This post is part of “DigiLit Sunday,” hosted by Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche. This week’s topic is Problem Solving. Please be sure to visit her there to read more Digilit Sunday contributions.
“Every problem is a gift—without problems we would not grow”
One afternoon a few weeks ago, one of our Kindergarten teachers stopped me in the hall as she was taking her students to the buses. She explained that her class was writing a poem about seashells. “But we’re stuck on the ending, and since you’re a poet, we we’re hoping you could help us.” Then one of the students chimed in, “Yeah, you’re a perfect poem maker.”
Blushing, I thanked them for their confidence and told them I’d love to help them with their poem. Then I immediately panicked and thought, “What if I have no idea how to help them?”
When I arrived in their classroom the next day, they were eager to read their poem to me. I was impressed with the description and similes they had already come up with. But there wasn’t much emotion in the poem. I explained that adding feelings is one way poets improve their work. To help them come up with their own ideas and words, we discussed what shells are for. We talked about how different the inside of a shell is from the outside. Through this conversation, they came up with a final stanza that followed the pattern of the previous stanzas, but changed it just enough. They were very happy with the result.
This exchange with these Kindergarten poets certainly would have played out differently if I didn’t write regularly. Having my own writing practice let me know exactly how these writers felt, knowing their poem was missing something but not knowing what that something was. Because I have worked through problems with my own writing, I was able to help them work through their problem.
By tackling my own knowledge gaps, whether about reading or writing, I’ve acquired (and continue to acquire!) the the tools I need to help students when their stuck. Learning from MY mentors*, whether through their brilliant books or at conferences and workshops, has equipped me with ideas and understandings I can use as a starting place when approaching a problem.
Reading, writing, listening, and learning has not only made me a better problem-solver and teacher. They have made me a better person.
*Thank you to ALL my mentors. You are too numerous to name and I’m afraid I’ll forget someone.
4 thoughts on “DigiLit Sunday: Poetic Problem Solving”
Thank you for this wonderful story! I love how you approached an unknown situation bravely! As a future kindergarten teacher this fall, and a budding poet, your story of this class of kinders grabbed me right away! I want to teach and use poetry with my students in a big and powerful way, yet am uncertain of their developmental strengths and weaknesses. Would you be willing to share the poem with me?
What a thrilling new adventure! Of course you can use the poem. Can’t wait to hear more about your new experiences.
I love the connection you’ve made with problem solving. These kindergarten kids looked to the just right person to help them solve their problem. I think poetry writing is all about problem solving. Thanks for joining the conversation today.
Those young poets knew one way to solve a a problem. Ask and expert! Beautiful poetry, lesson and connections to the benefits of writing and reading!