December 5, 2016 - Michael Salinger
Singapore American School
We are not the only poets to have visited Singapore American School – there was this guy named Ali who swung through back in 1974 – but he only stayed an hour or so – this is my and Sara’s 4th visit to this fine institution and we stick around sometimes for weeks at a time when we metaphorically enter the ring here. This bout we jumped on for an action packed week.
We’ve worked with the Language Arts crew in the middle school the last couple times but the official poet wrangler of SAS for this installment, Scott Riley, decided to mix it up a bit this time and we collaborated with the Social Studies and a Science class. We love getting into content area classrooms – all of the good communication skills that we develop writing with poetic precision translate to all disciplines and it switches things up a bit from typical reports.
Sometimes it takes a little coaxing to get into these classrooms – but the crew here were onboard from the first workshop. We wrote in 6th and 7th grade social studies where our subject matter was income disparity and the poverty cycle for the older kids and ancient Egypt for the younger bunch. More and more content area teachers are being charged with writing instruction as well as the substance of their subject matter in which they are experts and Sara and I are more than willing to give them some strategies to help.
We worked in a couple different forms including poems created from prepositional phrases hatched by “reading” an image connected to our studies of the poverty cycle; we also cooked up some recipes using the same unit with the 7th graders. Some of the 6th grade classes wrote from the perspective of members of ancient Egyptian society taking the prompt “If I were a…” and running with it after a close reading of their text on the subject. The balance of the budding Egyptologists wrote infomercials selling the services of these same societal members. The resulting pieces not only resulted on some good writing practice but serves as formative assessments, win-win!
We provided pre-write graphic organizers for each of the clinics as well as writing mentor texts with the students following the gradual release of responsibility model and ended each lesson with a sharing session. While we were working Sara turned to me and whispered, “I just love these kids.” It is a pleasure to work with SAS students – they are game to try just about anything we toss their way but what made this visit so much fun and satisfying was the engagement of the teachers.
We ran each workshop at least twice and some three times and as we did the teachers had great suggestions to tweak and shape the lesson with each subsequent class. It’s this type of team teaching we have come to expect at SAS that informs our own instruction and we welcome the collaboration.
We even managed to wheedle our way into a Science class where we wrote about the plight of coral reefs.
We were so glad that we also had time to reconnect with educators who have become real friends over the years whether it was getting out for a bike ride, visiting for dinner, or chatting at the Christmas party we crashed – it’s always a treat to spend time with Rebecca, Michael, Scott, Erik, Karen, Brian and everyone else there.
Extra special shout out to queen of hospitality Betsy who opened her home up to a couple crackpot poets from Cleveland, Ohio – it was so nice to have a home to come home to each evening. Her warmth and robust laugh floated like a butterfly throughout our stay – (all while she was simultaneously sparring with a doctoral program!)
So, I think poetry won this round and Sara and I are itching for a rematch!