Golden Shovel Open Write

I’m hosting today at Open Write. Please visit throughout the day to read the poems of a group of talented teacher writers who truly empower each other with encouragement and positive feedback. If you are an educator – homeschool teacher, retired teacher, instructor in any setting – please join us monthly at the Open Write to read our work or to write with us!

I’m sharing my prompt today for the process of writing Golden Shovel variations here on my blog as well on this day that we set aside to remember the late, great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his leadership in the fight for civil rights. In the past few years, I have accompanied a group of middle school students to Selma, Alabama, where we visited the churches where he spoke. My favorite memory from one of those trips was walking with the students over the Edmund Pettus Bridge as the chorus teacher led the students in singing We Shall Overcome. The spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. lives on, alive and well in our world today. I’m grateful for this day to reflect on his courage and bravery and his legacy of activism.


Multiple Shovels

One of our favorite previous forms to write is the Golden Shovel poem.  Today, let’s try different versions of the Golden Shovel – a Golden Shovel, Double Shovel, or Multiple Shovel.  We can begin with single or double shovels (vertical spine lines at beginning or end, beginning/middle, middle/end, or beginning/end), and later experiment with triple/quadruple/quintuple shovels (vertical lines appearing at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end) once familiar with the Golden Shovel form.  

Process:  Begin by selecting lines of poetry (or lines from a famous speech, perhaps, as we celebrate the accomplishments of and reflect on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today) with the same number of words, and write the lines vertically (I call them spine lines). You can decide whether each spine line fits best as a beginning, middle, or end spine.  Next, craft the lines of a new poem around the spine lines you have selected.

Example:  Here is a Double Golden Shovel that uses spine lines at the beginning and end – comprised of two seven-word sections found in MLK’s “I Have a Dream” Speech: 

When Will One Day Come? (Title chosen by Dr. Wilson Felix Haynes, Jr. – my dad)

I cry for justice ~

have a fight-filled grief that rolls 

a hurtstream of suffering, spilling down

dream in slo-mo, like

that trickle of rushing waters

one from whose wellsprings night and 

day spew forth righteousness

Here is a video of double, triple, and quadruple Golden Shovel variations:

There are multiple shovel poems throughout October 2021 and some in October 2020 that you can find in the search feature as well, although some did not convert from Blogger to WordPress in the correct format.

Here is my first-ever quintuple Golden Shovel poem:

Special thanks to Sarah J. Donovan of for offering the Open Write each month as a safe and supportive space for us to write. I hope to meet many more of my family of writers at this year’s NCTE Conference in Anaheim, where I hope to present Mashed Potato poetry in a roundtable session, showing how even the most reluctant writers can compose poetry without lifting a pencil! Mashed Potato poetry uses a bank of borrowed lines already written on tongue depressors, with lines of poetry on one side and poets and poems on the back. You can see an example here:

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