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  • Writer's pictureDionna Roberts

Do the Write Thing

Updated: Jul 3, 2020

It's 1am. I'm reading and writing. I'm journaling. I'm remembering when I fell in love with writing. It was in second grade. It was poetry.

On February 16th I began reading Kwame Alexander's, The Write Thing well after midnight. I couldn't put it down and had no choice but to finish it. The Write Thing was all about how to engage and spark the joy of #writing in students of all ages and ability levels through #writer's workshop, but not in the traditional sense. Kwame talks about the power of explicitly using #POETRY as the way into the hearts of young #writers and the way to get the voices of their #creativity out.

As I read Kwame's work, I couldn't help but take a trip down memory lane and visit my second-grade classroom where I fell in love with writing; where I fell in love with #poetry. My second-grade teacher, Mrs. Kaye, would assign a #poem each week to be memorized by the entire class. This was the absolute worst news for the shyest kid in class (ME!). Not only with this assignment did I have to speak, but in front of people? Outrageous! I loved the #poems that she'd pick for us to recite. The rhythm and rhyme would find their way into my heart and brain that made it natural for me to remember the chosen author's pieces. After weeks of memorizing, and nervously reciting, it wasn't long before I began experimenting with writing poetry on my own without her prompting.

"The poem that I've chosen to be recited for the holiday program is titled..."Santa Claus"..."

One of the first poems that I remember memorizing, reciting, and having a personal connection to was "The New Kid on the Block", by Jack Prelutsky. In second grade, there was definitely a "new kid" that I didn't particularly care for, who definitely scared me some, stole my tuna fish sandwiches, and occasionally my homework!

Mrs. Kaye had given us a writing assignment during the month of December to write a winter/holiday poem. By December, my journal was full of poems. I'd been secretly writing them since September. Only Mrs. Kaye was allowed to read them. She'd often adorn the pages of my journal with smiley faces and stars. So, writing one more was no big deal. I was actually excited about it. I went home and instead of writing one poem, I wrote two.

When we were turning in our homework the following morning, "the new kid", who sat in front of me, turned around to let me know that she hadn't written anything. I shrugged. Mmmkay...not sure why I needed to know that, but whatever. She passed our papers forward, Mrs. Kaye collected them all and told us that she couldn't wait to read them. She added, "I will be choosing one poem for all of us to learn and recite in the school holiday program. The author of the chosen poem will be announced on Friday."

The week moved along like molasses and it felt as if Friday would never come! But finally, it arrived. There were about three-fourths of my second-grade self that hoped to hear my name called and have my poem chosen. But, there was also that one-fourth of me that would much prefer to not have that kind of attention at all. Mrs. Kaye gathered us all together on the carpet after lunch to announce the winner. My hands were sweaty. Heartbeat fast. "The poem that I've chosen for the holiday program is titled..."Santa Claus"...

My eyes widened. Oh my gosh, one of my poems was titled "Santa Claus"! My poem won? Really? She continued.

...written by,...the new kid."


Yep. If you're reading this and thinking what I'm thinking that you're thinking happened, then you're thinking the right thing. I was devastated, to say the least, but the story doesn't end there. (Thankfully!) I'll tell you the rest later. I promise.

In reading, The Write Thing, I was reminded of the excitement and wonder that poetry brought to me as a young reader and writer. I was equally inspired to not only beef up my sharing of poetry and opportunities to write poetry with the young writers in my life but to also pick up my pen and write again for myself. An old high school classmate and fellow writing friend challenged me to write a poem each day for the month of April. #30daysofpoetry #30daysinverse My beloved high school English teacher, Mrs. Rainey has provided me with topics to write about each day and I just write. I don't concern myself with rules or expectations. I try not to let fear get in the way. I don't want to lose this groove that I've found once #nationalpoetrymonth is over. I want to continue on this journey that poetry is taking me on, has taken me on, that started way back in second grade. I want to continue to find ways to encourage and inspire young readers and writers to find and use their voices in literature. This in essence is Kwame Alexander's message to educators as well.

Kylene, Beers, Ed.D wrote the following in the foreword of The Write Thing: "This book is an invitation. In a time in which education is too often about the correctly bubbled test item, this book reminds us that true education is far more. It's about wondering and wandering. It's about imagining and inventing. It's about where we've been, where we are, and most certainly where we might go next. Kwame Alexander shows us how to connect children to a genre that is all too often regulated to one month or one unit--poetry."

As an advocate for all things literacy, I thank you for embarking on this adventure with me. Adventures In Literacy is a space for me to express myself and share resources related to two of my favorite things; READING & WRITING. In literacy education, we know where we've been, where we are, and I for one am excited about where we might go next. Let's do the right thing by doing the read and write thing DAILY.

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