Poetic Power

A Creative Communication blog

Featured Teacher: Linda Susens

Linda Susens is an inspiring first and second grade teacher that Creative Communication has been working with for years.  We asked Linda to share her thoughts on what makes her teaching so successful in the classroom.  We love what she had to share and are excited to share it with our readers.

     Image“As far as I am concerned, the primary grades are the perfect place to introduce writing instruction.  Students in kindergarten, grade one, and grade two are eager to express themselves through writing.  They’re not inhibited to share their work, and they’ve not yet been biased by abbreviations like OMG and LOL.

In my first grade classroom, we write all day long!  We begin the day—even the first day of school—with a writing activity.  Until Christmas break, I write an incomplete sentence on the board.  While I’m taking care of morning responsibilities, my students are completing and illustrating sentences like “A good friend is _____.” and “I like to play _____.” in their morning notebooks.  The goals are to help students develop their thoughts and to craft complete sentences.  After Christmas, the focus shifts to writing conventions and vocabulary development.  I write a class story, a few sentences a day, using the students as the characters.  The students need to find and correct spelling, grammatical, and punctuation errors.  These notebooks provide parents and me with information about each student’s developing writing skills.

We write in math.  Our math program devotes every fifth lesson to solving word problems.  Each problem requires students to explain how they found their answers.  In addition, I write word problems using the students’ names that also need written explanations. We solve these as a class, and I model how to write sentences to answer math problems.  Students in first grade are just learning how to write sentences in math.  I see my role as preparing them for problem solving in the higher grades.

We write in science.  My students have science journals in which they log their predictions, experiments, and observations.  All entries are required to be in sentences and fully illustrated.

We write in social studies.  When studying Native Americans, the students use Native American symbols to write a picture story.  They write the symbols on a piece of brown grocery bag, and then crumple it to look like “buffalo hide.”  When learning about famous people, the students create family trees and timelines of their own lives.  They make a photo autobiography and fill it with pictures and captions that demonstrate what is important to each of them.  I provide a photo autobiography both as an example and because students love learning about a teacher’s personal life.

And, of course, we write in language arts.  We begin by listening to beautiful writing.  I often stop during read-alouds to comment, “Did you hear how beautiful that sounds?  Listen again!  Would you like to try that too?”   And then we write like the authors we admire.  I usually begin with poetry, because at the beginning of first grade, students do not have the endurance to write a long story. Poetry allows each student to be done when they fatigue.

When we begin writing stories, I use a funnel to introdImageuce the concept of focus.  One by one, each student tells his/her story idea.  We place it on the funnel and work to narrow each topic as a class.  Then, I teach each paragraph individually by selecting a different student each day to help me write on chart paper that will later be hung as a reference.  The student dictates the first sentence.  I ask clarifying questions and we write the sentence together.  We repeat with the rest of the sentences in the paragraph.  While this student copies his/her paragraph into a writing notebook, the rest of the students begin their own paragraphs.  Over time, each student gets to write out loud with me and the entire class gets to benefit from seeing the various writing styles within the room.  I type the finished pieces for each child as they dictate it to me.  I use this time to edit one-on-one and compliment each author on his/her improvement.

We celebrate our writing.  As each writing piece is completed, the authors read their work to the class and beam as they are applauded. We submit poems to competitions such as creativeCOMMUNICATION’S fall and spring poetry contests and celebrate those whose work is accepted for publication.   At the end of the year, we bind all finished pieces into a single booklet, make copies for everyone, and invite families to an “authors’ tea” during which each child reads his/her favorite poem and essay.

In addition to fostering a love of writing, these activities have sometimes given students a new sense of self.  I once had a special needs student who had two poems accepted for publication in one year.  That summer, his grandmother took him along to a book signing. While the author autographed his grandmother’s book, the student asked “So, what do you do?”  The author replied that he wrote and illustrated books.  The student replied, “Oh, is that all?  I’ve done that twice already and I’m only going into second grade!”’

Thank you Linda for the incredible work you do in your classroom!  Your students are lucky to have you.  Thank you for sharing with our readers what has helped you to find such great success with your students.  We look forward to working with you for years to come.

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Sweepstakes Time!

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Creative Communication (host of national poetry contests for students in grades K-12) and CelebratingArt.com (host of national art contests for students in grades K-12) are hosting a national sweepstakes!

There will be two winners; one winner over 18 years of age will receive two free flights to ANYWHERE in the United States, and one winner 18 years or younger will receive a free Amazon Kindle. Here are the rules:

To make an entry check out the following links to “like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.  Each will get you one entry (remember, we have a Twitter and Facebook page for both Creative Communication AND CelebratingArt.com – that’s a total of four entries!)  Each time one of your friends on Facebook “likes” us from your referral you will receive two bonus entries.  If you tweet out our contest link you will receive three bonus entries.  Every time someone follows us on Twitter from one of your tweets you will receive two bonus entries.  The more entries you have, the more likely is your chance to win.  The contest runs until April 2, 2012.  We will then have a drawing to pick the winners.  Every day you can submit a new Facebook entry for each profile — that’s a lot of entries!  Don’t miss out on your chance to win.

 CelebratingArt:
Twitter:  https://woobox.com/2bmyws
Facebook:  https://woobox.com/ity9o2

 Creative Communication:
Twitter:  https://woobox.com/wc6x3z
Facebook:  https://woobox.com/mby6i4

Here’s a break-down of ways you can get entries into the contest:

Facebook
“Like” our Creative Communication page — 1 entry
“Like” our CelebratingArt page — 1 entry
Have a friend “like” our Creative Communication page from your referral —2 entries
Have a friend “like” our CelebratingArt page from your referral —2 entries

Twitter
Follow our Creative Communication page — 1 entry
Follow our CelebratingArt page — 1 entry
Send a tweet to your friends with the link to the sweepstakes page — 3  entries
Each friend that follows us from your tweet — 2 entries

Now get out there and enter to win big!

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Featured Top Ten Winner: Dylan Benton

ImageWe are very excited for today’s feature on 8th grader Dylan Benton.  Dylan has a very special story and we enjoyed talking to her about what made her decide to write the essay she did for our national contest, which ended up becoming a Top Ten Winner.

Dylan goes to Solon Middle School in Solon, Iowa, a tiny town of only 2,500 people.  Dylan loves writing and even aspires to become an author; whether it be a short essay for school or another “book” she’s started for her own enjoyment, she is always involved in creating her own works of literature.  Dylan also enjoys playing soccer, volleyball, dancing, and hanging out with her friends.

Her essay, “Life Goes On,” was inspired by situations around her.  She tells Creative Communication that when she really took a look around her and realized how much pain the world goes through, she saw that many people manage to keep their heads up and continue to carry on with their life, even after a disaster.  Dylan admires these individuals and decided to dedicate her essay to those strong people who have encouraged and inspired her. Dylan’s essay can be viewed here.

Dylan expressed, “I love writing, because I feel like I can express myself through my characters or story line. It’s just something I’ve always had a desire to do, and to thrive at. It’s fun, yet a challenge that I love to conquer. My favorite part of writing is when I’m all done, and I can go back and read the small, little masterpiece I’ve created.”

Dylan also tells us of her reaction to becoming a Top Ten Winner: “When I heard I was one of the Top Ten winner, it felt like there was a 4th of July celebration going on inside of me! I basically jumped around the room squealing in excitement! I’m incredibly honored to be picked out of all the entries and beyond thrilled to know I have been accepted. Thanks everyone who voted for my essay; it really means a lot to me!”

We are so excited for you Dylan, and we know that all of your biggest dreams can come true.  Keep writing and keep sharing your work with those around you.   Thanks for sharing your essay and wonderful story with us.

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Contest That Changes Lives: Miss Arizona Speaks Out

The power of using a contest to create a spark in the classroom is universal.  Today we share a story from Jennifer Selder, Miss Arizona and 3rd runner-up to Miss America.  She relates the power of our contests to influence a life.

“Fifth grade was no dImageoubt my favorite year in elementary school. My teacher gave us an hour every single day to work on our very own writing projects. During this time, I was able to grow tremendously in my foundation as a writer, and I attribute my love of poetry to that very class. I sent many hours learning the basics: the terms, the forms, the styles. Because of this, I was able to branch out later in life in use those skills to take my writing to a new level. You see, once you learn the basis of how to write creatively, it is so much easier to write in all other forms because you can allow them to take your own voice into account. I had a poem published by Creative Communication that year in 5th grade, and I will never forget how special and inspired it made me feel. I have since gone on to win numerous essay contests, many which earned me scholarship money for college, and I may have never believed in myself if it wasn’t for Creative Communication. And as Miss Arizona, I write pages and pages of creatively written updates for all of my followers. Now of course I still take time on my own to read, study, and write poetry. When you choose to be an active learner and writer, I think you will find, just as I did, that truly anything is possible.

With love,
Jennifer Sedler, Miss Arizona 2011, 3rd runner up to Miss America 2012″

The poem Jennifer entered in our contest, “Hawaiian Seas,” can be viewed below.

                                     Hawaiian Seas
Shimmering
Warm, turquoise, sea,
Rainbow fish, angelfish, carp, needlefish, even turtles
Glittery, colorful, green, blue, pink, yellow, orange
Hawaiian seas
Wild
A raging storm, ripping and clattering like a boiling pot of
Bubbling and churning water on a stove
Hawaiian seas
Quiet
Still, motionless, a serene feeling everywhere, the world has stopped,
To gaze at this splendid view of the harmonious
Hawaiian seas
Waves
Rapidly pulling grains of course, powdery sand to
Its home beneath those waters that the sea urchins call home
Hawaiian seas
Hope
Gently buried deep within the glassy, cerulean
Hawaiian seas

Thank you Jennifer for sharing your story with us.  Just as we helped shape your life with our contest, we know of the many lives you now touch as Miss AZ.  Rock on.

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Featured Top Ten Winner: Caitlin Kelly

Today we would like to take some time to feature a very talented writer that has recently received the honor of becoming a Top Ten Winner for our Fall 2011 Essay Contest.

Caitlin Kelly, a senior at ImageMillani High School in Hawaii, submitted her essay entitled “More Than Words” for our fall contest.  She got the idea for her essay when her grandfather, who has always had a large presence in her life, passed away after his battle with cancer.  Caitlin explained to us that her grandfather was a very quiet man and showed that he cared for individuals not through words, but through his actions.  Her touching essay can be viewed here.

Caitlin shares her writing talents with others by devoting much of her time to her responsibilities as Editor in Chief of the Trojan Times, her school’s newspaper.  But Caitlin’s talents don’t just lie in writing.  She also enjoys reading, swimming, and spending quality time with her family and friends.

Caitlin tells us, “I’ve been drawn to Language Arts for as long as I can remember because I feel that there is no power stronger than that of the written word.  It’s humbling to be recognized as a Top Ten Winner and I am thankful that I have the opportunity to share my work with others.”

Thanks Caitlin for helping to inspire others through your talent of writing.  We wish you the best as you graduate and move forward with your life.  Keep up the great work!

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Teacher Feature: Mary Reynolds

Today we wanted to take a moment to honor an incredible teacher at Grant Elementary School in Petaluma, CA, Mary Reynolds.  Mary is a 6th grade teacher who has participated in seven contests since Fall 2008.  Mary began her career by majoring in English Literature with a Creative Writing emphasis for her undergraduate degree.  She has shared with Creative Communication entries from many of her talented students.  Mary has made an incredible difference in her classroom, so we asked her what helps her to motivate her students to be successful.  She responded:
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“As a 6th grade teacher, I find nothing more empowering in Language Arts, than for students to see their writing published.  It is such an accomplishment for their work to be accepted into the Creative Communication Poetry Anthology.  This opportunity allows for my students to see the value in the editing process of writing, as well as value in their own creativity.

I think that writing, in any form, is one of the most valuable skills a person can have.  When my students are published in Creative Communication, their confidence soars, they are proud, and they see that their hard work has paid off.”

 

Thanks Mary for helping kids to reach their potential and inspire them to do incredible things.  You are a great example to us all.

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Turn Your Students into Novelists

Normally, a blog is the words of the the blogger, but today, I wanted to share a story that reflects the attitude that students rise to the occasion.  My 12 year old daughter has set a goal of writing a book.  That seems like a lofty goal, however, check out this link.

I put the first few paragraphs below.

“Back in 2007, when then middle school teacher Luke Perry told his students they’d be writing a novel in just one month, he assumed he’d be the taskmaster, forcing them to do something that was good for them. But that’s not what happened.
Initially, 12 kids in Perry’s sixth-grade class were going to participate. Then the word spread, other teachers liked the concept, the principal gave permission to set aside the regular curriculum temporarily, and 115 kids — fully a third of the students at Springfield Middle School, an urban school in Battle Creek, Michigan — wrote novels. Piling into classrooms before school and staying on after, students even skipped lunch to tap away at their stories.

As the literary life took hold, Perry’s “taskmaster” role evaporated. He became techno man and chief cheerleader, posting excerpts in hallways, having students read from their novels over the PA system, and, at the end of a frantically productive month, inviting city council members and local reporters to a novel-reading party.”

Click here to read the rest of the story.

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Be a Finisher

This last week we sent out notifications to the teachers in our contest to let them know if they still had students who had not given permission to be published. I received an email back that one teacher has done all she could, but one of her student’s mother gave a verbatim “no”.  The teacher was puzzled why a mother would say that.

There are many scams on the internet that accept everything that is entered in a contest.  They have as their sole purpose to sell books.  Often there is a fee to be published or you are required to purchase a book. That is not who we are.

Giving permission helps to recognize students who have earned a reward. As a parent and teacher I am very protective of my children.  However, I would never conceptualize not allowing them to receive recognition for an accomplishment.

We have so many students who have taken this accomplishment and used it to make a difference in their lives.  I have the attitude to always let other people limit my options.  In college I applied for over 40 scholarships and received 36 rejection letters.  The four I received paid for tuition, books, and a little left over.  If I didn’t apply, I would not have received anything.  However, when a student enters a contest, is recognized, and has put forth the effort, then finishing the process and getting recognition is important.

To release a student’s art or writing, we have to receive verification that each winner created an original work and get permission.  Each year about 10% of the students we have chosen as winners fail to give permission.  This could be because the work is not original or they just thought returning permission is no big deal.

If you have students enter a contest, then be a finisher.  Follow the contest through to completion.

Have a great day.

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Student Art Winner Profile: Kelsey Morgan Chase Faucett

As you know we host art (celebratingart.com) and writing (poeticpower.com) contests.  I would like to share some of the contest winners as they give permission.  

When we receive an entry in the contest we have a digital entry.  What personalizes the entry is the story behind the art. As we have announced the Top Ten Winners for the Fall 2011 art contest, we have asked the winners to give us permission to share their art.  Let me introduce home school artist Kelsey Morgan Chase Faucett  from South Carolina.   

Kelsey is in the 7th grade and was not only our contest’s very first entry, but over the last three contests she has been a Top Ten winner three times. This is a record, but as I always say, if you don’t enter, you don’t have a chance to win.  

Here is what she has to say.

“My drawing’s name is Night Owl. I love drawing owls because of their beautiful eyes.  It is almost as if you can see what they are thinking.  Night owl was one of my favorite drawings. It won Best of Show at our fair but was stolen the last night of the fair. I believe everything happens for a reason and good can always come from bad.  So I decided to draw a Barn Owl on a branch and donate it to our local American Cancer Society Relay for Life.  It is to be auctioned at the next Relay Night for our town.

It is a true honor to be picked as a Top Ten Winner. Thank you so much for having this contest.”
ImageThanks for sharing Kelsey.  Keep up the good work.

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Every Famous Artist/Poet Started Somewhere

I often have parents ask what it means to be published in one of our books. For our students, it means that their work was better than most of their peers.  However, from that top tier, we always have a few student poets and artists who move on to the next level.  We give them a start when they are in school, and then they take that beginning and make their own dreams come true and become a professional poet or artist.

Jasmine Kang is one such student.  Now a graduate from San Jose University, we published her before she went to college.  Moving beyond our publication,  she kept writing and published a book of poems, River of Light.  This anthology of her poems received Honorable Mention at the Paris Book Festival and was a USA Book News “Best Books 2010” award finalist.  Jasmine stated in an email, “It’s not about selling and making money, but about the passion, about sharing and spreading inspiration. Writing and art are some things I really feel for.”

ImageFor each book that we create, there are a few sparks that ignite into a passion for writing.  We never know who these life long writers or artists will be.  As you look at each student in your classes, you always have to remember that every famous writer or artist started somewhere.  We love it when teachers have their students participate.  We know that among the thousands of students we work with each year, a few will move on to the next level.  As teachers, we never know who that one student will be. They might just be a student in your classroom this year, but by having them compete in our contests, you are giving them a chance at receiving recognition.  For one teacher, years ago, Jasmine may have just been a student who entered a contest.  Today, she is a writer with her own anthology and several awards.  Every famous writer started somewhere. For Jasmine, we were a part of her beginning. Thank you Jasmine.

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