Tuesday, November 20, 2012



"Words are our passport to success. The more words we are familiar with, the brighter our chances of success will be. Every language learner is desirous to have a rich and extensive vocabulary."http://www.helium.com/items/1473481-simple-ways-to-improve-your-english-vocabulary

Teaching about  Modernist  and Postmodernist writers and poets in my Americ. Lit. class is  amazingly interesting because we  focus on a variety of writers and poets with different backgrounds, culture and heritage.  Modernism  is about  new  styles of writing, breaking patterns, new roles of women´s in society, poets taking fullest advantage of the new spirit of the time and stretching the possibilities of their craft to lengths not previously imagined. Faulkener, Zora Neal Hurston,  Carl Sandburg, celebrating industrial and agricultural America and  hard-working people;   Langhston Hughes and his pride of African American heritage, etc.

American modernism benefited from the diversity of immigrant cultures. Artists were inspired by African, Caribbean, Asian and European folk cultures and embedded these exotic styles in their works. This  movement is a reflection of American life in the 20th century.  Social boundaries in race, class, sex, wealth, and religion are all being challenged. Blues, jazz, the Great depression. New Orleans, the birthplace of the jazz, is  spread   to New York and Chicago; well-know singers as Sullivan and Armstrong. It is noteworthy to mention,  films, movies, mobility to the North, the modern Ford, frozen foods availability, electricity day and night, electric appliances..radio, and TV everywhere.. 

Postmodernists. Sandra Cisneros poet, short story writer whose work gives voice to working-class Latino and Latino life in America. Her realistic work blends aspects of popular latino culture.  She has also worked as a teacher to high school drop-outs. 
Chinese-American author Amy Tan (Mother Tongue),and  her  prominent roles in American Literature, culture and society.

Todos estos escritores y poetas son identificados como una gran riqueza norteamericana por su entrega literarira y humana y por fortalecer la identidad multicultural. La clase de Lit. Americana no solo enfoca al autor o escritor; sino su valor y su contribucion como cultura y  herencia. Es impresionante encontrar poesia latina que nos identifica por el idioma y por la suavidad de sus palabras en su forma y contenido; asi como también comprender que la literatura e historia norteamericana la forjaron diferentes grupos sociales y culturales. 

Even though my students  were somehow surprised and reluctant  at the very beginning about their new poetry  assignment, but the goal was  to immerse themselves in  free-poetry; that  poetry that you feel from the deep of your heart.  They were asked to write pieces and stanzas similar to Sandburg, using personification as a way to revitalize the hard-working spirit of  the different cities in our Ecuador; interesting and well-done!
At the same time, Hughes and his extraordinary poem "The Negro speaks of rivers" helped my students reflected about their heritage and ancestors. Sandra Cisneros and her  poem "Abuelito Who" guided my students toward an intimate writing about their grandpa, grandma or someone who they know or care about deeply.
The goal of all these assignments was to teach my students how to enjoy writing poetry, their feelings toward their grandparents, life, or ancestors. They wrote extraordinary and original lines full of feelings, love, identity  and passion.

Certainly poetry is a great vehicle for teaching English. It promotes academic English and vocabulary development as it urges to choose precise nouns, adjectives and creates confidence.,It is also a way to retain new vocabulary because they have to use it in a more meaningful way.


IMPROVING vocabulary through poetry..

Poetry for English Language Learners
Teachers often ask me, “How can ELs write poetry?  They don’t know English.  They aren’t writing yet.  It’s much too difficult.” Indeed, I have found that poetry is the perfect vehicle for teaching English!  Poems are short and concise and create pictures with words.  They don’t have to rhyme!  Moreover, poetry promotes academic English and vocabulary development as the poet needs to choose precise nouns and verbs to create a specific word picture (Bearse, 2005). What I have found is that writing poetry with EL students creates confidence and connects to the background knowledge of their native countries. When students can emotionally connect their families and special places, they will retain the vocabulary used in a more meaningful way (Sousa, 2011). Further, we retain knowledge to a greater degree if the knowledge makes personal connections and can transfer to real world situations (Medina, 2008). Poetry, too, is a nonthreatening way to learn about diverse cultures.  Countries as diverse as China, Iran, Mexico, and Senegal have rich traditions in poetry, both oral and written.
Hearing and reciting poetry also develops oral fluency and intonation at all grade levels. Jazz chants, which reinforce vocabulary and pronunciation through rhythm, rhyme, and repetition (Graham, 2000), are enjoyed at all levels. Reading aloud poems in two voices by Paul Fleischman is another way to incorporate choral reading in the classroom (1998, 1985).
Getting Started: Writing With the Five Senses
I have found that using the five senses in poetry writing is a good way to begin. Using pictures from calendars, travel brochures, family photos, or postcards, students are asked to imagine being in the pictures and then write what they imagine seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting in the scene in front of them. I model several examples and then students can write using this possible template: 
I see
I hear
I touch
I taste
I smell
As students progress in their English, three lines can be added to each stanza creating a fifteen line poem. The first step is talking about the images in very concrete terms, using nouns and verbs that create a picture of someone or some place we remember. We can add similes later in the process. A Word Wall or Word bank can also be used to facilitate choices of vocabulary. The same thing can be done using sentence strips for each line with each strip containing a sentence starter, such as I see.
Special People 
Following these poems using the senses, students are asked to think about a person that they remember vividly. I talk about how the smell of mint always evokes the memory of my grandmother, because she carried a piece of mint in all her pockets, but especially in her old gray sweater. I then show the beginning of a poem that I wrote about my grandmother that uses the five senses:
When I remember my grandmother, 
I see her silver hair tied in braids on the top of her head. 
I see her smile that always greeted me with love. 
I see her black garden shoes that she wore when she dug in 
     the roses. 
I hear her voice calling me “Sugar.”  
I hear her warning , “Prosexi kala” which means “Be careful” in Greek.  
I hear her stories about Greece.
I smell Easter bread baking, chicken soup with lemon…
When we remember things vividly, they come back to us with our strongest senses. I point out the words I have chosen and what they mean to me. I encourage students to use words in their own language so they can draw upon their rich cultural heritage. The following are excerpts from an EL eighth grade student poem about her mom (second year EL student):
When I think of my mom, I see the lovely smile on her face 
     each morning
I see her brown eyes looking at me when she is talking to me
When I think of my mom, I hear her soft voice when she calls me 
     to do her a favor
When I think of my mom, I smell her flowery perfume
I smell the garlic she puts on the Brazilian rice and beans she makes.
I have found that students enjoy writing these poems and reading them to their friends. They then publish their poems on the classroom walls or in small accordion books.
Special Places
It is an easy step from writing about special people to writing about special places using the same format of incorporating the five senses. We read model poems from Nikki Giovanni, Francis Alarcon, and Lori Carlson that speak about special places. Using the five sense imagery making, we remember some of our favorite places from our previous or present homes. I tell students that they need to bring me on a trip to these places with their words. A partial example from another second year EL eighth grader follows:
Come with me to my Puerto Rico where you can find some 
     of the most beautiful beaches in the world, like Luquillo beach
Where you can see people having fun while they are swimming 
     in the blue clear water
Where you can feel the soft white sand in your feet while you 
     are walking on the sand
Where you can feel the heat of the sun in your skin
Where you can hear coconuts falling in the ground
Where you can hear the wind whispering in your ear.
I encourage students to extend their lines by adding prepositional phrases, always asking for more specifics. In working with students I focus on the content and the beauty of the language first, then move on to correcting grammar and usage errors as part of the editing process. Finally, reading and seeing class poems is a huge confidence booster.
So, take a risk, and write a poem this school year!
Alarcon, F.X. (1996). Laughing tomatoes and other spring poems. San Francisco: CA: Children’s Book Press.
Carlson, L. (1994). Cool salsa: Bilingual poems on growing up Latino in the United States. New York: Ballentine Books.
Giovanni, N. (1985). Spin a soft black song. New York: Hill & Wang.
Bearse, C.I. (2005). The sky in my hands: Accelerating academic English through process writing. Cambridge, MA: Language Teaching Innovations, Inc.
Fleischman, P. (1998). Joyful noise: poems in two voices. New York: Harper & Row.
Fleischman, P. (1985). I am phoenix: poems in two voices. New York: Harper & Row.
Graham, C. (2000). Jazz chants old and new: Student book. New York: Oxford University Press.
Medina, J. (2008). Brain rules. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.
Sousa, D. ( 2011). How the ELL brain learns. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Carol I. Bearse is an associate professor of educational leadership and literacy at Touro College in Manhattan. In this capacity, she has taught courses in both literacy and English language acquisition. With more than 25 years of experience in the public schools, including urban areas, Carol brings to her research the seasoned leadership of a teacher practitioner in the areas of literacy and ELs. She has designed the curriculum for OELA funded Language in the Context of the Disciplines program, working intensively with New York City high school teachers in the content areas.

Here are some pieces of writing my students created from the bottom of their hearts. Even though my students  do not want to become  poets or writers, as much as they like drawing, dancing or painting; but amazingly their writings pieces were remarkable!!! Thanks for your contributions!!!


by Sandra Borja

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have watched some stars in the dark night,
I have felt both sadness and happiness.

I have watched people sleeping in the streets,
and children asking money until midnight,
I have walked for a long time to think about life.

I have gone for a walk to forget my problems,
but, I have recognized problems are everywhere, 
so, I have decided love the life that God has given us.          

A summer night
By Yuri BAzurto

I have been a witness of a story of love in a summer night.
I have seen a man kneeling for love
I have heard hundred times, the word love.

While I was going for a walk
I looked him again and again
I realized that love makes me cry and laugh.

There was a branch of roses for his beloved
There were people watching this scene of love
I understood that love has no limits.

http://www.ningo.com.ar/images/Vida/caminante.jpgMy cold nightly walk
by Nathalie Saénz 

Now and then that my soul is willing to .
I  have  felt that I blow up in weeping,
I have felt that I need to release this grief.

In my cold nightly walk so cold,
With my hands in the pockets of my coat
I used to gaze at moon and the
shining stars instead of shiny stars.

I can only imagine to flight and vanish,
Is later and I must go back home,
Now my burden is lighter.

Clara García

Abuelita who calls me her little girl
who is a bag of candies and lollipops
whose wheelchair is her throne
‘cause she’s my Queen at home
who is a fire alarm when my mom is on the phone
and her hands are always ready to make the best clothes
whose body is a pillow to take the perfect nap
and who is a book of tales when the sky gets dark
who is the salt and pepper of my plain days
but a police officer when I try to run and hide
Abuelita who is no longer a walk around the block
but she’s still the best doctor I’ve ever met
who is looking down now to take care of me
whose pretty smile is from ear to ear
‘cause she can see now who her little girl is.

Daddy who
                                                    By Marizol Diaz

Daddy you were as a treasure box,

That when I opened it

I found hope, love, advice, and care

Although with your strength consumed

which I could see in your wonderful eyes

Daddy you was always by my side

And I felt very happy

And now,

You are gone with my God

You are in heaven,

I can´t live without your love

My heart is broken

I can´t say good bye,

It´s only a so long.

I´m thankful of my God,

For giving me a daddy like you.

Abuelita Who
By Sandra Castillo

Abuelita who gives advices like none
And I am certain there is always a good one
Who is soft like silk and fragile like a wild flower
Who is humble like a lamb but strong like lion
Whose little eyes are made of brilliant suns
Is too hard to think life is short
Who will tell me my little honey
Who will tell me my piece of heart
If she weren’t in this world
Here nothing will be the same
Kindness is beyond all understanding
And delicacy illuminates everywhere
Nothing compares to her
What can I do, Abuelita
Who makes you feel better? me first.

Abuelito Dear  by Teresa Medina
You  was  my treasure
I remember you  like it was yesterday
with your white hair as cotton
your fragile face and your smile bright
 every day you filled me with joy  love and happiness
You were for me the best of all
Because you teach me with your wise words and
I became to be an good  woman
I remember my childhood when you told me  stories
And you taking me by the hand to school
beautiful moments I will never forget
and  always be in my heart forever
I love you so much Abuelito
 and though you're gone you have
You  always will be a special person to me
Although I have  a hope to see you again
Sincerely your grand daughter who loves you very much

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