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Poet Geof Hewitt visits Lunenberg and Gilman, VT for writing workshop

May 7, 2012

By Katrin Colby

Vermont poet and teacher Geof Hewitt recently visited Lunenburg Elementary and Gilman Middle School students for a Writer in Residence program. The program was part of a generous three-year grant award from the Children’s Literacy Foundation. Geof worked with each class for three days in preparation for a Literary Tea and Poetry Slam in an all-school assembly on his final day.

Geof and kindergarten students collaborated on an exciting story about a dolphin that met up with a shark. Then the class performed it chorally with their teacher at the Literary Tea. Students especially loved some of the gestures they performed to emphasize language: “But the shark saved [arms raised, fingers point to the sky] that dolphin!”

All of the other students worked on individual pieces that came from creative writing prompts from Geof. Students especially loved when he geared them up to write by having them hold their pencils high to the sky. Then, on the count of three, they raced their arms down to the page and started writing! The spirit of fast and furious writing helped break down inhibition and hesitation. After a freewrite, Geof had all students stand and read aloud their pieces at the same time. This delighted the students as they learned a new word: Cacophony!

At the middle school, students gathered in the hallway after lunch, notebooks in hand, awaiting Geof’s arrival to show himsdsd their most recent work. The older students were especially enthralled with the idea of a poetry slam, which poked fun at actually judging art and kept a fun and light-hearted spirit alive while giving students a venue to perform their work. The spirit of the slam even inspired our principal and math teacher to write and perform poems of their own. Although the math teacher was quick to remind students that although they would be scoring him during the slam, he would be scoring them for the rest of the year!

Geof’s sense of humor kept students completely engaged. His manner of speaking was a constant reminder of how much opportunity we have to carefully choose our words, our emphasis, and our meaning. Geof’s springtime visit blew a breath of fresh air into poetry for all of us.

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