Friday, February 17, 2012

rethinking pink

I've officially introduced the concept of writing con-ventions to my 5- and 6-year-olds, and it does surprise me how little most of them notice the patterns of capitalization and punctuation that they've been looking at since (at least) the beginning of the year--a reminder that however hard we strive to teach them to read in Kindergarten nowadays, they're only ready when they're ready.

I have a little jingle that I sing to make the basics stick (can I embed audio in Blogger?):

"Sentence starts with a capital letter;
Sentence ends with a punctuation mark!"

Last year, with some take-their-time first-graders, it finally got so that as I was observing them writing, all I had to do was lean close and hum the jingle and they'd check both ends of their sentences--but they still needed that reminder until the very end of the year.

For some of us, these conventions are not just conventions; they're an art form.  I freely manipulate these influential little marks to inflect and pace my written language, with the aim of helping my readers hear my voice.  I find it fascinating and baffling that so many adults seem to regard punctuation as optional or meaningless.

My student Talia will not be one of those.  She's a reader, a thinker, a noticer and--as I was at this age--a corrector of painful precision.  (Memorably, at three I informed my mother, who had asked me to put something in the trash can, "It's not a can, it's a basket.")  This week, as I was waxing rhapsodic about capitals and the three important ending punctuation marks, Talia interrupted to point out that I had just said "pinctuation," not "punctuation."  A teacher could get impatient about such a remark, or a teacher could write a poem.  A pink poem.

************

As it turns out, a teacher could start a poem, but not finish one.  I thought I was going to write a rosy little piece for 6-year-olds, but sometimes a poem gets uppity and starts acting like a character in a novel, bossing the poet about and refusing to come quietly.  So it is today.  I weigh the options:  post the poem-in-progress, with all the risk that entails, or delay until it's "finished," knowing that you, dear Poetry Friday visitor, may not return to see what pinctuation means to me.  Hmm.

As I get older, I get a little wiser, but see:  I'm impatient after all. 
*****************

Pinctuation Lessons
Pinctuation Lesson One:
Pinctuation is for everyone, boys and girls,
and all must find their precise shades of pink.
Winter, spring, summer and fall,
we can all dress our sentences
to fit the whether.
Correct pinctuation is required;
creative pinctuation is inspired.
Pinctuation Lesson Two:
Every sentence starts with a heart.
Pink is the capital of the United States of You.
[rest of stanza 2]



Pinctuation Lesson Three:
In the end, pinctuation marks the moment.
Beneath your telling statement beats
a feeling colored pink. Your brain believes
it's neutral gray, but heart trumps it.
When you ask a question, your
whowhatwherewhenwhy quivers pinkly
with uncertainty. Why try to hide it?
And if you exclaim satisfaction or delight,
shock, surprise, excitement,
your heart rises to your face, flushed with pink.
Your heart commands:  embrace it!


Heidi Mordhorst  [draft] 2012
all rights reserved


Pop on over to the wonderful Gathering Books blog with Myra Garces-Bacsal today for some Valentinian variety!

9 comments:

  1. Perhaps you can come and sit over my 11 year old's shoulder and hum as he does his homework. He's gotten pretty good at adding punctuation, but he often forgets to start a sentence with a capital letter. (he's dyslexic).

    I love the idea of "creative pinctuation"!

    ReplyDelete
  2. "Correct pinctuation is required;
    creative pinctuation is inspired."

    Yes to that! In my freelance work, I enforce the rules of Chicago, AP, and the like. As a creative writer, I love breaking the rules when it better serves the spirit of a piece.

    Thanks for sharing your poem in progress.

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  3. Damn fuss-budgets,
    Heidi-- I love the start of this poem and wish you'd been around to hum in my ear.
    BUT. Since this is just a draft, can I question if you meant "whether" or weather in the first stanza? My big bugaboo,besides typos and misspellings is the durn their, there, they're. I invariably just type "there" when I absolutely know the difference. Do you have a hum for that?
    I'm off to try writing my own pink poem. Thank you for the inspiration.
    Hug your kids for me.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for sharing, Heidi - and as always for a peek into your very lively classroom. Your poem is blushing and flushing with pink possiblilities... I love "Pink is the capital of the United States of You." And as for Talia - You go, Girl!

    ReplyDelete
  5. In the end, pinctuation marks the moment.
    Beneath your telling statement beats
    a feeling colored pink.

    Excellent - now to get them to pay heed to the hue!

    ReplyDelete
  6. My students always loved when they found an error in my assignments, or when I misspoke. I guess it was often a 'pink' time. When you began, I thought you were going the way of blushing, & you mentioned it when 'your heart rises to your fact', but it wasn't exactly the whole point either. Love that you took this little moment & made much creative fun of it.

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  7. "however hard we strive to teach them [to read in Kindergarten nowadays], they're only ready when they're ready."

    Spent a day with data and common core yesterday. My pink is tired.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thanks for posting a draft! I love it! I have middle schoolers who still haven't quite gotten some of these lessons.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for your comments, everyone. You made sharing a draft considerably less risky with your welcoming thoughts.

    Here's a complete (if not polished) version.

    Pinctuation Lessons

    Pinctuation Lesson One:

    Pinctuation is for everyone, boys and girls,
    and all must find their precise shades of pink.
    Winter, spring, summer and fall,
    we can all dress our sentences
    to fit the whether.
    Correct pinctuation is required.
    Creative pinctuation is inspired.


    Pinctuation Lesson Two:

    Every sentence starts with a heart.
    Pink is the capital of the United States of You.
    All the weight of your meaning
    rests on its head.
    To begin without pink is a capital offense.
    Make the investment:
    from its softly solid durability
    goodness is produced.


    Pinctuation Lesson Three:

    In the end, pinctuation marks the moment.
    Beneath your telling statement beats
    a feeling colored pink. Your brain believes
    it’s neutral gray, but heart trumps it.
    When you ask a question, your
    whowhatwherewhenwhy quivers pinkly
    with uncertainty. Why try to hide it?
    And if you exclaim satisfaction or delight,
    shock, surprise, excitement,
    your heart rises to your face, flushed with pink.
    Pinctuation commands: embrace it!

    Heidi Mordhorst 2012
    all rights reserved

    ReplyDelete