When words aren’t enough….visual response

As in past semesters, I had my preservice teachers work together to create visual responses to one of two short texts by Sandra Cisneros  (check Authors tagline on this blog). They worked as small groups to draft ideas and then got busy. The sharing at the end of class session was powerful. As often as I have read the two texts: Salvador, Late or Early and Eleven, I am still amazed at how much more I know from their visual responses. The middle grades are so verbal-linguistic-heavy, yet visual response can also reveal deep comprehension of text. In past blog entries for this assignment I haven’t provided captions for the posters; I decided to do so at this time, as well as my own brief synopses of the two Cisneros texts.

The texts:

Salvador, Late or Early Is the story of a young, impoverished boy with adult-like responsibilities (sibling care). Shy and harboring untold grief, Salvador is the story of a boy you won’t forget.

Eleven is the story of Rachel, whose birthday is missing the “happy” part. It’s her birthday, but it’s hard to let go of the sadness and tears that are the result of being unfairly accused of leaving an ugly red sweater in the class cloakroom.


Salvador’s–late or early, but always whipping around from one responsibility to the next–taking care of young siblings, helping out with the baby at home with Mom. Facing the schoolyard gate, Salvador is gray, unnoticed and weathered. His younger siblings have yet to become “adults” at such young ages; they can still smile and be children.


Salvador as two people–the sad, forgotten, boy with adult responsibilities on his fragile shoulders, and the boy who enters another colorful world of school each day, a world in which he does not belong.


Rachel is eleven years old today; she wears the ages on sleeves of the ugly red sweater she’s accused of owning; and 1. The happiness that should come with a birthday is unraveling….


Her family celebration is supposed to be happy, and they will sing to her and shower her with presents, but her birthday cake has layers of happy and sad.


Even at home with a family who loves her, Rachel is alone and broken.

when words aren’t enough, visuals reveal deep comprehension, and texts that bring out heavy emotional responses are the best choices for letting images reveal thinking. My quick summaries above don’t come close to the fabulous share sessions we enjoyed following this work.

Robert Frost Farm website

I always say that I love Robert Frost because a teacher loved him first. A favorite high school English teacher was crazy in love with his poetry; her passion was contagious. She traveled to Washington DC to hear him give the Inaugural poem for JFK. She visited Robert Frost Farm, in Derry, New Hampshire. Just shows you how a teacher can ignite a lifelong interest and passion. One of my favorite gifts ever is a book of his poetry given to me by my son.

The Robert Frost Farm website is a fun visit, filled with so many great teaching ideas—or just linger awhile during this month when we honor our American poets, explore and enjoy.

poem in your pocket day

Every April, one day is targeted as Poem in Your Pocket Day, a day to celebrate a favorite poem, write it down and carry it all the livelong day to share with others. This year, the date is April 30. Mark it!! You can also share your poem selection on Twitter by using the hashtag #pocketpoem.  I’ll be sharing mine! Teachers–you can find poems to download on Poem in Your Pocket Day page of poets.org.

I know I will argue with myself…do I share a favorite Ted Kooser, Mary Oliver, or Billy Collins..Mmmmm..choices!

Dear Poet…..

Dear Poet is a Academy of American Poets invitational challenge to students in grades 5-12 to write a letter in response to poems written and read by some of the award-winning poets who serve on the Academy of American Poets Board of Chancellors. The multimedia project (LOVE that it is multimedia) extends through the month of April, National Poetry Month.

Instructions for students may be found on the Dear Poet link above.

Teachers—if you are interested in using Dear Poet in the classroom, poets.org has worked with a curriculum specialist to design a series of activities, aligned with the Common Core, especially for you. Here is the link to Lesson Plans. The lesson plans are intended for middle and high school students, but can be adapted for a younger group.

LOVING this!!! Hope you will, too, and challenge your students!

Read Works for National Poetry Month

Linked to Read Works just a few minutes ago, but here is a timely link for poems to celebrate National Poetry Month, which is always in April. Bet you will find some good poems!!


Read Works…for really good expository articles!!

My students (preservice teachers) use this website, as do I for quality short texts we use in class activities. The website lists informational articles by grade and Lexile levels. There are many options as well for locating what you need–search by topic, by units of study, and more. Reading research informs us, and the trend today, is to use short pieces of text when we wish to focus on comprehension. Read Works is an amazing site!!