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Well versed

Photos by Dianne Carroll Burdick

Byron Center — West Middle School seventh-graders took English class outside and ditched laptops and pencils for a more colorful writing tool: sidewalk chalk.

As part of their last unit, students learned about different poetic forms, tone, imagery and subject matter. 

Choosing from four options – quatrain, free verse, tanka or sonnet – they write an original poem by hand and then use chalk to write it on the sidewalk around the front of the school. 

The Poetry Walk has been done in the spring for at least 10 years, English teacher Katie Tromp said. “The kids love it, and it’s nice to see kids expressing creativity and showing their interests in different ways.”

Among the sea of chalk poems, seventh-grader Jud Phillips wrote a free verse poem titled ‘Open Minded.’

As part of their poetry unit in English class, West Middle School seventh-graders write their poems in chalk on the sidewalk

“It’s about opening up about your feelings,” he said. “I just started writing and it came to me. I also listen to a lot of rap, so I focused on the rhyming.”

Some students also drew illustrations to accompany their poems. 

Next to her poem “Bright Lights,” seventh-grader Lucy Marczek drew a sun and a flashing camera to represent “different kinds of light in the world.” 

Lastly, the young poets were tasked to find a classmate’s poem to analyze for its elements and what the poet did well.  

During the final minutes of class, English teacher Craig Schalk reminded his students they would be quizzed on poetry the next day.

He enjoyed getting outside of the classroom for this lesson, especially when the weather is nice. 

“Writing and working outside of the classroom allows for movement and creativity,” Schalk said. “Knowing they’re showcasing their work for others to read holds them accountable to write something they’re proud of.”

To accompany her poem ‘Bright Lights’, seventh-grader Lucy Marczek drew a sun and a flashing camera with chalk
When they finished writing their poems, seventh-graders Judson Phillips, left, and Tren Sydloski worked together to analyze another classmate’s poem for their assignment
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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter, covering Caledonia, Kenowa Hills, Godfrey-Lee, Grand Rapids and is a roving reporter for GRCC, Wyoming, Kentwood and Byron Center. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News - covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry.  Following a stint as a copywriter for a Grand Rapids area PR firm, she transitioned from communications to freelance writing and reporting for SNN.  Read Alexis' full bio

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