SOLSC: March 18, 2016:”Teaching Poetry” to 3rd Graders by Gary Short

Yesterday was a “hard teaching day” – the kind of day that feels like an itchy sweater: uncomfortable, irritating, disagreeable.  We had had an incident in our classroom the day before, the kind of event that leaves everyone feeling a bit unsettled and unsure.  When you live in a smallish room with kids moving about, and talking, and thinking, and just being kids all day, even the smallest reverberations are felt by all.

At the end of the school day, my head pounding with a migraine, and my heart still heavy, I turned off the classroom lights and locked our door.  A group of my students were clustered around a friend’s locker, chattering away about how to decorate it and how much birthday candy to stash away in it for the big day tomorrow.  “Let’s write a poem!” said one, and so they gathered around a blue sticky note and began to compose.  Five green-clad poets, with their sparkly green beads and headbands, working their magic with birthday words of love.  My teaching day ended with poetry…and tomorrow already looks better.

Teaching Poetry to 3rd Graders by Gary Short

At recess a boy ran to me
with a pink rubber ball and asked
if I would kick it to him. He handed me the ball,
then turned and ran
and ran and ran, not turning back
until he was far out in the field.
I wasn’t sure I could kick the ball
that far. But I tried,
launching a perfect and lucky kick.
The ball sailed in a beautiful arc
about eight stories high,
landed within a few feet of the 3rd grader
and took a big bounce off the hard playground dirt.
Pleased, I turned to enter the school building.
And then (I don’t know where they came from
so quickly) I heard a rumbling behind me
full tilt. They were carrying pink balls and yellow balls
of different sizes, black and white checkered
soccer balls. They wanted me to kick for them.
And now this is a ritual—this is how we spend recess.
They stand in line, hand me the ball and run.
The balls rise like planets
and the 3rd graders
circle dizzily beneath the falling sky,
their arms outstretched.


25 thoughts on “SOLSC: March 18, 2016:”Teaching Poetry” to 3rd Graders by Gary Short

  1. I love the idea of the student writers, dressed in green for St. Patrick’s Day, clustered around to write a birthday poem. And the poem you left us with – I definitely want to use with kids! Thanks, Tara. I hope your Friday is bright and shiny and filled with poetry!

  2. I know how difficult these kinds of days can be. In the midst, we find the shining light. Love this poem and its light!

  3. I find it very special that in the same school where an incident happened, students are choosing independently yo write a poem as they decorate a locker after school. Your school sounds pretty great and I know you are a big part of why. Hang in there!
    And let me know where you will be when the Reunion Sat ends. I’d love to meet up with you if possible. I know restaurants change and need to get to Penn Station. So maybe Deluxe on Broadway if you haven’t made a plan yet?

  4. With a few perfect words you bring me through a pounding headache to a scene that brings a smile to my face and then you put a bow on this slice with a delightful poem. You have a gift and I love opening that gift every day in March.

  5. One moment can have a profound reverberation on an entire class, but then a group write a poem. It’s a lovely image, so full of hope and promise. Reading and writing do salve our souls.

  6. I love your post. Yes, we all have days like that. You describe it so well. But happily they are at least sometimes followed by kids gathering around a locker to write a poem. Or the opportunity to read a post like this one.

  7. Oh, I can just imagine those little leprechauns writing poetry for their friend’s birthday – a bright end to a rough day. Today, I found a pink Post-it on my computer monitor. “Question poem: 6th Hour,” one of my 7th graders reminding me to include some type of poetry in my lesson!

  8. I’ve had a few of those days lately, and poetry does help soothe the soul. I love this poem, with those balls rising like planets, lifting our spirits. Hope you had a better day today. I’ll miss you tomorrow, and be thinking of you.

  9. This poem made me smile. It is in our relationships. Our connections that make the difference. Love to you for all you do to connect to us and your students.

  10. I loved this one when it came through on The Writer’s Almanac last week. Fun to read it again. This week at recess, a second grader asked me why the clouds were 3-D. After a winter of flat grey Ohio skies, the puffy cumulous against a backdrop of bright blue were stunning. And when I lifted my eyes to look, my heart lifted, too.

  11. I’m sorry for your migraine. What a shame to end a day that way, but how wonderful to picture your green-clad sparkly kids writing a poem. Your values are reaching them and transforming their lives. They have a lot to teach us, don’t they?

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