one that began, “Each night…” they would serve as the beginning of a new stanza. As I was writing, I noticed this line: “Fists clicked-Chains Cracked” and felt it would be a good repeating line. The first line and the end were givens.

Then each student placed their strip where they thought it might go best. We reread the poem, took away a couple lines, and came up with this response to Irene Latham’s and Charles Waters’ brilliant book:

Each Night

Each night we talked at the table
We didn’t know how
to explain the curse they gave
Some whites ashamed
about how they treated blacks
Fists clicked-Chains Cracked

Each night we plopped chains
classmates crumbled in shame
Classmates black and white
Some kids sat in shame
Fists clicked-Chains Cracked

Each night we gave forgiveness
We didn’t know how
to explain the forgiveness they didn’t give
Black and white forgiveness
Fists clicked-Chains Cracked

Each night we forgave classmates
with an apology
Classmates black and white apologized
Thunder cracked
Chains cracked
We forgave them
Shame hit
We cracked
In the end, we became friends.

© Mrs. Brown’s Fourth Grade Class

Today (as I’m writing this on TH) went into the class and we looked it over. We discussed tightening the poem and removing words. I explained how Stephen Kind reduces his drafts by 10% and Richard Peck tries to fine ten words per page to remove, I gave each student a draft and asked them to select at least five words that could be removed.
 

After the discussion, our poem looked like this:

This is the final copy:

It was a fun lesson to do with this class. I feel so lucky to be able to work with students on these mini-lessons.

11 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: A Response Poem

  1. It’s a wonderful thing you did with the students, Jone. So much learning & wisdom here!

  2. Wow. What an incredible experience they clearly had. And what an interesting way to teach them, well, really the essence of poetry by cutting. I wrote about cutting too this week.

  3. This class wrote a powerful response to the book. Thank you for sharing their process, too.

  4. Incredibly powerful poem, and from fourth grade students, what an experience for all of you, thanks for sharing it Jone!

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