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Each teacher has a favorite. Favorite subject, favorite activity, favorite lesson.  Three years ago I started one of my favorites.  Each year we start January with “Where I’m From”.  The students reflect on where they are from and what makes them who they are.  While reflecting on themselves and where they are from, students can focus on what is important and where they are going.  The piece that makes this my favorite lesson, however, is the connections.  The lessons ends with bringing elementary and high school students together to learn about each other.

Networking and social media have broadened our classroom walls.  We often have hundreds, many may have thousands, of friends out there on the web.  Our students make virtual connections daily.

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Many classrooms are connecting world-wide through Skype.  This global opportunity allows us to bring experts and authors and cultures into our classrooms that are otherwise unavailable.  There are numerous opportunities for teachers to network and share ideas and lessons.  But there are also real live people all around us.  During poetry month take this opportunity to bring your kids together.

I connected my fourth grade classroom with the freshman English class at our HS.  I shared my lesson plan with the teacher and we each had our students write “Where I’m From” poems and create digital presentations about themselves.  You could do this with any poetry inspiration: haiku, reverse poetry, free verse or sonnets.  The students write about themselves or other topics for a real audience.  Have them create a final copy and a digital version (Adobe Voice or Flipagram are both good apps).  The students were excited about the digital project and adding creativity, visuals and their own voice to their work.

As you start the project, pick a date that works for both classrooms.  This is an end date for the project and you will get both classes together to meet.  The freshman class bused over to our school and visited our classroom.  We set expectations for sharing poetry, had a quick listening and speaking skills review and then let the students interact.  I also invited parents into our event that day as well.  We spent about 30 minutes sharing poetry.  The students paired up and read their poem and then showed their digital representation.  It was an excellent opportunity for them to see how they are similar to each other and to share pieces of themselves outside of the digital world.

This simple assignment created an opportunity for students to connect and share.  It allowed them an authentic audience for their poetry.  It helped them use good listening skills to hear about someone they did not know and it allowed them to practice speaking skills as well.  We connect to each other daily in the digital world, it is also important to connect personally.  To meet.  To smile.  To look someone in the eye and share a piece of yourself.  Poetry month is a perfect opportunity to bring your students together to enjoy learning.

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Lori Rice is a fourth-grade teacher at West Elementary in Wamego, Kansas, who has taught K-2 reading...

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