Poetic Power

A Creative Communication blog

Featured Teacher: Melissa Williamson

35Melissa Williamson is a teacher at Deerstream Learning Center in North Carolina.  Her student, Skylar O’Neal, was selected as a Top Ten Winner in our Spring 2013 essay contest.  The winning essay, “My Grandmother’s Mountain”, can be viewed here.  Melissa has had over 40 students accepted for publication since she first participated in our national writing contests in 2010.

We asked Melissa her thoughts on engaging student writers and what helps her to be successful in the classroom. She responded with the following:

“Engaging young writers can be tough. My main goal as I teach is to help my students find their writing voice. I want them to progress forward from emulating authors or producing what they think I want. Finding their individual writing voice is key. Some students like sarcasm while others like flowery wording. Descriptions for some students are matter of fact with specific details and others leave the reader with more room to imagine for themselves. Academic writing suits some personalities as others blossom with imagery and word pictures. No matter the style, once they find their voice they really begin to shine.

“I like to teach my 12-14 year-old students different aspects of writing beyond mere sentence structure. Some of the lessons they enjoy most have been writing with dialect, writing the same story from two different perspectives, and adding more to the ending of novels we read. I have also found that when it comes to teaching the mechanics of writing I prefer to use their own work. My students write responses to weekly journal prompts and I use those for our grammar exercises. Helping them transfer their book-knowledge to their own work can be challenging, but it is always exciting to see enlightened faces when they finally catch on.”

You can view Melissa’s personal homeschooling blog at http://gracefilledhomeschooling.blogspot.com.

To learn more about our national writing contests, visit www.poeticpower.com.

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Featured Student Writer: Madeline Marks

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars and change the world. — Harriet Tubman

Madeline MarksMadeline is currently in seventh grade at Strath Haven Middle School in Pennsylvania, but she wrote her essay, “Nature’s Family” during her sixth grade year.  Madeline enjoys playing basketball, volleyball, and golf, as well as the trombone and the piano. She loves these activities and enjoys every moment she spends taking part in them, but out of everything in her life, writing is the highlight.

“I cherish my love for writing, and winning this contest is very motivating.” Madeline explains, “My essay is about the necessity of unity, even in the smallest forms of life. Inspiration came to me from my love of beauty that isn’t seen in man-made structures. For me, the definition of beautiful isn’t something pretty — it’s the sparkling image of love, life and happiness.”

Madeline’s plans for the future are bold. She has already completed a full-length book of her poetry and is hoping to get it published soon. She is also currently working towards the completion of two more poetry books and one novel. Her number one dream is to run a publishing company that publishes children’s work, or in many cases, a publishing company that makes dreams come true.

To learn more about our national writing contests, visit www.poeticpower.com.

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Featured Student Writer: Albert Konotey Nii Adjin Sackey, III

Konotey 2nd grade pictureAlbert was in 2nd grade at Hamilton Avenue School in Connecticut when his poem, “Family,” was selected as a Top Ten Winner in our Spring 2013 national poetry contest.

Albert is a seven-year-old who loves his family.  Discussing his family, Albert explains, “They are really sweet and kind.  When I think about my family, I think about love.  I really love learning about the history of my family.  Half of my ancestors are from Africa, a quarter are from the U.S., and a quarter are from Europe.  Some of my ancestors were racist.  It is really hard for me to understand that so much of my family was racist.  I think racism is bad.  I think that since the end of slavery, it has been a painful struggle for all African Americans.  I think the racism that has happened since then is horrible.  It makes me upset to think that some of my ancestors were racist and even slave owners.  So, I decided to write a poem about that.  The first paragraph is about how nice my family is now and how much I love my family.  I know that not all of my family was perfect, so I did the second paragraph.  My mom and dad and all my immediate family really have inspired me to be proud of the person I am today.”

In the future, Albert would like to make the world a better place by stopping racism.  He plans to become a lawyer and fight to stop racism.  He is also going to run for President.  If that doesn’t work, he would like to be an inventor and invent a time machine.  Albert figures that maybe racism will be illegal in a thousand years, so he could help people travel to the future to when there is no racism. To read Albert’s winning poem, click here.

To learn more about our national writing contests, visit www.PoeticPower.com.

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Featured Teacher: Jackie Johnson

ProfileJackie Johnson is a 9th and 12th grade English teacher at First Academy-Leesburg in Leesburg, FL.  Jackie’s students participated in our contest last Spring 2013, and a whopping 31 students were accepted for publication in our anthology.  As only 45% of students across the United States and Canada are accepted for publication, this is a very impressive number.

“I’m just beginning my third year of teaching.” Jackie explains, “I received a letter from Creative Communication notifying me that one of my students, Allan Purcell, was one of the Top Ten Winners for the Poetic Power contest (he was a 12th grader). I’m thrilled for him and was excited to hear the news! This was the first year I’d had my students enter the contest and I was just overwhelmed with the results I received back from your organization and with the positive feedback I had from my students.”

We asked Jackie her thoughts as a teacher on engaging students in writing in the classroom.  Jackie told us, “When it comes to teaching English, there’s no more important skill to teach than communication. And communication encompasses so much — reading, writing, speaking, even analyzing. When you teach a student how to write, you give him or her power. Power to communicate. Power to express. Power to be creative, to discover a unique style, to play with words, to manifest thoughts. There is ‘conventional’ and ‘unconventional’ in writing, but there really are no (or few) hard and fast rules. I think taking the ‘prescriptive’ out of writing and simply teaching young students that writing is about being an effective communicator (did you get your point across? did you do it well? good! then it was a success) instills both confidence and creativity in the students. I like to give my class a variety of writing experiences in the classroom. This allows them to find a niche — do they enjoy writing analytic essays? creative stories? poetry? Instilling a passion for the creativity of writing and communication is key. That’s my goal. If the kids learn to love writing, then they’ll be good at it. That’s why I loved this contest. It allowed the students to write just a little about anything they wanted. When they found out that their work was recognized, it was a confidence boost to their writing abilities. Now that they’ve been recognized as being ‘good’ at writing, they’re excited to do it more!”

Congratulations to Jackie and all of her students who are now published writers! We look forward to seeing more work from her very talented students. You can read Allan Purcell’s Top Ten essay by clicking here and see his feature on our blog here.

To learn more about our national writing contests, visit www.poeticpower.com.

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Featured Student Writer: Olivia Zoltak

OliviaZoltak“Insecure” was picked as a Top Ten Winner in our Spring 2013 poetry contest.  At the time, Olivia was a 7th grader attending Santa Rosa Technology Magnet School in California.

Olivia loves writing poetry.  She finds that it is like writing songs, which she also enjoys as she plays multiple instruments.  “When I was told about this contest I was thrilled to write a piece of poetry to enter.” Olivia explains, “However, I never expected that in only seventh grade, my work would actually be published, much less win a spot as one of the best along with nine other incredible entries.”

Olivia wrote this poem after having a few friends over and watching as they voiced a great deal of insecurities and flaws they have. This bothered her, as it is an issue that many people today face, the kind of issue that can lead to eating disorders and even self-harm. When she was assigned to write a poem for class, she decided to make this issue the subject of her poem. “I had my peers examine it to give me feedback, and all of the people who read it thought it was a good poem with a great message. When I received an email saying that it  would be published in the anthology, I was thrilled. But the feeling I got when I received the letter that informed me that my poem was part of the Top Ten poems in my age group was incredible, and my parents and I were all so proud. I would like to thank Creative Communication for establishing this contest, publishing my poem, and the prize of twenty-five dollars sent to me in the mail. This success has inspired me to write more and more, and I would love to enter this contest again.”

You can read Olivia’s poem (shown with her pseudonym, Stormy Creek) by clicking here.  To enter your poem in our national writing contest or to learn more, go to www.PoeticPower.com.

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Featured Student Writer: Renee Ordoobadi


Renee is a rising senior attending Woodbridge Senior High School as a transfer student for their Center for the Fine and Performing Arts Creative Writing program. The four-year program has helped her develop her writing skills and gain confidence sharing her work with others and entering contests. In addition to her passion for poetry and non-fiction, she is the co-editor-in-chief of Woodbridge Senior High School’s Yearbook class.

Amalgamation” was selected as a Top Ten poem in the Spring 2013 poetry contest.  This means Renee’s poem is one of the ten best for her age division out of over 50,000 poems submitted into the contest.  “I am surprised and appreciative to be a Top Ten Winner for my poem.” Renee explains, “I was inspired to write ‘Amalgamation‘ after noticing the techniques of modern poets, such as writing about everyday objects that most overlook like a button or some string. One day I thought about what it would be like if shoes were animate objects. Would they feel unappreciated, abused by humanity living suburban lifestyles? Something told me they would.”

After high school, Renee plans to pursue her writing career. She voluntarily writes articles for online local newspapers such as Bristow Beat, Gainesville Beat, and Potomac Local News. After writing for Bristow Beat since last winter, the owners Jason and Stacy Shaw gave Renee her own column called Out Going Teen. Through this she plans to continue building her resume and gaining experience as a writer.

To learn more about our national writing contests, visit www.PoeticPower.com.

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Poetry Across the Curriculum


As the Common Core dominates the classroom, so often teachers forget what they have been teaching for years and instead of finding ways their lessons plans meet the Common Core, they focus primarily on the Common Core and try to create ways to meet that as the end goal.  Yes, state standards and Common Core guidelines are important and are essential to education and to keeping our jobs as teachers.

In the early 80s (yes I am that old), I was hired by the state of Illinois to teach workshops for the Illinois Educational Service Centers located throughout the state. Illinois had come up with new guidelines on how speaking and listening should be taught in the schools. The first reaction from teachers was “I don’t have time to assess listening.  I am already overloaded with things that ‘must’ be done in the classroom.”  My job was to show how listening assessment could be achieved by methods such as talking a student through the process of writing a story problem in math on the chalkboard (yes, in the 80s we had chalkboards).  Bit by bit we found ways that, without changing the curriculum, we could tweak it and assess speaking and listening.

Now the Common Core takes more classroom time and many teachers tell me they don’t have time to teach poetry in the classroom.  I read an article today that can be found by clicking here. The author states:

“Poetry is the perfect medium to help students engage in authentic discourse and make connections to real-world events. What could be more powerful than reading a poem from a hurricane survivor after learning about the science behind the disaster? What has a more lasting effect on the human heart than reading a poem written by a Holocaust survivor after we have studied this horrific tragedy in a history class?”

This author has learned that when students write a poem using the vocabulary from math, science, or historical events, it makes them look at the words and interact with their meaning.  It create a more holistic education.  To see how a teacher takes poetry across the curriculum take a look at this video.

Poetry helps students and all of us to explore the world and helps us live a moral, fulfilling life. Yes, the Common Core is crucial.  But taking the Core and viewing the world to discover ways that the Core can be met inside what we as teachers currently love and teach, is also crucial to our students.

Tom Worthen, Ph.D.

To learn more about our national writing contests and the launch of our new Classroom Rewards program, visit www.poeticpower.com.

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Featured Student Writer: Irene Fernald

IreneFernaldIrene Fernald lives in Las Cruces, New Mexico.  When Irene wrote her Top Ten poem, “The Sky Over the Land of Enchantment”, she was attending Zia Middle School as an 8th grader.  You can view her winning poem by clicking here.

Irene has visited many other states and a few foreign countries, but she has never seen skies as colorful or fantastic as in New Mexico.  “Our state motto is ‘The Land of Enchantment’, but I think ‘The Sky of Enchantment’ might be more fitting.” Irene explains, “I was inspired to write this poem while looking out the window of my school bus on the long, bumpy ride to school.  It was wintertime, the heater was broken, and writing this poem helped keep me from noticing the cold.  (Cold weather is something we aren’t really accustomed to here in New Mexico).  Being a Top 10 Winner in this contest means a lot to me; I guess I’m a better poet than I thought!”

Being a Top Ten Winner in the Spring 2013 poetry contest means Irene received a $25 check, a book with her published work, and special recognition in the book as being one of the best poets in the United States and Canada.  “I would really like to thank my 8th grade Language Arts teacher, Mrs. Chris Martinez, for teaching me so much in the past two years and telling me about this contest.”

To learn more about our national writing contests, visit www.poeticpower.com.

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Featured Student Writer: Michelle Yuan

MichelleTTMuch of Michelle’s inspiration for writing comes from her acting experiences, nature, and music. Her Top Ten essay, “Flight“, was written at her afterschool, “Li’s Academy” as a 6th grader.

“I love writing because it is so fun and it can go anywhere, you can do anything with it, there are endless varieties.” Michelle explains, “Nothing compares to when I get an idea or anything at all, and then a story comes together. Writing gets me excited and hooked, and when I stop, I am wanting for more. Writing is not merely words on a page, but a thought on a canvas. It’s almost like you’re painting a picture.”

When Michelle wrote “Flight” she wanted to write about something other than her usual inspiration. The legendary skater, Michelle Kwan, is who Michelle is named after.  Michelle’s father believes her to be young, talented, and beautiful, and wants Michelle to follow in her footsteps.  Michelle enjoys skating and dedicates her skating to her family, Michelle Kwan, and her friends.  It has been seven years into her skating journey, and she loves it.  “Flight” was inspired by all of her experiences skating. “Honestly I can’t imagine my life without skating. That wouldn’t seem right. It may sound absurd but skating is where I store my thoughts. When I skate, everything else in the world disappears, the only thing I do is fly. Who said humans can’t fly?”

Michelle’s future plans include becoming a successful actress.

To learn more about our national writing contests, visit http://www.poeticpower.com.

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Featured Student Writer: Allan Purcell

Allan PurcellAllan Purcell recently graduated from First Academy in Florida with high honors.  While there, Allan  played football and soccer.  He is a member of the National Honor Society, as well as the National Forensic League.  Allan successfully debated in Boston at the Harvard Forensic Debate Tournament.

Allan is currently majoring in Popular Music with a minor in Creative Writing at Palm Beach Atlantic University.  He successfully auditioned to be in the University’s School of Music and Fine Arts and has received significant academic and music scholars.

Composing, arranging, and performing musical pieces are some of Allan’s passions.  He successfully won an international contest as a guest vocalist with the American rock group, Anberlin, by performing an original arrangement of one of their songs.  He also had the opportunity to sing on their newest release album, Vital.

“Importance and worth is dictated to us by the culture in which we live.” Allan explains, “In my essay, Dirty Dishrag, I challenge these cultural ideas.  Even if overlooked and often tossed aside, the work of the dishrag serves to enhance the crystal, china and other ‘stars’ of the dinner table.  All people and jobs are of worth; we all have something important to contribute and shouldn’t be overlooked or taken for granted just because society may deem it not to be pretty enough, rich enough or successful enough.  We need to look within and see the beauty and important contributions of everyone.”

Allan’s future goals include working within the music industry while pursuing a career in entertainment law.

To learn more about our national writing contests, visit http://www.PoeticPower.com.

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