#SOL19 Day 22 Spark! Docu-Poems

For the month of March I will be participating in the Slice of Life Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 5.28.56 PMChallenge sponsored by The Two Writing Teachers Blog. Each day I will be sharing a Quick Write as my way of slicing. The idea is to offer a SPARK that will kindle thinking and then write as quickly as you can for 5-10 minutes. No filters, no revisions. I’ve been curating a collection of Sparks and will share some with you all month. It’s a great way to ignite your writing life.

A variation on my Headlines Spark (March 13 Blog) is to quick write a poem-ish response to something currently  going on in your world (at a macro or micro level).  Writers can highlight words and phrases from newspapers, magazines, or primary sources and respond with their own thoughts and reflections as they process the events. 

Classrooms can create a time capsule of docu-poetry to document events in their school year the way the characters in Laura Shovan’s book The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary do, or these could be personal collections to document their year in your classroom. These are not polished pieces, but quick writes. Students are always welcome to go back and revise if they choose, or they could keep them raw and in-the-moment responses. 

Think about what a gift this could be to their future selves. What was happening when I was in 4th grade? I wish I had something like docu-poetry to get a primary sourceScreen Shot 2019-03-22 at 7.06.20 AM window into those past events.

Why poetry or poem-ish form? I love this quote from Robert Frost that was used in my Daily Calm meditation from yesterday that sums up the value of poetry in our lives:



Here’s my quick write:



Clearly this isn’t polished poetry and there are a lot of revisions I would like to make before sharing it with you all, but this is what poured out in about 5 minutes. Kids won’t be able to write this fluently unless they have copious amounts of practice doing it. Anticipating that  they will do a docu-poem a week can help them to notice and process events with a different lens, a more purposeful and compassionate lens. It is important not to critique or make suggestions, just accept all quick writes for what they are-a way to process our world with our own personal and human responses. It’s the PROCESS, not the PRODUCT that we need to honor. 


Remember, “history” is made up of local and large events. You may want to stay away from controversy and focus on school or classroom news. Maybe your students can document personal and significant events in their own lives. You know your kids and what works.

8 thoughts on “#SOL19 Day 22 Spark! Docu-Poems

  1. Thank you for sharing. This is great PD material. i have gotten so much from your slice, especially now that we are working within our Social Issues Book Clubs, There is a lot we can gain from docu-poems. Fortunately we are used to quick writes so let’s see how I can start my fourth graders off with this idea.

  2. Your examples have been so helpful, Paula. I want to try a docu-poem myself and was reading about it the other day in your new book. I am actually sending some middle school teachers to your website that I believe could use this idea for their sixth graders. Thanks!

  3. Our district is working on integrating social studies with language arts, and this is a wonderful example of how to do just that. I will be sharing this link with my fourth and fifth grade teachers!

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