June 2012


  • Artwork by Scott Albrecht
  • Editors:
    Tishon Woolcock
    Caits Meissner
    Nora Salem
  • Editor's Note:
    How To Read The Reader

June 2012

In the Classroom: “A Moment in Time” Creative Writing

Age group: Middle/High School/University

Goal and Objectives: For students to connect to literature and craft their own “A moment in time” piece.

1. Pre-Writing Activity: Elements of a Good Poem

As a group, create a list of elements that make up a good poem. Ask students to think about stories they’ve read, or poems, or even films and movies. What makes a story worth telling? What excites us in hearing a story? Create a democratic rubric or list to guide the creation process, based on student input.

2. Warm Up: Identifying special moments

Ask students to think about a special exchange they have had in the past month. What kind of exchanges have they witnessed on the train? In school? In the grocery store? Have them write a list and tell the story to a partner in a timed setting.

Each student gets two timed minutes to share the exchange they witnessed, without interruption or feedback. If students are stuck, give them a few examples: men laughing as they cut hair at the barber shop, children playing soccer, an old man kissing his wife on the cheek.

3. Pre-Writing Exercise: Imagery List

1. Ask students to list everything they can think of in their scene or “moment,” broken into sections by sense. What did they see in the scene? Smell? Touch? Taste? Hear? The more detail provided the better!

2. Have students create an imagery/simile/metaphor list, based on their “senses” brainstorm. Share some examples. For example, if the subway seats was orange, they might write:

The subway seats… bright as a ripe orange bit into by sharp teeth


The grass… a turtle shell, with spots of brown and green.


The super market… an endless toy shop through the eyes of a child.

Encourage students to think of surprising and interesting ways to make metaphorical connections. For example, the simple “as bright as the sun” is less interesting than, “as bright as the sun reflecting on a single gold tooth in a wide-mouthed grin.”

4. Example Work: Elvis Alvez’s “A Moment on Fulton Street” and Laurence Bass’s “Untitled Number One.”

Students read the literature aloud. Ask students to underline words, images and phrases that spark them. Share out: what do the pieces mean? What is happening in them? What parts touch us? Why are the authors choosing to tell these stories?

5. Writing Prompt “A Moment in Time”

Write a short poem or prose poem describing your moment in time. Describe it in lush detail. Borrow from the lists already created. If done with intention, students should have poem lines already ready to pluck from and rearrange. Do not burden the audience with setting up the scene, nor describing the aftermath. Just paint a picture of this particular moment in time. Share out.

6. Post-Critique: Peer Edits

In pairs, students should critique a partner’s work. Where can the metaphor and imagery be pushed? Is the piece clear? Is there a reason this story is being told? What feeling does it give the reader. Does it push the reader’s imagination?

Giving students a rubric or a check list grading sheet based on their identified “what makes a good poem” elements will help guide the process.

7. Editing

Using the advice given by peers, students retool and revisit their piece, adding imagery, metaphor and simile in areas identified and clarifying problematic/unclear language. It is helpful to scaffold this process into “draft one” and “draft two,” so students can see their own growth.

8. Share Out

Students share out in front of the class. It is always a positive experience to have students build in an element of positive feedback. Some ways to guide this process:

– Create a performance environment: Identify a student host to “lead” the “open mic.” Each student is introduced with a brief biography. Hand claps or finger snaps set the stage. Assign a student to “DJ,” intro-ing each poet coming to the “stage,” or front of classroom, with appropriate music.

– Sharing aloud: After each poem shared, ask for a few students to verbally share out parts of the poem they enjoyed.

– Index Cards: Have a list of guiding questions on the board. Ask students to give specific, positive feedback to each piece shared aloud that can be collected. At the end of class, distribute the index cards to each poet.

– Assigning “positive feedback” partners. Each student is assigned a fellow classmate to “grade” or “positively assess” a peer on their work using a rubric or pre-planned feedback sheet.

9. Beyond the Classroom:

Create an experience for the student work to live beyond the four walls of the classroom. Consider compiling a photocopied “chapbook” of the poems, asking an artistic student to illustrate the cover, or a blog where the poems can live and be shared with parents, school administrators and peers. Another option may be a lunch time “poetry open mic” where the students act as the “feature,” having a few brave class members share out their class pieces to a wider audience.

Related Article: A Moment on Fulton Street by Elvis Alves

Written and Developed by Caits Meissner for Well&Often

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