Saturday, May 2, 2015

Poetry inspired by Judith Viorst

I say I value mentor authors but the Writing Workshop I ran on Wednesday solidified this belief. It resulted in such strong writing after I immersed the students in the poetry of mentor author, Judith Viorst.

First, I am over-the-top excited about having poet and writer, Judith Viorst, visit my classroom on May 6th to speak to my 5th grade writers. She is also the grandmother to two students in our school and lives in our neighborhood, making it easier for her to visit.
(Next Tuesday's post, I will share about her visit!)

Naturally, I wanted to prepare my students to meet this author. So, I had each of my four classes during Writing Workshop read three of her poems, talk to a partner about each poem and then quickly draft our own poems. First, I shared If I Were in Charge of the World, having the class choral read it, stanza by stanza. Then we shared with a partner what we liked about it. We then looked closely at the structure. Immediately, we did a quick draft of our own poem.
And after just a few minutes, we showed our partner our draft.

Then we repeated with What Dads Do:

  and finally, with Learning:
We ended our 50 minute class period having drafted three strong poems and having picked the one we will revise, edit and publish the next day.

As a perk, I bought fancy paper for them to put their published poem on. As the students left class on Wed, all seemed very motivated to return on Thursday to revise, edit and publish one poem in the spirit of Judith Viorst on the fancy paper. Now she will walk into our classroom on May 6th and see all their poems, inspired by her, lining the walls.

As the kids wrote, I gave it a try, too.

If I Were in Charge of the World by Sally Donnelly, inspired by Judith Viorst
(Click HERE to read Judith Viorst's poem)

If I were in charge of the world,
I'd cancel grits,
alarm clocks, multiple-meeting in one day
and lengthy report card comments.

If I were in charge of the world,
there'd be free round-trip airline tickets for me to the cities where my children live,
lawn service would be provided for free with my rental house
And bathrooms would magically stay clean 24/7.

If I were in charge of the world,
You wouldn't have earthquakes.
You wouldn't have riots.
You wouldn't have cancers,
or at least, not childhood cancers.

If I were in charge of the world,
a person who loved to read, could read all day long
And a person who loved to write, could write  all day long
And a person who was late for a meeting because they were reading and/or writing
could still be in charge of the world.

What Dads Do by Sally Donnelly, inspired by Judith Viorst
(Click HERE to read Judith Viorst's poem)

Throws parties
Makes people laugh
Creates good times for all
Signs his signature in the fanciest way
Draws amazing illustrations for your school book report
Buys you just the present that you need
Visits you when you are away at college
Treats you and your friends to strawberry daiquiris.
Dads work hard,
play hard
and laugh big.
I wish I still had one.

Learning by Sally Donnelly, inspired by Judith Viorst
(Click HERE to read Judith Viorst poem)

I'm learning that I know that 1+1=2
and I'm learning that just writing 2 is no longer enough.
I now have to explain why it is 2, using words
or the math teacher will say, "Explain your thinking."

I'm learning it is hard not to shut down when I can't put it into words
And want to just say, "because 2 is the answer."
I'm learning it is hard to not argue and say, "You're wrong"
when a classmate says a different answer and my math teacher suggests I listen to understand the logic of their answer.
I'm learning it is getting easier through practice to say my answer using words
and to accept or refute my classmate's answers.

I'm learning that just writing 1+1=2
is not enough anymore,
Because I'm learning that the explanation of my thinking using words
is NOW the right answer.


  1. Oh Sally how I envy you. I have read so much of Judith Viorst. She never fails to make you smile and to make you think.

  2. P.S. Love your writing in the style of Judith.

  3. Wow what lucky students and teacher to have Judith in your hometown! I have used "If I Were in Charge of the World" with my students, but not the other ones. "What Dads Do" could be used for so many other people! Thanks for sharing these great ideas and poems.

  4. Judith Viorst! Wow, what an exciting day that will be for you and your students. I'm sure she will be warmed by seeing how her poetry has inspired you all. Lucky, lucky kids.

  5. How amazing to have Judith Viorst visit your classroom and spend time with your kids! I love the care with which you have prepared to greet her - and can't wait to hear all about this special visit.

  6. Judith Viorst is visiting your classroom?!?! WOW!!!! I love these poems and I am going to borrow this idea. Thank you!!! LOVE this and I can't wait to read about the visit!!!

  7. Wow! To have Judith Viorst visit, but better yet for her to have a window into your classroom via grandchildren!

    AWESOME! Love your "readiness" for the visit!

  8. How lucky to have a visit from Judith Viorst! Can't wait to read about that! In the meantime, I love these poems. I used to share this poem with my third graders, but haven't done this for years. Think it's time to dust this book off. Thanks for sharing!