Gazing at things with Naomi Shihab Nye
It has been wonderful to meet students this week and start to build foundations and practices to support learning through PAGES this year.Т This week we read, analyzed, and modeled George Ella Lyon’s poem “Where I’m From” as an introduction to how to use detail, diction, and figurative language for effect in poetry.Т In crafting our own (some of which we shared) students were able to reflect on their own experiences and family histories.
We moved from Lyon’s poetry to another poet’s prose: Naomi Shihab Nye. “The Spiral Staircase” deconstructs the divide between prose and poetry weaving vivid descriptions of sunsets, of bedtimes, of renovations, and of the death of a beloved cat named Scout.Т Shihab Nye threads these stories together with her nuanced definition of poetry. She asserts, “Poetry takes out a wall and helps us see what was already there.”
I prefaced this with a brief overview of a recent article in the NYT “Bedtime Stories for Young Brains”Т by Klass that connects early childhood experiences of being read to with enhanced literacy. We aloud we did.
I read this essay aloud to students three times.Т The first time they just listened. After I asked them to draw a part of the stor that made a vivid impression on them in the first reading (these were varied and amazing) and share them at their tables.
I read to then again as they annotated imagery, figurative language, diction. We paused as they added to their initial sketches something they saw in the second reading but not in the first. Here they could write or draw in response.
In the last reading students made marginalia asking questions, making connections, and looking for patterns. Students recorded their new insights and added the annotations and marginalia. I was able to write back to them and fill in gaps and unanswered questions I noticed, and invite students to share insights.
Shihab Nye exhorts readers to, “Gaze at things. Thank you.” This is a perfect bridge to beautiful moments, mindfulness, and extended looking that we will practice all year. My students have homework this weekend: gaze at things.