HUDSON–Sixth grade students at the M.C. Smith Intermediate School received cameras earlier this winter and instructed by student teachers from SUNY Plattsburgh to photograph scenes from their lives. This month the student teachers returned and led the students in a poetry writing exercise that dealt with the same content. The result is a rich and varied body of poetry accompanied by photographs that reflect the personal reality of each student.
The poems are “I am” poems, a format often used by educators to introduce students to the art form. The results speak volumes about the daily lives of these youngsters. Students refer to their love for parents, family, and pets, their ethnicity, and their enthusiasm for sports, music and gaming. Family tensions and dreams for the future are voiced in their poems. Justin Bieber, shopping, curried chicken, pop tarts, cheese cake, the Xbox computers also loom large in these excerpts from student life.
I am from a loving mom that works and takes good care of us./…I am from a good home that has awesome foods
I am from practicing all night/getting into fights/ ‘calm down, it’s allright
I am from Florida, the Sunshine State
Where the flowers bloom
. . .a place where . . .Family can just “chill”
And where a kid can be a kid.
— Jaygjuan Calloway
On Friday as he worked on his project, gluing a copy of his poem and photos, Jaygjuan said it was his last day of school in Hudson since his family will return to Florida to be near an ill relative during this spring vacation week.
I am from the breaking dawn of the dewy morning
The project’s title, “A Life in the Making,” was contributed by sixth grader Hailey Beaumont.
At a teachers workshop across the hall, part of a two-year professional development initiative paid for by a state grant for schools in need of improvement, Dr. Jean Ann Hunt discussed storytelling and how it can differ depending on a child’s cultural background.
She also instructed teachers to help children gauge their audience and write and communicate accordingly. A student might write in a more experimental and exuberant way in a creative writing exercise and ought to be able to adjust to the more formal requirements of a written test, she said.
Each student may have a different way of approaching a writing project that works for her or him. Some have to talk about what they plan to write about first, while that technique might not work for others; for some kids, once they’ve spoken, the urge to communicate subsides.
The photography and poetry writing exercise was presented by Dr. Hunt and her students at the M.C. Smith School in December. One of the benefits of the project was to help teachers get to know their students and their world better. That knowledge enhances teaching, she said.
“You need to impress on students that you want to know what’s going on in their heart as a writer. Writing is about conveying meaning.” said Dr. Hunt. “We learn from every piece of writing a child does.”
“It’s their first time writing poetry and it’s awesome,” said one teacher.