Practice What You Teach

I often find myself looking up examples for activities that I want to do in class and hesitant to write my own. Now usually this is mainly because of time but sometimes it is because I am intimidated to create my own example and share it with the class. But then what do I ask my students to do? Create their own and sometimes share it with the class or a small group…

Learning is a vulnerable place.

It is hard to be “wrong” in a culture that demands we are “right.” It is hard to “just try” when we are ingrained to wait until we can succeed. It is hard to share our imperfections when our schools and society want perfection.

When we don’t put ourselves in that place of practicing, we may forget what can be scary and intimidating for our students. So my goal moving forward is to practice what I teach, to put myself in the place of vulnerability in learning. If I expect my students to share their work then I will share my work. If I expect them to be okay with getting an answer wrong then I will be corrected without apologizing for making a mistake. In this way I hope to model this messy, vulnerable process that learning is for us all.

In order to show my commitment to this process I am going to share a poem with you today because a) poetry is very far outside my comfort zone and b) April is poetry month. So without further ado….

Anywhere Else

A small town in a city,

Too small, nothing new.

I am bored by the sameness – the everyone knows you.

Grey skies, rain falling down, day after day…

Some days I’m desperate to break out –

To seek out a new place with new adventures:

Anywhere else.

And then the sun peaks through,

A soft ocean breeze blows cherry blossom petals in swirls down the street.

Ocean and mountain views peak out through the clouds:

Beauty on every corner.

Friends passing by with smiles to greet you.

This small town in a city

Has a heart and soul

I’ve yet to find

Anywhere else



Teach it Tuesday: Poems for Two Voices

I learned about this particular poetry style in one of our classes at university. I think it was based on this book in case you are interested in reading more or finding examples.

This was my lesson plan for Remembrance Day last year in my Grade 8 English class. Although Remembrance Day was yesterday (or Veteran’s Day in the USA) I think this would still be a powerful lesson for your students this week – Or adapt it to fit a social studies unit!

Poems for Two Voices – An Introducation

These poems are written in three columns that have been spaced out. Each of the outside columns represents a different speaker and the inside column is words/phrases that are said by both speakers. There are a few examples in the book mentioned above and I’ve made up a few of my own with classes. I usually introduce these poems by having the class read one together – half represent one voice, half the other, and we all read the middle together. It is very powerful when you hear everyone come together for the middle lines.

Remembrance Day Activity

After I introduced the poetry style we spent some time talking about the different views we could take to write a poem for Remembrance Day. The students did a great job at coming up with a variety of different people from whom they could write with a (relatively) accurate perspective.

Some examples to help guide your class discussion:

  • Child in Canada now/Child during the war
  • War Veteran/Young Soldier
  • Young Soldier/Mother or Father of Young Soldier
  • Soldiers on either side of a war (takes some talk about respecting both sides)

And there are of course many more examples you can come up with – My class was very multicultural and some students took on viewpoints in regards to their heritage (e.g. Korean War). I really enjoyed seeing the different ideas that my class came up with.

Once we had a list of ideas they got to work on their poems and then we had time to share them aloud at the end. Here is one of my favourites from the day:

Poems For Two Voices-page-001

PDF Version: Poems For Two Voices


When I do this project again with students I will take more time to develop the poems and allow for editing and final drafts. I think that this would be a very powerful read aloud during a Remembrance Day Assembly.

This assignment could easily be adapted to fit many different Social Studies units as well as other subjects (there is an example poem in the book about Ice Bergs and Polar Bears that directly relates to environmental studies).

I would love to hear how you end up using this lesson – Leave a comment below!