It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a poem Pupils learn to play words into verse NORTHWEST--Taneytown * Union Bridge * New Windsor * Uniontown


I'm not very old, but I know a lot.

I'll use the color "red" to describe something hot

and "small finger bracelets" when I'm thinking of rings.

I can make words mean other things.

What am I?

Answer: A New Windsor Middle School student who has learned how to write poetic riddles.

Grants from the Maryland State Arts Council and Lehigh Portland Cement Co. in Union Bridge have enabled sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students at the school to study a variety of poetry-writing techniques.

Poet Colleen Hoffmeister has spent the past four school days teaching one class from each grade about using colors to describe emotions and situations, creating "clusters" of words to describe an object, and other ways to "play with words."

Yesterday, she taught them how to "make the words mean other things."

"Some students find out that they are good at describing, and it builds their self-esteem," said Ms. Hoffmeister, an Eldersburg resident who has taught the workshop in other area schools. "Some students may find it easier to stay with the writing if they see someone else doing it," she said.

"We get to think of creative ways to describe things and we learn a lot about poetry," said Elizabeth Kurrle, a sixth-grader participating in the workshop. "I think a lot of people believe poetry has to rhyme. We learned it doesn't."

It doesn't even have to make sense. Elizabeth's classmate Erin Clum wrote a riddle that stumped Ms. Hoffmeister and Susan Case's language arts class.

"It's a bird. It's a plane, but really quite lame. Ministers come from East or West," Erin read to the class. "Where am I?"

The answer: Westminster.

"It's better than regular language arts," said Erin, still grinning after confounding her classmates. "I like to write the poems, to be creative."

Bill Dahl of Taylorsville impressed his class with his descriptive // riddle about a soccer ball:

I am a checkerboard yet I'm not.

I can be any color from as black as a moonless night to as bright as the summer sun.

I fly through the air frequently bruised by giants hoping to pound me into mush.

What am I?

"We did a lot of formula writing in class before," said Bill. "It's good not to have to follow a set form."

Kristi Thomas' riddle about eyeglasses was another creative effort, Ms. Hoffmeister said.

I see very well and balance all day.

I have two eyes which really are not real.

I have two arms that are always trying to hold on.

I am clear but also any color you want me to be.

What am I?

"School focuses a lot more on traditional writing. This program gives them the chance to be creative and do something different," said Ms. Hoffmeister. "It's enrichment for the students."

The Maryland Arts Council, with Lehigh Portland Cement, also sponsored a workshop for the middle school students last year.

Baltimore artist Monique Goss and 20 students painted a "Save the Earth" mural in the school's cafeteria.

"The program sends artists and poets into the schools to act as consultants," said Ms. Hoffmeister. "Artists work with the kids so the children can get an idea of what it's like to work in the arts."

Ms. Case said her students have been very responsive to their "lessons." "This is sort of an extension of what we have learned, like using figurative language, metaphors and similes," said Ms. Case. "They really seem to enjoy the writing."

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