Thursday, April 18, 2019

Classroom Connections with Shannon Bramer




TODAY'S READ

Climbing Shadows: 
Poems for Children

Shannon Bramer, Author
Cindy Derby, Illustrator

Groundwood Books (March 5, 2019)
ISBN: 978-1773060958

For all ages

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SYNOPSIS

The poems in Climbing Shadows were inspired by a class of kindergarten children whom poet and playwright Shannon Bramer came to know over the course of a school year. She set out to write a poem for each child, sharing her love of poetry with them, and made an anthology of the poems for Valentine’s Day. Many of those poems appear in this original collection, which reflects children’s joys and sorrows, worries and fears. Some poems address common themes such as having a hard day at school, feeling shy or being a newcomer, while others explore subjects of fascination—bats, spiders, skeletons, octopuses, polka dots, racing cars and birthday parties.


A PEEK INSIDE

Click on images to enlarge.

From Climbing Shadows, text copyright © 2019 by Shannon Bramer, illustrations copyright © 2019 by Cindy Derby.
Reproduced with permission from Groundwood Books, Toronto. www.groundwoodbooks.com



From Climbing Shadows, text copyright © 2019 by Shannon Bramer, illustrations copyright © 2019 by Cindy Derby.
Reproduced with permission from Groundwood Books, Toronto. www.groundwoodbooks.com











































ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Photo: Linda Marie Stella

Shannon Bramer is an author of poems, plays and short fiction. She has published a number of poetry collections and chapbooks, winning the Hamilton and Region Best Book Award for suitcases and other poems. Her most recent collection, Precious Energy, has also been highly acclaimed. Shannon’s plays include Chloe’s Tiny Heart Is Closed (for young audiences) and The Hungriest Woman in the World. She lives with her family in Toronto where she visits classrooms regularly, sharing her love of poetry with students of all ages.


CLASSROOM CONNECTIONS

Why is bringing poetry into the classroom important?

A poem can be like an unexpected burst of laughter, or have the softness and delicacy of a sleeping kitten. Poetry helps us see the world (and each other) freshly. It teaches us to listen and to delight in listening. Sometimes students who have had trouble with writing find the exploration of poetry gives them a fresh start with words and language and I’ve noticed over and over again that when students become comfortable with poetry they gain confidence in all forms of writing. They feel empowered by the knowledge that what they want to try and write down is beautiful. Is important.

How might your book be incorporated into an educational curriculum?

The poems in Climbing Shadows could be used in early literacy programs as well as within the language curriculum at both elementary and intermediate levels. The subject matter of the poems is broad: the book explores everything from spiders and octopuses to birthday parties and complex feelings. The poems are highly accessible but are also written in a variety of styles, which means students and educators can use the poems to discuss and explore form and structure. One of my most important objectives in writing this book was to create a collection that students could look to that would not only deepen a child’s knowledge and understanding of what poem is—but that that the variety of work would help expand their sense of what a poem might be.

Can you suggest a specific classroom exercise related to your book?

The following writing prompts/discussion questions are related to my poem, "Darkness Looks Like My Mom," and will be included in the teacher guide/companion I am in the midst of creating!
  • In "Darkness Looks Likes My Mom" the mother is wearing a black dress and she’s travelling in the evening to go somewhere without the child. Write a daytime version of this poem. Where is she going when the sun is in the sky instead of the moon? Is she still wearing a black dress? Why or why not? Remember, you can’t get this answer wrong: It’s up to you!
  • Write a poem about someone going somewhere without you. Write a poem about going somewhere together. Who are you going with? Where are you going? 

What is a simple, practical tip for teachers when it comes to incorporating poetry in the classroom?

Here are my most successful tips:

–Teach poetry like teaching music; in tiny bits; exploring the use of fragments and smaller sections of longer poem before presenting it as a whole·  

–Encourage students to think of poems as structures they can build and experiment and play with and take a part; moving away from the idea of a poem as precious thing that can only be created in a moment of revelation or profound inspiration

–Postpone discussion of meaning until an appreciation for the shape, sounds, structure and feelings evoked by the poem are expressed and acknowledged.  I remind students that some poems are not meant to be perfectly understood right away—or ever—that what makes a poem puzzling might also be what makes it exciting to read

–Having students read poems and fragments of poems aloud to each other (or with smaller children, read lines of the poem aloud and have them repeat the poem back to you)

Can you recount a specific instance of when poetry impacted a student or group of students in a positive way?

A few years ago I had the opportunity to work with a small group of students in an inner-city school in Toronto. These students all had varying degrees of difficulty with learning. I worked alongside a wonderful teacher and we all wrote and read poems together several times a week for three months. The trust that grew among us as we shared the poems we wrote together was a tremendous gift. During some of our timed free-writing exercises they learned how to spot poems, like tiny threads of gold, hidden in longer, more prosaic pieces of writing. A few of them discovered that the way they wrote, when they weren’t worried about spelling or punctuation or “getting it right”—when they just allowed themselves to play with words and let their ideas and thoughts flow out without censoring themselves, was full of insight. It was wonderful, vulnerable, exciting writing. I brought in all kinds of different poems of varying styles and subjects. Every student connected with at least one poem, found one poem that made them want to try and write one of their own. We also created concrete poems using cards on the desks and the ephemeral quality of making a poem and then sweeping it all away to make a new one was exhilarating. It pushed the students to see that editing could be like that too. That you could write a poem and then write another version of it; that the process of creation could be as satisfying as the final result.


CONNECT WITH SHANNON BRAMER

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bramershannon
Twitter: @brokencloudco
Instagram: shannon_bramer

Look for her trilogy of plays (TRAPSONGS) forthcoming from Book*hug (Toronto) in September 2020.




Many thanks to Shannon for participating in our Classroom Connections series for National Poetry Month, and for offering a copy of Climbing Shadows to one randomly selected TLD reader!

To enter, leave a comment below or send an email with the subject "Climbing Shadows Giveaway" to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com by Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Winners will be announced on Thursday, May 2nd, so be sure to check back to see if you've won!


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Check out the other Classroom Connections posts and giveaways on offer this month by clicking the names below!


Digital art © 2018 by Miranda Barnes,
based on a line from "Ghazal" by Tracy K. Smith.



TO FOLLOW:

The best way to keep up with the Classroom Connections series is by subscribing to Today's Little Ditty via email, which you can do in the sidebar. I will also be announcing the posts on social media. Like me on Facebook and/or follow me on Twitter (also in the sidebar) to stay informed that way. Catch up with Classroom Connections posts you may have missed by clicking on the "It's time to INSPIRE" icon in the sidebar, or by visiting my "Poetry in the Classroom" board on Pinterest.

10 comments:

  1. Good Morning Michelle and Shannon. I love this tip the most: "Teach poetry like teaching music; in tiny bits; exploring the use of fragments and smaller sections of longer poem before presenting it as a whole·" I think that's brilliant and how brilliant teachers work. I love the title of Climbing Shadows and the story behind it. Many congratulations on this book and your books about to come out. My family is planning my daughter's graduation gift--a trip to Toronto. It's delightful to read that poetry is alive and well in the schools there. Beautiful post today. Thanks again.

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  2. I absolutely love this book. Thank you for featuring Shannon's work and wisdom. xxxx

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  3. Like Amy, I love what you have shared here ...her poetry is beautiful, moving, insightful, and accessible. Thank you for sharing her work with us!

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  4. My goodness, this is perfect! What a joy it would be to have Shannon work alongside my Kindergarten poets. Thank you so much, Michelle, for bringing this book to my attention! -- Christie @ https://wonderingandwondering.wordpress.com/

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  5. Some keen ways of introducing poetry here, thank you both. Looking forward to read more of the poems and seeing the art in "Climbing Shadows!"

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  6. This book looks amazing. I can't wait to read it all. I love the tips. Especially the first tip of teaching poetry like music. Thanks for the post.

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  7. Really important points here:
    "Encourage students to think of poems as structures they can build and experiment and play with and take apart" and "Postpone discussion of meaning until an appreciation for the shape, sounds, structure and feelings evoked by the poem are expressed and acknowledged."
    The illustrations complement the poems so nicely! Great pairing.

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  8. I am completely smitten with the illustrations and intrigued by these poems. Such beautiful language!

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  9. Oh my goodness, that polka dot poem is just so adorable--I can just hear a little kindergartner saying it! Can't wait to read this anthology!

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  10. Oh how this post resonates with me on so many levels. Thanks again for another fantastic introduction. The work by Shannon as poet, teacher and inspirer are just lovely. Hooray for this gem of a book I must own. PS I know a little girl who will adore this!

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