Feedback with an Audience

Writing for Slice of Life with

Something happened today that was one of those snapshot moments. You know the kind you know is special so you take a mental picture to remember it?

It was in our Zoom “Open Hour” meeting. This time is like office hours for my fifth graders during emergency remote learning. Students can come and share the draft they are working on, ask a question about the assignment, or just say hi and see their friends.

Zainab had a question on our assignment, which was to write a poem about ourselves using figurative language. She said she wanted to write an Etheree poem, which is a ten-line poem starting with one syllable and then each subsequent line adds another syllable. She explained that she had written 8 metaphors and similes and she wanted to use them all, but they were each 7-10 syllables. So what was she to do? What a great writer question! The ensuing conversation between us was one of those writerly moments that makes me love my job as a teacher. I shared alternative form ideas, but also an example of how I had to shorten some of my ideas, like my metaphor–“I am a sunrise of hope”–became “rise of hope” for line 3. During this encounter, I began contemplating the question, do we write for ourselves or our audience?

Anyway, we were into this sweet writing conference, and at one moment I looked around the Zoom gallery and saw the 13 attentive faces of the others in our meeting, listening to our conference. For a few moments I had forgotten about them.

I’m sure it was the first time in my entire teaching life that I was having a conference where 13 others sat in on the conversation.

We had lots more of these mini conferences during the rest of the meeting. Sometimes other students would chime in to help. By the way, each time I asked the students if they wanted to share and receive feedback in front of their peers. All of them said yes.

Here are our poems. I chose the Etheree, and Zainab chose a different form. I think the Queen of Poems made a good decision.

An Etheree Poem about Me
Rise of hope
Map of my heart
Daughter of the King
As old as a grandma
Talkative as a parrot
Delighted as a young puppy
Friend of caring, hope, and honesty
Trying to be a better ancestor

I am Zainab.
I am the taste of pancakes and sweet maple syrup.
I am the smell of daisies starting to grow.
I am the sight of a birthday cake full of delights.
I am the sound of babies whining and their sweet laughter.
And the cheers of a crowd.
I am the taste of freshly baked pizza with a sight of delight for dessert.
I am a collector of my memories.
I am the sound of classical music playing.
I am the touch of guitar strings and fluffy marshmallows.
I am the taste of a fresh salad with a dressing that is made of magic.
I am the smell of the sea on an early summer morning.
I am the sight of knowledge walking on a runway
And books humming their words.
I am a girl with hair like a flowing river.
I am a princess with cheeks as red as roses.

Done by:
The Queen of Poems,
Zainab Aref Almukhtar (5A)

10 thoughts on “Feedback with an Audience

  1. Denise,
    Thanks for sharing this moment. I will remember your story as I find courage in the fall (if still teaching from home) to enbrace the live chat feature of distance learning. I have embraced making videos explaining and modeling. But feedback I kept to students asking quesitons in an email or through a google survey. Your slice is powerful. Kids listening in during a conference! So much bravery in this slice. Your students are lucky. Your students are also beautuful writers. Thanks for including their poetry. It made my day!

    1. Sally, thank you so much for your encouraging words. It has been super fun to touch base with the students in a live chat. We actually are just piloting the idea in the last two weeks because KG-grade 5 were not meeting in live classes. It has been a definite keeper, though. We will be ready in case we have to continue in the fall. I do have some amazing writers, especially in poetry. I don’t know the Arabic language, but there is something special about their language and use of figurative language. I have always been impressed with my students ability to write poetry (in a second language even!)

      I do hope you will give it a chance! And yes, the serendipity of students learning by listening to the conferences was a sweet surprise.


    2. Thanks for everything Ms. Denise and for sharing my poem you are the reason I can now write lovely poems

      1. Oh, my sweet Zainab! Thank you for allowing me to share your poem with my teacher friends. You have a poet’s heart, my queen. I’m just here to fan the flames.

  2. I love Zainab, Queen of Poems! I’m so enamored by the fact that the other students wanted to receive feedback in front of their peers, as well. I’ll be working on how to set up that environment from the start. Thank you again, Denise!

    1. Yes, she is a delight, Joy! I’ve been so blessed to teach here. I wonder if some of the differences are cultural. You know what else? For the most part, students like to stand up in front of their peers and give presentations. That’s something I didn’t experience from very many students in my other positions.

  3. What a beautiful moment- thank you for taking the effort to share it.
    It unfolds as a surprise picture for me, as I read your piece.
    Perhaps its an example of the good that can come from slowing down? You werent thinking of maximizing the time for every child, just working with one, but found an unexpected benefit for the whole.

    1. Thank you, Fran. Yes, it was a cool way to speak to a lot of students at one time. They were such sweet listeners and participants.

  4. Queen of Poems” is lovely and perhaps a self-fulfilling prophecy. How wonderful to pop in and see an etheree and discussion about poetic form, but it’s the question, “do we write for ourselves or our audience?” that intrigues me most. I’ve heard Meg Medina say a couple of times she writes for the child she was, that she writes the books that girl would want to read. So I think it depends on the purpose of the writing. Audience is complicated and nuanced.

    1. Thank you, Glenda! I’m glad you stopped by. I was thinking I would let you know about our Etheree poems since you introduced me to them. A lot of children chose that form because it’s the one I used in my video example. Their voice is so precious in these poems about themselves.

Comments are closed.