Hands on Stanzas

Hands on Stanzas Blogs
Welcome to the Hands on Stanzas Blogs. Each week our teachers post their students' work in progress and you can follow along by clicking on the individual school blogs listed below.

To read a school’s blog just click on the school name below, or scroll down to see the 10 most recent posts from all schools.

Skinner West
TEAM Englewood

Rachel Javellana's picture
Talking Objects
Submitted by Rachel Javellana on March 27, 2014 - 3:37pm.

In "Mirror" by Sylvia Plath, a mirror speaks up about its experiences. Each student chose an inanimate object that can be found at their own home, then wrote a poem in the persona of this object.

Room 322

Randy C.

I am black and likable
I am lonely in the morning
but in the afternoon I have fun.
On the weekends I stay up all the
way to the midnight. You can connect
me to the TV. You can put DVDs on
me and you can watch me.
Sometimes I get put away for no reason
at all.


Soccer Ball
Giovanni G.

I am a round and bouncy ball I like to get
kicked and hit the walls I come in all kinds
of sizes I come in small to a big bouncy ball
I have not been able to talk and now that I
can this is the story that I have to tell
I once was born and I was a size 1 ball when
I got older I became a size 5 ball and now
people can play with me all day long.

read more »
Larry Dean's picture
Haiku You
Submitted by Larry Dean on March 24, 2014 - 4:13pm.
Skinner West
Last week, we read nine haiku by the famous 18th-19th century Japanese poet, Kobayashi Issa, as translated by Robert Hass. Some students were familiar with the form, but since most were not, after reading the poems in succession I asked if anything was common between them? Animals or creatures appear in six of the nine (spider, cat, mosquito, snail, insects), and many if not all take place outdoors. Each haiku also has three lines. I talked a bit about the history of the form, and its common use of 5-7-5 syllables in English, then asked if Hass' translation followed the form? None of the nine haiku did, and I suggested that the 5-7-5 pattern was not as important as expressing as much as you can in the fewest words possible.

The prompt this time was to write one or more haiku. I stressed that counting out the syllables was not necessary, but encouraged students to stick to three or four lines. read more »

Unrelentingly Lovely: Imagist Portraits
Submitted by Admin on March 20, 2014 - 12:38pm.

This week we continued with William Carlos Williams and read "Locust Tree In Flower." I asked the students to write an imagist-style poem about something they could see (or visualize), one word per line.

Ms. Foley
8th Grade

First, two poems by student Jennifer O., imagist family portraits:

The Back of My Sister's Hairy Head
Jennifer O.





Jennifer O.







Maria M.




light read more »
Rachel Javellana's picture
I want comida
Submitted by Rachel Javellana on March 19, 2014 - 3:10pm.

We read "Good Hotdogs" in English and Spanish versions, a very Chicago poem by Chicago-born writer Sandra Cisneros. We reflected on favorite special foods and the sense-memories of eating them.

Room 322

Red Tamales
Jennifer L.

Getting ready to
Go to a Mexican
I can't wait to eat
Some red chicken
We sit down and pass
Around food for
The tamales are
Getting passed out
With white cream
I take three tamales
And grab a fork
And peel

Rachel V.

Little pieces
Of white rice
Sometimes sticky
Sometimes not
We'd eat it
Almost every day
Put in a bowl
No specific taste

Sopa fria
Shamadhi R.

As soon as I wake up
I smell something delicious
Sopa fria
It has big cubes of ham
I blow the candles
Bite the cake
But suddenly don't
Want cake but
Sopa fria
First birthday
With sopa fria


Room 320

Mi T.

read more »
Larry Dean's picture
Color(s) My World
Submitted by Larry Dean on March 13, 2014 - 6:03pm.
Skinner West
Marge Piercy's "Colors passing through us" was the focus of our classes this week at Skinner West. After reading the poem aloud, I asked the 2nd graders what colors the poet mentions in the poem? Why those colors in particular? While she uses color in almost every stanza, in two she does not, so I asked why that might be, and then followed up by asking if there was an order to her introduction of the colors in the poem? For example, why begin with purple; move on to red, orange, and yellow; and end with green and blue? We finally decided by consensus that there seemed to be a pattern in Piercy's design, and I also suggested that the poem could be read as a kind of cycle, with "cobalt" in the final stanza segueing neatly back into "purple" in the first. Finally, I inquired about the significance of the poem's title. As always, the students had many ideas and opinions to share about these questions, and more!

This week's prompt was to write a poem about one or more colors, resulting in quite a variety of responses. read more »

RobbieQTelfer's picture
Special Report!
Submitted by RobbieQTelfer on March 13, 2014 - 4:05pm.
TEAM Englewood
So for the past eight years or so, I've worked for Young Chicago Authors' youth poetry festival, Louder Than A Bomb - five of those as the festival director.  This past year I've been doing different things, but my residency at TEAM Englewood with Hands on Stanzas has meant that I can still work with their students as they prepared for the LTAB competition.

Well the team has been doing really great in the competition, (which I take little credit for): they got second in their semifinal, poet Dallas Battle was in Individual Finals (top 12 out of 500 students), and the group poem they wrote about Rahm Emanuel was selected as the "Chuck D Lyrical Terrorist" recipient - meaning they will get to perform it at Finals in front of 2600 people at the Cadillac Palace.
RobbieQTelfer's picture
Insecurity System
Submitted by RobbieQTelfer on March 13, 2014 - 3:52pm.

Moos - Week 9

This class looked at Audre Lorde's "Hanging Fire." I like it because of the equal value it gives ashy skin to death, and the mysterious repetition of her (supposed) uncaring mother. It worked really well as a model text for the students because of that repetition and because of the universality of insecurity.

read more »
Week 4: Sorry Not Sorry!
Submitted by Elizabeth_Sampson on March 13, 2014 - 3:33pm.

Have you ever apologized for something you weren't really sorry for? Me too.

This week, we reveled in confessing our crimes, and saying just how sorry we… aren't. I learned a few things about our 7th & 8th graders this week: mostly we are "sorry" for stealing delicious food, and after that, we are likely "sorry" for stealing your clothes or tripping you on purpose. Two students even wrote a suite of poems, a conversation between friends in "apologies."

Naturally, to get our fake apologies revved, we read the most delectable of faux apology poems, "This Is Just To Say" by William Carlos Williams.

I hope you enjoy these poems! And if you don't… I'm terribly sorry to hear that.

Ms. Taylor
8th Grade

Ethan L.

I started the riots
in Ukraine

Which caused the
destruction of
Yanukovych's rule

Forgive me for spreading
the spirit of freedom
and the destruction of tyranny
through the roar of the read more »
RobbieQTelfer's picture
2 Legit 2 Quit
Submitted by RobbieQTelfer on March 13, 2014 - 2:49pm.
TEAM Englewood

TEAM Englewood - Week 9

This week I decided to teach abstract concepts to students who could actually conceive of them (no offense to my 4th graders).  However, we did have this exchange:


me: write about an abstract concept. student: what's that? me: something you can't touch. them: like MC Hammer?

read more »
13 Ways of Looking
Submitted by Elizabeth_Sampson on March 7, 2014 - 12:01am.

The Taft 7th and 8th graders and I continued down our path of strange realities with an appropriately winterized poem this week, Wallace Steven's "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird."

Our writing goal for the day was to take an everyday something and look at it from as many angles as possible!

Here's some examples of what our illustrious poets came up with this week--

Ms. Foley
8th Grade, 8th Period

"Toothbrush" -or- "Not Me"
Max V.