A Turn of Phrase

Thursday, March 12, 2015
by Lori

I've been sitting on this post for several days because--as much as I liked the idea of it--I was a bit reluctant to share it. 

Writing is personal. Regardless of the genre, when we're able to help kids find an idea that they identify with, their writing becomes genuine and authentic. 

During the Abydos 2015 conference a couple of weeks ago, I was able to attend Kaye Price-Hawkins' session. For a portion of the session, she discussed the necessity to provide creative writing opportunities and "Found Poetry" was one of her suggestions.

I wasn't immediately excited. I know the strategy. I've used it. It's truly great, but I've never had any ah-ha moments with it. Then she read a poem, and I'm absolutely kicking myself because I can't find it! It was called "One Time" and the almighty Internet has failed me. The pretty sun-shiny book over here to the right though has lots of great poems for your classroom!

Nevertheless, here's what Kaye did, and here's why I like it. 

  • She read the poem once. We did nothing but listen.
  • She read the poem again and told us to quickly jot down lines that we liked. We did not have a copy of the poem. 
  • She then gave us an uncomfortably short amount of time to write our own poem using the words and phrases (plus anything else we wanted/ needed to add). 
Here are my phrases:
  • evening flowed between houses
  • the last light found her cheek
  • find and then leave the pavement
  • the well of shadow.
Here is my poem:

My footsteps find and leave the pavement.
The last light is gone and I travel forward in the well of shadow.
Evening flows between houses;
strength flows through me.
Be strong in the darkness.

Now, I liked my poem well enough. Sure. But here's why I like the strategy. Friends, there is more of a story there than those 9 lines can contain. I could write a personal narrative. In those 9 lines, there are many things that I have learned to be true. I could write an expository essay. Those 9 lines have me convinced me of absolute certainties. I could write a persuasive essay. 

From this point, I could hashtag my poem with all of the stories, experiences, and truths that live in those 9 lines. 

Now, any STAAR prompt is cake because I have a genuine experience to write about. 

Here is my major ah-ha moment: I have done "Found Poetry" before, but this was by far my favorite poem. I think this is a strategy best used often. Let kids hear poetry, find their own poems, and then hashtag the ones that they choose. 

Writing is personal. Help give your students the time and space they need to uncover their stories. 


  1. The poem is "One Time" by William Stafford.

    1. Thanks! I was sure someone would be able to fill in the gap for me!