Monday, March 30, 2015

# 30, My Aha Moment - and the Word Varmint

Thursday is my traveling library day - I am at my second school.  I have a 5/6 combo, a 6, a 2nd and a 3rd.  My students at this school are mainly upper middle class.  It is always amazing to me to see the similarities and differences between the two schools I teach at.

My Thursday classes have been doing some individual writing.  I decided to share the Pensee poem, Chipmunks, that I had posted on my blog.  As a class we read and discussed it.  I then showed the entire post - pictures were a hit.  At no time did I identify myself as the author.

Several of the kids referred to the author as "he".  Internally I shook my head but went on with the lesson.  I then handed out copies of the poem and had them glue it into their notebooks.  I asked them to circle words that were interesting, important or  words they didn't know.

The word varmint was mentioned several times.  I shared this definition with them.

The kids did not like the second definition "a troublesome and mischievous person, especially a child."  I laughed inside and then asked, "Which definition was the author referring to in the poem?"

I then challenged them to deconstruct the poem.  We did line 1 as a whole group.  One of the boys thought he was being funny and stated the first line had two syllables.  The look on his face was priceless when I told him that was a great observation. Then I let them partner up to deconstruct the other four lines.  I gave them about 10 minutes to annotate the poem.  Then we debriefed.  

I then handed out a slip of paper with the template for the Pensee Poem.  I asked them to re-look at the poem in their notebook and another poem I projected, "Did the author meet the Pensee rules for each poem?"  They quickly evaluated the poems discovering that one of the poems had more syllables then the Pensee instructions.   (I realized that I had not done a great job counting the night before oh well.)  It turned out fine.  It created an interesting discussion.

Then it was there turn.  I told them to write about an animal (wild, pet, or mythical) using the Pensee instructions.  They got right down to business.  I didn't get one comment about what did I want them to do.

My "aha moment".  Deconstructing the poem first really helped them to understand the form as well as gain meaning. 

As they finished I looked at their work.  I then asked them to write two additional poems.  One about food, the second was a topic of their choice (school appropriate).   At the end of the time they asked if they could share their poems.   They were so excited about getting up in front of the class and sharing! 


  1. I love the discovery the kids had throughout the process. What great scaffolding for them! You gave them a mental challenge and that is what rigor is all about.

  2. What a wonderful lesson - each step leading to greater discovery and opportunity for practice.

  3. They really enjoyed this lesson.

  4. It made me wonder what other lessons I could do this with.


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