Category Archives: Student Work

Student Profile #1

Kayla likes to sit near the front of the room, where all the light falls on her. She stays out of the corners. Her closest friends in Writing Club are Ty’Shea and Steve, both sixth graders like her, but she’s just as comfortable playing tag with the eighth grade boys or talking about the presidential election with the adults. She’s quiet but not shy. Her poems are ferocious in their imagination and painstakingly careful in their form. When you speak, she listens with such solemn concentration that it makes you slow down and reflect more carefully on what you’re saying.

Kayla making the most of our colored chalk.

Last week Kayla got up to read her poem, but one boy was being so smart-alecky that she eventually put down her paper and walked out of the room, visibly upset. The whole class was outraged. Two older students jumped up to make the boy apologize. We told him to take the rest of the day off. When Kayla returned to the room and walked back to the front, the applause was deafening.

Here’s Kayla in her own words, telling us about her experience in the Workshop:

How did you find out about Writing Club?
I found out about Writing Club because of Ms. Nancy. Every time I went to Busboys and Poets, Ms. Nancy would say, “I hope to see you next year.”

What is your favorite book?
My favorite book is Matilda because I like what it is about and I can relate to Matilda in a way.

What do sixth graders know that other people don’t?
Sixth graders know the ages of two of the teachers, and the feeling of silent lunch. [Note: Can I just say, she went super literal here, and I’m impressed 🙂 The silent lunch thing refers to the fact that a couple sixth graders were being disruptive at some point in the past, and in punishment the entire sixth grade is now required to have lunch without talking. Ironically it’s the sixth graders who least deserve the punishment, like Kayla, who are most likely to obey the terms.]

What is something you want to have done by the end of sixth grade?
Something that I want to do by the end of sixth grade is memorize everything I’ve learned. I also want to make the Honor Roll.

If you could change one thing about Writing Club, what would it be?
One thing I would change about Writing Club is chicken wings for snacks. That’s all. I would also change the color of the classroom because the color needs to be bright like the sun, so I can remember that my future depends on Writing Club.


Summer poems and goodbyes

The kids are gone for the summer, but the Workshop staff is still working hard at portfolio evaluations and gearing up for next fall. All the office work makes us miss the kids! Going through student work from the spring, I found this poem that a student wrote on the last day of Writing Club.

We were celebrating the end of the year, but she was upset that we weren’t writing and asked me if she could write a poem on her own. This is a student who spent a lot of the year pushing back against authority. She’s stubborn and loud and uses all her smarts to provoke confrontation. She likes conflict and is uncomfortable with positive attention; praising her effusively always led to her acting out.

Teenagers are so hard to read sometimes. They pour most of their energy into convincing everyone that they don’t care. I get taken in by that sometimes, and then they go and write the most surprisingly heartfelt poems, and I have to reprimand myself for being surprised. It’s one of the things that makes poetry so valuable–providing a space where emotion doesn’t have to be resisted. This student is headed to Ballou next year, and Writing Club will be a shade less lively in her absence. I won’t say too many nice things about her because I know that would make her uncomfortable, but we’ll miss her straight-up no-nonsense delivery, and the nuanced imagery that she always tried to sneak in like it was no big deal. Here’s her poem:

It All Over

It’s the end of time
no more parties, games or fun
It’s time to say bye
to all my lost dreams and
unspoken words
Time passed me by
like the wind that flew
past my face
If that’s the case
it’s all over
No more thinking
outside the box
or sitting inside
eating cool pop tarts
Time to fly
let the wind pass by
It won’t get no colder
cause it all over

Students speak!

Okay, actually, they speak all the time. It’s a much bigger challenge to get them to quiet down. However, we did manage to get them especially quiet for one afternoon in June, when they filled out end-of-the-year surveys. Here are some of their responses…

Poetry is…

I think it emotions

an intricate form of expression, an in-depth description of something/someone/a concept

one’s feelings, soul, their very being put into words

a way to let go of stress, talk about yourself in a secret way

something that comes from your heart

about expressing your life and feeling and showing your talents

fun to write

poetry is your inspiration on what you think about with rhythm and rap in it

a way to transcend how you feel you are able, speak your mind and make something wonderful

good and awesome because it is fun

a reflection of one’s inner being

a creative outlet of pent up emotions, a stress reliever, a hobby, a dream for some people

it was cool and I had my good and bad days


written or spoken words that come from the heart

Do you think Writing Club is important?

Yes, to help people with lower self-esteem.

It creates a safe but open community for kids to come express, learn, and grow.

Writing Club is important because it helps kids be themselves and not something people say they are.

it is important because it helps me understand poetry more

it involves school english I learned new words and brung it into english class

yes because it calms people down.

Yes. Because you get to know something.

Yes it is important because it embraces your choice of words and before in english class I never talked so much more proper. I really improved and my teacher even said to me I now have high grammar.

yes because it helps kids put their feelings out there make new friends and keeps them out the street

yes because you can become a famous writer

yes. Writing club is a creative avenue to self–the true and authentic sense of self

yes because not only does it keep us occupied but it gives us a chance to meet other people

Writing club is important for all of us. It’s a safe community of artists pushing and motivating each other to grow

Yes because it’s like a place I can call home