School Programs


Rachel Guido DeVries in the classroom readingThis program offers students and their teachers the opportunity to work with a published poet and fiction writer, and to create poems of their own on a variety of subjects. A program can be designed to fit the needs of each school. Most poet-in-the-schools residencies are for a five day period. During that time, I work with four or occasionally five classes a day, for periods of 60 minutes, or no less than 45 minutes. Optimally, I work with the same classes each day; this gives young writers the chance to create three poems, to work in revision, and to present a performance for invited guests.

Each day of the residency, I plan a lesson around an element of poetry. I use copies of poems by published and student writers to illustrate each lesson, and to encourage young writers to become comfortable with the text of the poem, and to talk about the way ideas, emotions, and imaginative and descriptive language make a poem exciting to read. Each lesson is coordinated with the grade level(s) with which I meet. Each lesson also incorporates the needs of all students, including those with special needs.

Planning meetings prior to the program give me and the teachers a chance to discuss the needs in a classroom, and I look forward to teacher input in planning the specifics of a program. Lessons can occasionally, and with ample notice, be coordinated around specific content areas. Here is a sample outline of how a five day residency often works:

This program will give teachers and students and opportunity to:

Gain insights, reasons, and ideas for using reading and writing poetry and other forms of creative writing to create an atmosphere of understanding friendship, and community

Lessons will reflect common core state standards, to include: *

  • Close reading of several poems
  • Discuss poems and find specific details that are explicit and descriptive
  • Discuss poems by identifying how a writer uses imagery and other elements of the art of poetry and creative writing to evoke meaning
  • Identify themes in work read; identify elements that reveal themes
  • Gain understanding of those elements, including imagery, symbol, personification and structure
  • Summarize poems and/or other pieces of creative writing
  • Create and develop poems using skills acquired through reading and discussing poems and their meanings
  • Revise and edit poems
  • Begin to find language that expresses ideas and feelings

*Age appropriate lessons for all grade levels. Also see sample common core lessons here.

Day 1

I introduce myself to each class, giving some of my autobiography:  what made me turn to writing; my family and background; my experiences in school, work, and traveling. I share a few poems with the students, and give them the chance to ask questions or to make comments. Then, I begin with a lesson about poetry—day one is usually about metaphor  and simile. We look at poems: each student and teacher in the room gets a copy of a sheet of poems each day. I encourage students to “own the text”:  mark it up, underline words, and so on. We read and discuss the poems on the sheet, and then I give students their own writing assignment for day one, which will include using metaphor or simile to write about some aspect of themselves.

Day 2

General conversation about how young writers liked or had trouble with the assignment. Sharing of poems aloud, and then comments from the community of writers. Second lesson and assignment: personification and descriptive, active language.

Day 3

Conversation, sharing. Third lesson and assignment: Sound and structure.

Day 4

Conversation, sharing.  Fourth lesson:  self-editing and revision.  Students choose one of the three poems written for editing, revision, and preparation for performance, and for a classroom or school-wide anthology of student poems.

Day 5

Performances in each classroom with invited guests.