THE SECRET LANGUAGE OF STORIES -Need a Break from SBA?
by Carolee Dean
I would like to start by welcoming all of our new subscribers from School To World.
If your school is like mine, then your primary focus right now is one of two things, either SPRING BREAK or SBA testing. You may not be spending much time talking about stories or poems at the moment, unless it's to explore the types of literary devices that might be found in the SBA, or to practice skills (like skimming and scanning) that are related to the SBA, or to teach your kids how to become a whiz at answering multiple choice questions of the sort that might be found on the SBA.
But don't despair. Something exciting awaits you at the end of SBA.
April is poetry month.
Of course, after spending all of your time preparing for the SBA, you may be behind on all those other benchmarks and standards. You might not think you have time to explore poetry, and yet poetry offers more literary bang for your buck than just about any other form. Consider the story poems that not only offer a complete plot in one to two pages, but also explore literary devices like metaphor, simile, and personification (things often addressed on the SBA). Trudging through a novel or even a chapter would take days or weeks, while a story poem may be presented and discussed in detail in an hour or less. Unlike poems whose meaning may be unclear to students, a story poem at least tells a story they can understand.
Consider some of these great story poems:
"The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyes
"Casey at the Bat" by Ernest Thayer
"The Raven" by Edgar Allen Poe
While writing my upcoming verse novel, Forget Me Not (Simon Pulse, October 2012), I took the poetic structure of "The Raven" and wrote a story poem about the rapper, 2Pac, showing up in a class as the substitute teacher. The poem is found below.
If you and your students need a break from the SBA, you might have them read the poem and then skim and scan (important SBA skills) to find the 2Pac song titles hidden in the lines.
If you happen to teach in the Albuquerque Metro Area, you have a special treat in store. I have partnered with Alamosa Books, along with another Spellbinder, Caroline Starr Rose, to bring a free workshop to students, teachers, and writers on Saturday, April 14, 2012 at 2pm. Winners of a special poetry contest will be announced at the time. Poems may be submitted to Alamosa until April 10th at 8p.m. The elementary school in the Albuquerque area with the most submissions will win a free author visit by Caroline, and the secondary school with the most submissions will when a free author visit by me.
If your students are not in the Albuquerque area, they may still enter to win a cool poster containing the poem by finding at least four of the eight 2Pac song titles hidden in the poem below. If they email those titles to Alamosa, they will automatically be enterred in a drawing. For more information visit Alamosa Books. You may also contact me for additional information or for ideas about how to set up your own local poetry contest at my email.
Here is the poem:
DEAD RAPPER RAP by Carolee Dean (from the Paranormal Verse Novel, Forget Me Not- coming October 2012 from Simon Pulse)
Once upon a Friday morning, almost all the class was snoring.
Our teacher left a vocab worksheet for a sub who was a bore.
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
followed by a man's voice rapping, rapping lines I'd heard before.
"I'm Skandalouz," the voice he muttered, rapping at the classroom door.
"Open up, or I'll kick in this door."
Ah, distinctly, I remember, it was a bleak day in September.
Dude told the sub he came to send her to a class on the second floor.
She grabbed her books and packed her bag, running past the man in black.
And then I saw it was 2Pac, standing at the classroom door.
"All eyez on me," yelled the man, standing on the cold tile floor.
"I'm your new sub, Mr. Shakur.
"I'm here to wake you from your dreaming, give your simple lives some meaning."
He smiled at us, his white teeth gleaming, then he pointed at the door.
"If you're thinking about jetting, don't want to get caught here abetting
someone who'll have you forgetting what the h--- this class is for.
If you get out now, I won't detain you, block you, trap you, or restrain your
exit." No one touched the door.
"Ah, I see you've all decided to listen to your uninvited
guest get down. I must confide that I've got a special treat in store.
Forgive me if my words are cryptic. Guess I'm just 2Pacalyptic.
Get off your butts, we're gonna kick it, like you've never kicked before."
And soon he had the whole class rapping and break-dancing onthe floor.
Dancing on the classroom floor.
He rolled his sleeves and there I saw it, a tattoo of a black bird on his
arm, and then I heard the haunted whisper of the raven's words:
"Keep ya heads up, no regrets, don't know if heaven's got a ghetto,
but only God can judge what debt you'll have to pay forevermore.
He don't care if you scream and shout, 'cause big G knows there's no way out.
Once you've crossed the line-you're down, and you won't be getting up no more.
Hope your open to suggestion, 'cause there only is one question
left. I'm pretty sure you've guessed it. Heard it many timesbefore."
Ah, distinctly, I remember, it was a bleak day in September,
when I heard the raven whisper
"What are you willing 2 die 4?"
To learn more about the twelve step story analysis I use to teach writing and to plot my books, visit my blog at Carolee Dean Books.
Carolee Dean has made numerous appearances as a guest poet/author at schools, libraries, poetry events, and teacher/library conferences. She holds a bachelor's degree in music therapy and a master's degree in communicative disorders, and she has spent over a decade working in the public schools as a
Her first novel, Comfort,was nominated as a Best Book for Young Adults, was named the Best YA Novel of 2002 by the Texas Institute of Letters, and was on the TAYSHAS (Texas Library Association) reading list. Take Me There is a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers.
Her upcoming paranormal verse novel, Forget Me Not, will be published by Simon Pulse in October of 2012.
She conducts teacher trainings on inspiring reluctant writers including "The Secret Language of Stories" and "Random Act of Haiku."
Caroline Starr Rose spent her childhood in the deserts of Saudi Arabia and New Mexico, camping at the Red Sea in one and eating red chile in the other. She's taught English and social studies to upper elementary and middle-school students in New Mexico, Florida, Virginia, and Louisiana. Back in New
Mexico, Caroline now writes middle-grade novels and picture books full time.
To find teacher's guides, writing activities, and information about author visits, go to my website.
Kimberley Griffiths Little is the recipient of the Southwest Book Award, The Whitney Award for Best Youth Novel of 2010, and the author of the highly acclaimed, The Healing Spell and Circle of Secrets, published by Scholastic Press. Look for her books at the Scholastic Book Fairs, as well as two more forthcoming novels in 2012 and 2013.
She lives on a dirt road in a small town by the Rio Grande with her husband, a robotics engineer and their three sons. Kimberley is a favorite speaker at schools around the country, presenting "The Creative Diary", a highly successful writing workshop and has been a speaker at many conferences.