Sunday, March 18, 2018

2018 Poem #4 -- The Sport of Writing Small

by Lauren Heimlich Foley

As my students preview the title of the poem "Baseball" written on the board, their murmuring echoes throughout our classroom, and curiosity lingers in the air. One student remarks, “A poem about baseball?" Disbelief paints his voice.

In preparation for the first reading, I invite my seventh-graders to notice the author's craft.  They mark up their pages as I recite Baseball by Bill Zavatsky.  Sharing their favorite lines, they highlight a variety of techniques including descriptive details, dialogue, figurative language, tone, and theme.  One recurring observation is mentioned in every class: the poem shows a single moment -- Bill catching the ball.  

After their initial reactions, I ask students to consider how they might use the poem as a mentor text: what words, phrases, sentences, or ideas will help them use precise details to reveal their own stories.  Once I reread the poem, students refer back to a list of personal memories they collected during a previous class period, select their best ideas, and write their own pieces. 

Roughly five minutes later, partners share their creations and reveal how "Baseball" has influenced them.  When student volunteers read their work to the class, they showcase an array of topics: competing at a swim meet, winning a soccer game, painting a canvas, honoring a beloved pet, and saying goodbye to a grandparent. 

I appreciate Bill Zavatsky’s poem because it immerses students in a relatable situation, challenges them to write about a specific moment, and encourages them to employ writing skills that convey their experiences. Whether their work remains an exercise or fuels a future writing piece, we can always return to “Baseball” for inspiration on how to write small.

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Lauren Heimlich Foley teaches seventh-grade English Language Arts at Holicong Middle School in Doylestown, PA.

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