WITS is run as a consecutive 2-day workshop, and we request that we work with the same students on the second day as we did the first. Our lessons are designed to be taught by a team of two instructors, and schools may not split a team apart for any reason. However, if multiple classrooms want to workshop simultaneously, schools can request more than one team for a single visit. Each team is available to teach a total of 4 hours per day.
How to Prepare
It is not necessary to prepare in advance of our visit, but if you would like to read some poems with your students in the days leading up to their WITS workshop, it may help them have some ideas ahead of time about what poetry can be. It can also help them be more receptive to and engaged with our workshop.
WITS focuses on poetry that uses specific, concrete images and sensory details. Oftentimes these concrete images work to describe the experience of an abstract idea (friendship, love, loss). The materials in our Poetry Resources section of our website will help to familiarize you with our five rules for making poems and give you a clearer idea of our praxis.
However, many of the students we work with have very little familiarity with poetry and the arts when we first arrive, and, nevertheless, their work shines by the end of the day. Our program is not just about celebrating the arts; it is designed to foster and emphasize attention to language, associative thinking, experimentation, risk taking, and creative problem solving.
Anthology Cover Contest
Each year, the cover of our annual WITS anthology features artwork by a student who participated in a WITS workshop. We collect drawings from students on our trips, return them with the poems via mail, and the winning piece is selected the following fall by the anthology editor.
If you would like to prepare your students by telling them about the cover contest in advance, you are invited to do so. However, please note: In years past, the winning artist received a gift card as a prize. We are currently unable to give a gift card as a prize, but the winner will receive five copies of that year’s anthology and a certificate of achievement.
We like to shine a spotlight on the schools and communities we visit, and we will always ask your school’s WITS faculty sponsor for permission to do so before alerting the local press. If you would like to extend an invitation for your local news to cover WITS’s visit to your school, you are welcome and encouraged to do so.
Required Materials for Workshop
We will need:
- Chalkboard / Dry Erase Board with plenty of space for writing.
- A projector is not required, but sometimes it can be helpful.
Students will need:
- Plenty of lined, loose leaf paper.
- A pencil to write with.
In the event of an emergency or a behavioral issue, we require classroom teachers to remain inside the classroom at all times during WITS visits.
During discussion and in-class writing time, classroom teachers are encouraged to:
- Observe how students are responding to the workshop. This is your chance to learn more about your students, their patterns, their needs, and their strengths.
- Participate in WITS writing exercises and share your own poems outloud. When authority figures participate in WITS, it elicits solidarity and boosts class morale.
- Help out with quieting the room when necessary. The act of sharing poems aloud is enlivening and sometimes students have trouble refocusing their attention when it’s time to move on to the next section of the workshop. We are unfamiliar with the classroom procedures that your students are used to, and we appreciate your help.
At the start of the workshop, the visiting writers will introduce themselves to the class and begin a general discussion of poetry. This discussion will fold in with our five rules for making poems, which are then followed by writing exercises. We strive to make each presentation unique to each class, while fitting the class’s grade level, ability level, and collective interests. Each class is different, and each team of writers works differently and uses different exercises.
On Day 2, students generally feel considerably more comfortable, demonstrate a greater sense of authority with their writing, and take more risks. We begin our second day with a short review of the previous day’s material and move on quickly to more technical aspects of poetry and more elaborate prompts. Day 2’s focus is on generating student writing, so students can expect to write at least another two or three poems.
We sincerely enjoy the work we get to do on WITS trips and we look forward to working with you and your students. If there is any more information we can provide, please don’t hesitate to contact us.