About Caroline

Caroline Lampinen is a child of the Great Lakes by birth, but an Arkansan at heart. Joining the corps as a 2010 Delta CM, she taught sixth grade literacy in a town of 4,500 and hasn't stopped, but added on a job with the Arkansas Teacher Corps and a masters in Ed Leadership. She loves going on long runs through Delta cotton fields and eating salted caramel pretzel froyo in Little Rock.

4 Poems for Making Your Students Love Poetry

tothisday

April is National Poetry Month, and TeacherPop is celebrating every Friday by featuring four poetry selections from teachers who have participated in Teach For America’s Poet Warriors Project. Interested in getting your class involved? Email for details!

I teach sixth grade in the Arkansas Delta, and have found these four poems to be game-changers in my students’ attitudes about and admiration for poetry. Enjoy!

1. “Touchscreen,” by Marshall Davis Jones

Though a lot of slam poetry covers themes and ideas I just can’t show my tiny 11-year-olds in class, this poem makes all of us laugh out loud and seriously consider how technology influences our daily lives. It never fails to bring a great conversation about cell phones, and students always have plenty to say about how much body language and tone impact the message of a poem.

By |April 25th, 2014|Your Stories|Comments Off on 4 Poems for Making Your Students Love Poetry|

Relationships: How To Understand and Respond To Community Context

The sun sets over a set of "Big Eyes"...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’re anything like me, when you first heard “community context”, you were a bit overwhelmed. Keeping humility in mind, and not wanting to treat our new towns like zoos, we’re cautious to go prying into new things, asking questions and being amazed at daily life.

But it’s not like that at all.

By |September 17th, 2012|Teaching Tips|1 Comment|

Peer-to-Peer Relationships Give This First-Year Horror Story a Happy Ending

(Photo: Teach For America)

A first-year horror story: A group of sixth-grade girls, all in my fifth period: boisterous, conniving, and full of energy. Always. Because they were smart (smart enough to steal literally a crate of notebooks; smart enough to “go to the nurse” for five minutes every day for sixth months… when the nurse was off campus). I didn’t push them nearly enough, if at all, so they took to amusing themselves in my class.

One girl fed into the next, and it became a circus. The kids with more self-restraint would peer up at me from do nows, essays, quizzes, and tests; all sympathy for this new young teacher, but irritated as all get out by my refusal to contain these children. I could have an entirely beautiful day for four solid periods, but without fail at least once a week I would close my eyes and immediately dissolve in tears.

How did the pack of girls grow to scream my name and wrap their arms around my neck at every home football and basketball game after they graduated 6th grade? Let me tell you:

By |August 20th, 2012|Your Stories|16 Comments|

The Thing We’ll Never Admit Out Loud

Embrace your vulnerability and feel less alone.

We like to brand ourselves as transformational, as change-makers, as the best and brightest. We enter the profession with huge hearts, high expectations, and blind faith that we will be what we know we can be if we just work hard enough.

We know, with work, that we are successful; we are smart; we are problem-solvers; we are catalysts; we are humble; we are young (usually); we are enthusiastic; we are capable, capable, capable; we are unique; we bring something to the table that our district might not have yet.

We also know, but don’t talk about too publicly, that we are terrified; we are ignorant; we have no idea what we are doing; we are in dire need of help all of the time; we are not sure we should be responsible for children; we are unclear of how and where to fit; we are overwhelmed; we are socially and professionally awkward in our new roles; we are scared of big goals; we are under huge amounts of pressure; we are unsure of how we feel about the massive organization we are now a part of, that we now represent every day.

Advice: Find your surrogate Institute

Sparkler

Find your fire this summer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s summer. You’re in Arkansas; it’s hot. Trucks spray something awful to ward off mosquitos when you try to fit in a run at 10pm. The sun sets later than it did in December, and it throws you off. You stay up until 12:49am reading commencement speeches from Wendy Kopp and writing haikus to paste on 2012 corps members doors at 6 in the morning.

Oh, you don’t? That’s just me?

If you’ve forgotten: Institute is — no, Institute does. It buzzes. It vibrates. It shakes, screams, weeps with energy.

I know there are plenty of people that don’t buy into it. Too busy wearing their cool hats and arguin’ all fancy about the failures and inevitably-arguable-non-evidence of student achievement. Are we narrowing or widening? Helping or harming?

Here’s my bottom line: we’re inspiring.

By |June 13th, 2012|Teaching Tips|1 Comment|

Take note.

Writing

 (Photo credit: jjpacres)

“What are we doing?! Why do we need to be Confident Communicators?!”

Knees bobbing me up and down, fingers wiggling into jazz hands, these are questions I pry out of my sixth graders as often as I can, desperately pulling meaning from my Language Arts objectives to my rural Arkansan students’ lives. Their hands sometimes shoot straight up and imitate my enthusiasm, sometimes elbows linger just above desks with lazy fingers curled at ear-level, too cool for enthusiasm but still ready to answer:

“…to get to seventh grade.”
“…to earn scholarships.”
“…to pass the state test.”
“…to convince people to believe what I think.”

Why, then, are they writing science brochures without punctuation? Why are their reading journals written in fragments? Why were their Black History reports entirely plagiarized from Wikipedia?! What happened to my student authors in the ten minutes between describing the difference between paycheck versus text-talk in my class, and writing about biomes down the hall?

Lemme tell ya:

The expectation that these students are thoughtful, academic authors … it disappeared. And thus:

To my much more skilled math teachers, science teachers, music, art, business, history, everything teachers: Help me out! Help your kids out! In whatever context you teach, please don’t forget you teach writing.

Yes, writing.

At Institute, we (hopefully) learned that we are all literacy teachers. Too often, even for ELA teachers, we interpret this as, “I’ve gotta make my kids read.” Yes, yes you do have to do that, but you also have the responsibility to enforce not just coherent, but grade-appropriate writing.

WRITING!

Our kids can have all the information in the universe stashed in their good-looking brains, but if they can’t express it in an academically sound manner, who will take them seriously? Will it count?

My existence on TeacherPop is to push all teachers to acknowledge and take action as a writing teacher. Stories, tips, student exemplars, research and quick fixes that will (hopefully!) transcend grade level and content area will come spilling across this blog. My meager expertise stems from two (entering three) years teaching sixth grade Language Arts (read: writing only), teaching a course on teaching writing, my current position as an ELA CMA at the Delta Institute, and my 2012-13 role as an ELA learning team leader in the Delta region’s professional development.

Let’s get to the real cheese:

Your kids have a voice. Time to show them how to use it.