This past couple of weeks I have been in a residency with 3rd graders, 13 classes of 3rd graders, in fact. They are lively and Spring is evident in their energy levels. They are also very engaged in our work together.
I selected a new poem to use in my lesson plan, since I have worked with many of the teachers in previous years. My goal is not just to bring a reading and inference approach to the students that creates enthusiasm and understanding while building sound learning habits but to provide more resources for my host teachers.
I sought a poem that would meet the widest range of diversity with a common experience, a poem that permitted nuance in inference and connection, and that maintained an air of play, as well as strong craft of poetry and challenging language to boost essential vocabulary. My choice this time is “Skating in the Wind,” by Kristin O’Connell George.
In the poem, there is a health ambiguity that leads to very animated discussion among the students around the mystery of the poem. The skater is not identified as an ice skater, or rollerblading, or a standard roller skater. In most classes, we had even decided that it was possible that the skater was a skateboarder. The poem seemed to allow for that last interpretation, particularly since many children refer to skateboarding as skating also.
So after a week and a half of teaching the poem, yesterday morning, one boy raises his hand to say he has made an important observation. “Ms. Popoff, I figured out that the skater can’t be skateboarding.” He then cited one crucial line halfway through the poem: “My skates clattered.”
He went on to explain that it could not be a skateboard because a skateboard is one thing and “skates” is a plural word. Again, poet does a happy dance in delight of the student awareness. Not only that, but the student discovered a key piece of evidence that had not really occurred to me yet. He showed me something new in the poem I had not noticed, a nuance that was very significant, while he also pointed out something important to his classmates and reflected his retention of a key component of his knowledge of grammar to his teacher.
We can always learn from our students. I live by the motto “Teach what you want to learn.” This young student helped me see more clearly, as well as his classmates, and then all of the students I will teach in the future when I use this poem. I already did in the remaining classes of the day and will in the six classes left for me to teach this week.
I love this work!
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