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The Kindess Poetry Project: 10 Writing Exercises from Poet Andrew Green




As part of the 3 E’s Blogging Collaborative monthly link-up series on empathy, equity, and empowerment, I’d like to introduce you to our guest blogger, Andrew Green from Potato Hill Poetry.  I first met Andrew in a weekend workshop in Phoenix, Arizona.  As a teacher-learner, I watched as he inspired us to experience poetry as writers, teachers and learners. And I thought to myself, “This is something special.” Fast forward fifteen years.  I am teaching in Michigan, and I stumble over Andrew’s materials in my filing cabinet.  I find his website.  I reach out to him. He travels from Boston to Michigan to be our writer-in-residence.  I watch our students, eating poetry out of the palm of his hand. I think to myself, “His work. It’s still something special.”  He brings a unique perspective to teaching the 3 E’s as he travels the greater New England area and the rest of the United States. And yes, he’s still something pretty special. 

Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.
                                                —Henry James

 
When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.
                                                —Dalai Lama, XIV

I work as a poet in the schools. My job is to inspire, motivate, and encourage kids to read and write poetry. I do this by sharing my love of poetry with them. I read them poems. I share my writing notebooks and writing habits with them. We read poems out loud and talk about them. We write poems together on the board and then we all write our own. If we have time, we revise them. Finally, we share and celebrate them in pairs and as a large group. We notice what we like. We ask questions about things we don’t understand. We encourage revision. We applaud the effort. And kids love it. Especially the sharing out loud.



It’s that simple. The trick is to help each student find a connection to poetry. This can be done by sharing many different poems so that students see all the ways poems can be written. Once students discover a poem about a subject they like, suddenly a light goes off. Bingo. Poetry speaks to me. Poetry is about something I care about. Poetry has purpose and pleasure and power.





This year, we took the act of kindness as one of our main themes to explore in our poetry. We talked about what kindness is and how we show it? We talked about the different ways people can be kind to each other. We read poems about kindness and then we went on “Kindness Hunts” to see where and how we might witness it. We discovered these acts all around us.



Kindness was everywhere. In our classrooms, lunchrooms, at recess, on the playground, in our kitchens and homes, on the sports fields, in parking lots and stores, on the sidewalks and in traffic.



And we wrote about it. We wrote poems describing what we observed. We shared them. We passed them on to others. We gave them as gifts.



When writing poems about acts of kindness, one learns that there are many different kinds of kindness. There are small momentary kindnesses to strangers – holding the door for someone, picking up someone’s dropped pencil, letting someone slide into the long line of morning traffic.


There are planned kindnesses – writing a poem for someone, taking a day off from work to stay home and nurse someone back to health, surprising someone with a special gift.

And then, there are the daily kindnesses to those we love: packing a lunch for someone, driving someone to school in the morning, helping someone with homework or reading them a story before bed.

Poetry is one place to acknowledge these acts of kindness, to write them down and measure them out, to describe them in words on the page. By describing these moments on the page, we make them come to life in a poem – it’s a way of saying thank you to those who make our lives better.



Writing Time:

When you write a poem about an act of kindness you have many choices.

Your job is to write a lot about a little act of kindness you witness. Here are some questions, strategies, and thoughts to consider when writing:

Questions to Ponder when Writing:

1.What are different types of kindnesses you can write about?  This is a good classroom topic for discussion as a pre-writing exercise.

2.What kinds of things can you include in your poem?

3.Will the five senses help you to convey the scene?

    4.What observations can you make about the people, the setting, 
        the light, the time of day, the weather?

5.Could you include a line (or more) of dialogue – what are people actually saying?

6.What are some examples of your topic that you could show us?

7.What struck you the most about this act of kindness?

8.Will the Five W’s help you? Who? What? When? Where? Why?

9.How did the people involved act and react?

10. What thoughts do you have about this act of kindness?


Ten Exercises for Writing a Poem on Kindness:

1.Write a poem about an act of kindness that you observe between two people. This could be in a coffee shop or school cafeteria or anywhere you observe people.

    2.Write a poem about an act of kindness that someone you live    
       with does for you each and every day.



    3.Write a poem about a friend who does something kind for you. What do they do that makes you feel good about yourself

and about them?


    4.Write a poem about a relative and some act of kindness they     have done for you in the past.


5.Write a poem about an act of kindness you have done for someone else. Don’t be bashful. Describe it in detail.



6. Write a poem about an act of kindness from a teacher or coach.



7.Write a portrait poem describing a person you know who is kind to you.



8.Write a poem describing your thoughts on what kindness is and why it’s important.

9.Write a poem using only simile or metaphor describing what kindness is.

10. Write a poem about the kindness of a pet or an animal or something from the natural world.

Remember, the best poems are those that don’t tell us, but show us and therefore leave the conclusions up to the reader. Put on your discovery hat and go discover kindness out there. Then write your poems.


No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.

                                                —Aesop

Here are several sample poems:

At The Grocery Store

By Andrew Green

As he walks up behind her

She turns

At the last minute

And decides

To hold the door for him

Who gladly accepts



And in return

Holds the inside door for her

Each of them

Thanking the other

For that brief moment



Before they scurry on their way

He to the produce aisle

For a box of strawberries

She to the deli

For a quarter pound of pastrami.



The Kindness of Grass
By Maisie

The first thing you do

Is see the grass.

It catches your eye.

You smell the grass.

It smells as beautiful

As perfume.

The grass is as fresh

As a strawberry just picked

From the patch.

I love the grass.

It tickles between your toes

And it’s as soft as your pillow.



He

By Samantha

He stops unloading the light bulbs

Out of his red van

To push me on the swings

With his dirty hands

He hugs and kisses me good-bye

Every day sending me

Well wishes

He always has time

After his long and weary days

To play with me

On the hoverboards

He kills the evil spiders

When I am too scared to

He asks me how

My day was every day

After school

He kisses me good night

Each night.


Penny

By Meghan

We are friends

Me and her

Her and me

And that is fact

As always will be

I see her

She sees me

Friends from beginning

Puppy her

Baby me

Friends are friends

We’ll never leave

And that is a fact

As always will be

Me and her

Her and me.


Mrs. Flieger
By Annie

She asks, “Are you okay, my love?”

She helps me stay focused

She stops her work to talk to me

She calms me when I’m stressed

She comforts me when I’m down.



Flute

By Findlay


B flat, F, F, G, F, D, E flat, F —

Mr. Harlow stopped me.

He told me:

Chin up, elbows down.

I continued:

F, G, G, F —

My hands started to hurt.

D, C.

He told me:

Take a break.

I calmed down and continued:

B flat, B flat, B flat, B flat —

I felt dizzy.

Then Mr. Harlow stopped me again

And said:

Smaller embouchure,

Slower breathing.

It helped.

I kept playing.


Pancakes

By Jasper

Every weekend: pancakes.

Recipe memorized in my head:

Flour, sugar, salt, baking powder,

Then the wet.

Butter, eggs, milk, vanilla.

Then fruit: banana, strawberry blueberry.

Then the chocolate chips.

Sizzle, sizzle, goes the batter

On the griddle.


You can check out Andrew's Potato Hill Poetry residencies and workshops right here!





This post is the last posting you'll see from the 3E's Blogging Collaborative until August! Until we meet again, you can find us at



Meanwhile, pour yourself a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, put your feet up, and check out the other teacher authors in our collaborative this month. Their links are below!




4 comments

  1. Wonderful post with so many awesome ideas, thank you Andrew Green for being a guest blogger.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He's as wonderful in person, with kids, as he is in his writing!

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  2. I love "The Kindness of Grass!" Thanks for the wonderful specific ideas.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Betsy, Thanks for stopping by to read and comment.

      Delete