The second group, toward the end of the week, was with non-public middle school students. I introduced myself and the session, and let them know that we'd be writing some individual self-portraits. We'd also write countless group portraits by creating a kinetic poetry sculpture.
We answered a series of open-ended questions, each student working on his or her own, and then we grouped up to discuss and report out some of the ideas and thoughts that were shared.
We read a self-portrait poem written by an 8th grade student, titled "The Strange Kid with the Red Face," and discussed the mood and tone of the poem, as well as all the different points of view the author used.
We looked at some examples from the "This I Be" project, by photographer Steve Rosenfield, which explores the ideas of insecurity, vulnerability, and confidence.
We discussed some of our own insecurities, and then I modeled the trust fall with a friend who was in to audit my session. A couple of volunteers came up to give it a try.
Whew! It's a little scary, letting yourself fall into a new friend's arms. Makes you feel open. A little vulnerable.
We wrote some of our own "I am" and "I am not" statements, then shared them. I asked students to write an insecurity and a confidence on each hand. My insecurity is that I am clumsy. My confidence is that I am an encourager. My eyeliner pencils got a lot of sharpening this day, as everyone wrote and re-wrote, and shared.
There was a brief break in here to learn a circus (and life) skill -- balance! In particular, the balancing of feathers. We circled up, and everyone got a peacock feather and some instruction on keeping it balanced on the palm of the hand, the back of the hand, the chin -- there were a few who got their feathers to balance on their foreheads, too.
Credos, statements of belief, and creating metaphors and similes were our next bit of writing. We kept adding to our freewriting so we'd have enough content to work with when the time came for crafting a poem.
When the first drafts were done, we broke for lunch. Afterwards, we edited a bit, chose a few lines we wanted to use for the text transfer, and then we read a few poems out loud.
I showed the text transfer technique, and a few options for adding color to the blocks. Everyone set to work doing the typesetting of their phrases, adding layers of color to the blocks, and transferring their phrases to the blocks.
We gathered at the end of our session to arrange our blocks into different structures, and read what text appeared each time we rearranged. I asked everyone what they noticed about it.
"It's a poem no matter where you read."