Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: Trying the Observation Door
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Slice of Life: Trying the Observation Door


What are you doing? 

Taking pictures. I am trying to see things in new ways.

We continue walking down the beach.

I have been trying to write more poetry for the Slice of Life challenge this month and I am having a hard time. I never go in the observation door. Even when I try I end up back at the heart, memory, wonder or concerns door. All month I have been looking at daffodils. I love daffodils. Daffodils signal spring for me. I look and look and look. After 30 days, all I see is a daffodil.

I see.

I laugh catching Tammy’s play on words.

So I am moving from Georgia’s doors to Georgia’s rooms. I am using her Six-Room Poem exercise to help me find the observation door – except for Room 5 – I am trying to stay away from the feelings room.

How’s it working?

So far… still just a daffodil!

Later that evening I began using the Six (Five for me) Room Poem exercise with some photos I took:

Room Number 1: Think of something that you have seen outside that is amazing, beautiful, interesting, or that has just stayed in your mind. Close your eyes and try to see it as clearly as a photograph-notice all the details about it-and describe it as accurately as you can in room number one. Don’t think about writing a poem, just try to describe your object as specifically as possible.

IMG_2417 IMG_2419 IMG_2430

I look at this series of photos I took on our walk today.  I write:

Standing on each others shoulders

Fitting together

Supporting each other

Alone so small, together so strong

Room Number 2: In room number two, think about the same object/image, but focus on the quality of light. For example: Is the sun bright? Or is it a dull, flat day? Are there any shadows? If it’s unclear what the light is like you might have to use some poetic license and make it up. You can also describe colors.

In room number two, think about the same object/image, but focus on the quality of light.

I write:


Room Number 3: Picture the same object/image and focus only on the sounds. Are there any voices? Rustling of leaves? Sound of rain? If it’s silent-what kind of silence? Empty? Lonely? Peaceful?

I write:

I think I hear something. I hear voices. Asking questions. Responding to each other. Not loud, but clear. There is a sense of connection, unity.

Room Number 4: Write down any questions you have about the image. Is there anything you want to know more about? Or wonder about?

I write:

How does it feel to be so close? How did they get ordered in this way? Why don’t they just collapse? Are they stronger against the waves when they are together?

Room Number 5: Write down any feelings that you have about this same object/image.

Staying out of this room for the moment…

Room Number 6: Look over the five rooms you have already created and select one word, or a few words, Q phrase, a line, or a sentence that feels important and repeat it three times.

I write:


Stronger together

Standing on each other’s shoulders

I have an idea for a poem… it is a bit crazy, but I hear the voices of my friends Lynne Dorfman and Rose Cappelli from Mentor Texts: “A mentor text is a scaffold. Writers practice again and again. . The writing they produce may or may not become a finished piece.”

So –here is what I see –vertical alignment.


Peak into Process:

I used two of Georgia Heard’s poetry exercises.

First 5 Doors of Poetry to open my Observation Door:

The 5 doors that will invite all students to step over the threshold:

o   1. The Heart Door: poetry is the genre of the inner life, therefore, the first, and most important, poetry door is the door of our hearts

o   2.  The Observation Door: “the door of our eyes;” what we observe, what we’re amazed by, what’s beautiful in the world

o   3. The Concerns About the World Door: poems can be about what we read in the newspaper or about world events we watch on television—what we are concerned about: war, people who have to live on the streets, or floods in the Midwest; poetry is about telling the whole truth of what we see happening around us

o   4. The Wonder Door: questions can be a lever for a poem; poets are the most curious humans alive

o   5. The Memory Door: memories drift in and out of our minds all day long whether we are aware of them

Then I used the Six Room Poem exercise described above.

Once I had my idea I studied Linda Baie’s poem The Lonely Wastebasket to understand how she structured her poem and how she personified and brought her object to life. I liked how she used this object to send a message –to bring layers of meaning to the purpose it serves. I wanted to see beyond what I first saw on the beach. This poem gave me some ideas to play with and experiment.


  • Avatar
    Diane Dougherty
    Posted at 10:22h, 05 April Reply

    Thanks for this, Clare. “The observation door” … I appreciate the photos and also hearing your process as you struggled to write the poem. The result is lovely. I “see” symbolism here and concrete details and the right words too: vast stretch of space; powerless against the tide; together so strong. Poetry IS feeling, even when you don’t want to go there.

  • Avatar
    Jennifer Laffin
    Posted at 10:28h, 05 April Reply

    Look at all of the “help” you had writing this poem! I love your dedication to giving poetry a try. Your poem is beautiful! (And I can’t believe all those shells. WOW!!)


  • Avatar
    Posted at 10:32h, 05 April Reply

    Wow! I love the repeating lines and how the ideas once again brought you to teaching. Thanks also for explaining your process (and the shout-out). I may have to revisit Georgia’s book.

  • Avatar
    Lynne Dorfman
    Posted at 12:02h, 05 April Reply

    Hi, Clare! I loved the detailed explanation of your process. What you created, Clare, is beautiful – and yes, it IS a poem! Your strength is being able to look out into the world at ordinary things and see them in extraordinary ways. Then you connect what you have experienced to the world of teachers and students – your life work. It is truly a gift to be able to do this, and do it this well! Thanks for the mention of our book. I had forgotten about Georgia’s rooms and how to do it. It is a great exercise – I think I will give it a try! See you next Tuesday!

  • Avatar
    Carrie Gelson
    Posted at 13:37h, 05 April Reply

    I am so impressed by all of the Slice of Life writers who are continuing to write – now poetry – in April. Impressed from afar by all of the learning and risk taking.

  • Avatar
    Christine Baldiga
    Posted at 14:01h, 05 April Reply

    Thanks for the inspiring poem, and for the process idea. I will need to try writing poems using this technique.
    Yours is beautiful and I love that you added the poem to the picture so that it all really came to life.

  • Avatar
    Linda Baie
    Posted at 14:53h, 05 April Reply

    It’s taken me a while to get to your poetry post, and now I am honored that you used my poem as a mentor, Clare. Wow. FYI-I’ve used Georgia’s rooms myself, and with students for a long time. It fits the ideas of “layers” of meaning too, all those rooms making a “home” for a poem. I love how you shared this process, and the poem connecting to teachers together, not alone at all. Love the repeating “one by one”, a lonely feeling some have, and then the powerful “together so strong”. Thank you!

  • Avatar
    Dalila Eckstein
    Posted at 05:04h, 06 April Reply

    Clare, you always inspire me. I was not familiar with Georgia Heard’s Doors of Poetry. Here, I learned what they were, and experienced your process as well. My students and I are participating in the NaPoWriMo poetry challenge for April. You have given me another idea for exploring the writing of poems. Yours is beautiful, and layered in meaning. I am excited to give this process a go! Thank you.

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