Class Notes #9: President Obama, Songs, & Literary Salon

Since the quarter ends next week, I decided each class would participate in a literary salon to share their writing with staff that may be free that period. Students selected their own work to read and then made invitations, cutting construction paper and decorating with crayons and markers. I was stuck how calm they seemed when coloring- it has been in the news lately about how coloring is becoming more popular with adults and relieves stress.  Students enjoyed the freedom to select paper and colors that suited them. I had to explain what a literary salon is though one student took a risk and suggested it was like a hair salon, but instead of different stations for various services, we read literature.

This week they wrote about their favorite songs and took a line and turned it into an original poem or song. One student told me that none of their music is school appropriate so I said they could write what they wanted as no one had to read their notebooks. Given that freedom, I didn’t read one poem that included language not considered school appropriate. The “never say no” theory played out.

They wrote about a school rule they’d change if they could and many complained about the dress code and black shoes requirement. Some felt they needed more homework and many agreed that standing in line silently is unreasonable. If I had more time with them, I’d teach persuasive writing and have them write letters to the school administration.

President Obama visited Newark briefly on Monday and there were high hopes that he’d stop in as the drug rehabilitation center he spoke at is around the corner from the school. Of course he didn’t come, but there was a lot of excitement that he was nearby. I asked students to pretend they could spend the day with the President and what they’d show him in Newark. Some mentioned parks, cultural and sports centers, and a few wrote they’d bring him to their grandmother’s to eat.

One student bit another (not in my class but one of my students) about a marker dispute. Very sad and a bit scary how quickly a little nothing can turn into a bigger something.




About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. ( I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
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4 Responses to Class Notes #9: President Obama, Songs, & Literary Salon

  1. I love your anecdotes–it must be such a buzz for you to see how the kids will respond. You have such interesting ideas for their assignments.


  2. You’ll be agreatloss to the Nwqark school system. Liked the bit about the songs that were not school appropriate, like “granmdpa’s Old brown pants”


  3. Pingback: Class Notes #10: Literary Salons, Veterans’ Day, & New Names | cyclingrandma

  4. Pingback: 50 Things We’re Grateful For: Bloggers Unite! | cyclingrandma

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