Teachers Write 8/5/14 – Tuesday Quick-Write

Today is feeling like a poetry sort of day, isn’t it?  And you’re in luck because we have a terrific guest author for this Tuesday Quick-Write.

New York Times bestselling author Nikki Grimes is the recipient of the 2006 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children. Her distinguished works include ALA Notable book What is Goodbye?, Coretta Scott King Award winner Bronx Masquerade, and Coretta Scott King Author Honor books Jazmin’s Notebook, Talkin’ About Bessie, Dark Sons, The Road to Paris, and Words with Wings. Creator of the popular Meet Danitra Brown, Ms. Grimes lives in Corona, California.

Nikki Grimes’ Poetry Writing Prompt

Step 1: Write a short paragraph about one of the following words: Bell, Shadow, Leaf, Lemon, Bullet.

 Consider all aspects of the item each word represents—how it looks, sounds, feels, tastes; what it does; what you can do with it; how it affects you; what it is made of; where it is found. Does it have an age, a color, a smell? Bring all of your senses into play and try to describe this item to someone who has never encountered it before. The idea is to think about each word in a new, and animated way.

 Step 2: Turn this paragraph into a poem. Use as many or as few, poetic techniques as you like: metaphor, simile, repetition, alliteration, assonance, rhyme, etc. Keep your lines simple. The idea is to think about words in a new way. This exercise can help you to keep your use of language fresh. Here are two examples to keep in mind:

 Ball is a round, rubber word.                          Pen is a slim word,

It fits inside my palm.                                        a tube of possibility.

I play with it outside,                                         Poems and essays hide inside

bounce it on the sidewalk.                                or ride the river

When it hits the ground,                                   of her ink.

it makes a smacking sound.                             Pen jots down things

My cupped hand waits for it                            that make you think.

to come back home.                                             Pen is round.

                                                                                    Pen speaks, yet

                                                                                    makes no sound.


Note from Kate: We’d love to see how some of you did with this prompt – feel free to share your writing from today in the comments!

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  1. Posted August 5, 2014 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    omg! you should have been here to help me recover from the coffee choke at seeing Nikki Grimes face on today’s blog. Welcome Ms. Grimes! I. am. just. in. awe of your work, Thank you so very much for being here. I just have to get this gush out of the way before I do any work or I won’t be able to settle.

  2. Terry Turner
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    Thank you so much for being here, Nikki. We really appreciate your time. Thank you, as usual Kate!

    I’m absolutely intimidated by poetry, so it was good to push myself out of my comfort zone today. Here’s what I ended up with:


    Soaked in sunshine
    Brilliant baubles
    Aglow in the cloudy aisles
    of drab vegetables
    Surrounded by piled potatoes, pallid onions, pasty garlic.

    Jumbled jewels,
    Waxy gem
    The bitter tang of summer,

    • Posted August 5, 2014 at 7:32 am | Permalink

      in the cloudy aisles…..I like that line best of all. And, the word lost at the end. Don’t be intimidated Terry!

    • Posted August 5, 2014 at 8:56 am | Permalink

      Terry, I love the image of the bright lemons in the middle of all the other drab vegetables!

    • Posted August 5, 2014 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      Wow Terry!
      Hard to understand the intimidation when you have such a poetic soul! If that was an obstacle for you, you just made lemonade. I loved how the opening “soaked in sunshine” had such a nice contrast to the one word close “lost”. Brilliant baubles aglow was, well, brilliant! Thanks for summoning the courage to shine outside your comfort zone and concoct this delicious lemonade, I’m refreshed!

    • Posted August 5, 2014 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

      Terry, I just love this. Visual imagery perfectly fits and I love the bounce of sound in each line. So fitting for lemons.

  3. Posted August 5, 2014 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    Well, I have trouble following rules sometimes. I couldn’t choose one word. And I like the side-by-side look of the poems above. It made me see the offered words side by side. I can’t get the formatting right. I am putting this on my blog so the side by side (I’m sure there is a proper term for this) can be seen.

    Vocabulary Lesson
    Bell, Shadow, Leaf, Lemon, Bullet
    Bell translates offense to
    rippling sound
    Shadow dark contingent on light
    Leaf brief chapter to a tree
    Lemon tang of sunshine
    Bullet terminate ripples still

    • Posted August 5, 2014 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      I like that you “break” the rules, though I think the most captivating writing is innovative by nature. You have a talent that I adore in writers – creating evocative expressions with few words. Your expressions here, “leaf – brief chapter to a tree” and “bullet: terminate ripples still” ignite such imagery! This is the same skill I love in “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane”, brief statements that hold worlds of exploration. I love this piece!

    • Posted August 5, 2014 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      changing tang to tart….changing format from side by side to overlapping.
      Won’t be done with this for a while.
      Thanks for the comment Greg. It’s just sudukko with words or painting with words for me. I will fiddle and fiddle and fiddle with this for a while.
      My coach has me printing out hard copies of my current WIP and actually organizing them so that I can visualize a final product vs. the pile-o-stuff like what you see above.

  4. Andy Starowicz
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    The leaf hangs from the old front yard tree.
    It blows in the soft October wind,
    dusty orange and red with elegant points at the edges.
    Now it begins to dangle,
    Barely holding on,
    but still alive with hope and beauty.
    It is surrounded by the scent of autumn,
    a cool, crisp feel that signifies that winter is coming.
    The leaf falls from the old front yard tree.
    It is crisp to the touch,
    like a burnt cookie that no child wants to eat.
    I slowly and sadly rake it into the brown bag.
    Autumn has passed,
    winter is coming.

    Thank you, Ms. Grimes! I can’t think of a better way to start a sunny day than writing a little poetry. The summer has been wonderful, but the exercise got me thinking about my favorite season. Thanks again. Happy writing!

    • Posted August 5, 2014 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      Andy, I can picture the leaf hanging there, sadly, all alone.The opening of the poem sets a nice tone or mood for the rest and the ending, I think.

    • Posted August 5, 2014 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      I love pieces about loss. Not sure why. I’m a pretty cheerful person. But, there seems to be beauty in the letting go of things.

  5. Posted August 5, 2014 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Thanks so much for this prompt! I always find poetry challenging to write, because you can spend so much time thinking about a single word. Here’s what I ended up with:

    I look for a lemon,
    Pebble-skin in my palm,
    Medium yellow, like the sun in her paintings.
    I slice the thick rind,
    and juice stings my fingers,
    the sharp-sour smell a memory of bathroom cleanser
    and pie piled high with toasted meringue she can no longer eat.
    I crush it in my fingers,
    dripping cloudy teardrops into tasteless water,
    and leave the drained pulp
    for later, after I help her up to sip,
    her wrinkles deepening at the sight
    of yet another
    glass of liquid.

    • Terry Turner
      Posted August 5, 2014 at 9:02 am | Permalink

      Andrea –
      I love the story that is hiding behind the poem. This is really beautiful.

    • Posted August 5, 2014 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      Oh my – “Dripping cloudy teardrops into tasteless water” is lovely. Perfect.

  6. Posted August 5, 2014 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Hi Nikki,
    Thank you for the wonderful strategy. My students and I are huge fans our your delightful works! This is an honor to learn from you and share this poem from your prompt.

    He is my frequent companion
    walking alongside me
    always listening
    my secrets are safe
    a silent partner
    my distorted twin
    playfully forging ahead
    or sporadically trailing behind
    I hope to watch over me
    We’re always connected
    but at times he is hidden
    craving the light
    to have his darkness recognized
    a continuum of grey shades
    stretching out
    then fading
    seeping through fenceposts
    clinging to walls
    one silhouette after another
    imitating my every move
    is it flattery
    or mockery?
    he never lets on
    keeping secrets of his own
    Leaving me to question
    Are his quiet ways
    or menacing?
    In my own darkness
    I’m left to wonder
    My secrets are safe
    In his silence
    But am I?

    • Terry Turner
      Posted August 5, 2014 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      Wow. Just wow. This is really terrific. I am not into poetic novels (I’m not ever sure what you’d call a novel written in poetic form) but this piece made me think you should write one.

      • Posted August 5, 2014 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

        Thanks Terry! I love poetry, and gush over writers like Nikki Grimes, Jen Bryant, and Ann E. Burg. I love to read their prose. I’m glad you enjoyed my playful post.

    • Posted August 5, 2014 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

      ooooooooooooh that turn of the last line. Gives me shivers. Honest question: are shadow’s secrets safe ? Shadow has such a personality in this…playful, trustworthy, unknowable. Makes a reader wonder…which I love. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Posted August 5, 2014 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Shadows of dappled sunlight
    across the grass.
    Thoughts of summer.
    Shadows in the dark ,
    creating mysterious silhouettes .
    Thoughts of Halloween.
    Shadows of those lost
    old bittersweet memories
    Thoughts of family.

    • Posted August 5, 2014 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

      A lovely poem showing many interpretations of shadows. Thanks for sharing this!

  8. Posted August 5, 2014 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    I was utterly nonpoetic, so far. Seeing the word bullet provoked the question (relevant to a corner of my novel draft), Wait, where do post-treat paramilitaries get bullets for illegal guns? This provoked an online search revealing an engineer convicted and sentenced for converting decommissioned weapons to being able to fire. Interesting rabbit hole of research followed… but completely off task with today’s quick write! 🙂 Need to take a break with my boys, but may try this later.

    Great writing, all – I enjoyed reading it.

  9. Brian Rozinsky
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    August by the lake,
    clouded, wet, and cold–
    summer has fled.

    Incongruous ice cubes
    chill a glass of water,
    acidulated by one thin lemon slice
    that floats like a lily pad.

    Each tart sip zings the tongue,
    shivers the skin,
    brightens this day.

    • Posted August 5, 2014 at 3:45 pm | Permalink


      You have made amazing prose from your lemon slice. I quite enjoyed taking a sip of this poem!

  10. Jennifer
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    I chose the word bell because it reminded me of my college days. I attended a liberal arts college in a small town and the campus was right in the midst of the town. A church was across the street from the main academic building, so the church bell became a distinct part of my college memories. Thinking about bells ringing took me back to those days of sitting in classrooms and provided me with the following:

    Sitting at a desk
    On a beautiful spring day.
    Trying to focus on the lecture
    The windows are open
    Through which I hear
    The sweet chimes pealing
    Marking the time
    How sweet the sound.

  11. Posted August 5, 2014 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    The leaf turns brown
    as it sits through fall.
    Finally, it says,
    “I’ve had enough,”
    and floats away
    for a trip
    across the sky.
    As it lands
    in a golden field,
    far, far away,
    it realizes
    rest is needed.
    and slowly falls asleep
    in an eternal slumber.

    • Posted August 5, 2014 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

      I forgot to put the title… Leaf’s Journey into Forever

    • Posted August 5, 2014 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

      Since I have posted this, I’ve already revised it twice. Love poetry!

      • Posted August 5, 2014 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

        yep! I keep poking at the words too. I agree it’s so fun.

  12. sheila mustard
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    I enjoyed trying today’s exercise I think it will be a great one to integrate into the classroom!

    -You always have a friend –

    He silently slinks and slithers close to you,
    Sometimes short and fat, or maybe 6’2”.
    At times, he looks gray and other times invisible
    Nevertheless, be assured your shadow is always there and dependable

    • Posted August 5, 2014 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

      you’ve made shadow playful!

  13. Posted August 5, 2014 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    This is a quick write. it was fun finding so many shadows in the room once I was looking.


    Shadow is an elusive word
    Playing hide and seek
    Stretching away
    From the light
    Sending shivers
    Down the spine

    • Posted August 5, 2014 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

      ooooooh, down the spine! <3

    • Posted August 7, 2014 at 12:58 am | Permalink

      This reminds me of Robert Frost’s poem “Fog.” I love your words!

  14. Posted August 6, 2014 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    Hi Nikki:

    Thank you for sharing a fun writing prompt. Sharing my Haiku poem about a leaf.

    Autumn leaf dancing,
    Twirling round the old oak tree.
    Cool breeze blows. Swish! Swoosh!.

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