Tag Archives: poetry

The First day of School – A Slice of Life Story

8 Sep

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“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”

― Joan Didion

I’m thinking that this will be a year full of learning, for my students and for me.

I’m looking forward to a fresh start and new challenges.

I see a lot of work ahead this year, but I am still excited.

I want every kid I see to love learning

I fear I might not achieve that goal.

As I set off to start my 27th year of teaching, I am amazed that I still love it this much and still have so much to learn. Someday, I hope to be as good as Mr. Keating and ask my students with confidence, “What will your verse be?”.

The Halfway Mark

19 Jul

We’ve hit the halfway point in summer.Five weeks of summer vacation have passed, there are only five more to go.

That got me thinking about this A. A. Milne poem I loved as a kid.

Halfway Down

Halfway down the stairs
is a stair
where i sit.
there isn’t any
other stair
quite like
it.
i’m not at the bottom,
i’m not at the top;
so this is the stair
where
I always
stop.

Halfway up the stairs
Isn’t up
And it isn’t down.
It isn’t in the nursery,
It isn’t in town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts
Run round my head.
It isn’t really
Anywhere!
It’s somewhere else
Instead!

It comes from When We Were Very Young a book my Grandma Gillespie gave my sister and I and there is just something about that poem, and the illustration by Ernest Shepard, that spoke to my heart. And still does.

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There is a contentment there, which I am feeling these days. My summer routines are clearly established. My pace of life has slowed “And all sorts of funny thoughts / Run round my head”.

The thing about this second half is that, in about two and a half weeks, I begin going back. I have my first back to school meetings on August 6th and  7th.

But I’m not ready to think too hard about August yet. I’ll just leave you with this.

The Death of the Hat

22 Jun

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The Death of the Hat  is the 4th collaborative anthology by Paul B. Janeczko and Chris Raschka. The book’s title comes from the Billy Collins poem within, which is one of the poems in the final chapter “Contemporary”. For this is a collection of poetry spanning 2000 years. In fact, the full title of the book is The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50  Objects.

All of the poems focus on objects, earthly and celestial. Chris Raschka’s light watercolors give each of them life and help us see what lies beneath the surface of the poets’ words.  The poems come from Rumi, Emily Dickinson, William Wordsworth, Pablo Neruda, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and others less well-known in the West like Cui Tu, Bai Juyi and Basho. Although these poems were not written for children, they are a great way to expose children to the “canon” of poetry.

The book would be useful in any classroom. Kids could write about an object, or create a history of themselves through objects, whether in poetry or in prose.

However you decide to use it, this is an excellent tool for the classroom.

Late nights with the window open #SOL15

10 Mar

I’ve been sleeping with my window open lately because the weather has been so nice. Here is a little poem about the lullaby I hear.

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The sun’s down, the lights are out

And I crawl into my bed

Gentle night sounds

Lull me to sleep

Wind through the leaves

The hum of the distant highway

The doppler clack of shoes on the sidewalk

Car doors, engines

All fading away

until

there

is

nothing.

Poetry in Motion

7 Jan

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The title caught my eye first. What’s a vigilante poet? Well, let me tell you. The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer is a witty story about a group of friends Ethan, our narrator, Luke, Jackson and Elizabeth) who rebel against their school being taken over by a reality TV show called  For Art’s Sake. While studying Ezra Pound in English class, the friends are inspired to write a vigilante long poem and distribute it to the student body, detailing the evils of For Art’s Sake.When Luke becomes a contestant on the show, it’s up to Ethan, his two remaining best friends, and a heroic gerbil named Baconnaise to save their school.

And just for fun, because writing this got me thinking about the Pogues’ EP,  Poguetry in Motion,  I thought I’d share my favorite song from that album, A Rainy Night in Soho.

Poisoned Apples

17 Nov

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Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty  by Christine Heppermann wasn’t quite what I expected. From the little bit I’d read about it, I was under the impression it was a collection of poems based on fairy tales. Well, there are, but not in the way I expected.

Heppermann begins with the premise that all fairy tales are based on a real story. From that point,  she imagines what stories from today might be turned into fairy tales. Voilà!

This is a fantastic collection of  50 poems about modern teenage girls. The cruelties of fairy tales take on new forms.

From the Publisher: Cruelties come not just from wicked stepmothers, but also from ourselves. There are expectations, pressures, judgment, and criticism. Self-doubt and self-confidence. But there are also friends, and sisters, and a whole hell of a lot of power there for the taking. In fifty poems, Christine Heppermann confronts society head on. Using fairy tale characters and tropes, Poisoned Apples explores how girls are taught to think about themselves, their bodies, and their friends. The poems range from contemporary retellings to first-person accounts set within the original tales, and from deadly funny to deadly serious. Complemented throughout with black-and-white photographs from up-and-coming artists, this is a stunning and sophisticated book to be treasured, shared, and paged through again and again.

These are not easy poems to read, but this might be the best collection of poetry I’ve read this year.

Memoir and Memory

26 Sep

In her author’s note at the end of  Brown Girl Dreaming,  Jacqueline Woodson says simply “Memory is strange”.

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And  free verse, a form in which Wooodson is very comfortable, seems to be the perfect vehicle for her memoir. Her voice is so clear in my head and so engaging that I couldn’t put the book down, finishing it in one sitting. The book is tender, heart-breaking and inspirational, full of love, family and place.

Place is almost a character here. Although Woodson was born in Ohio in 1963 and spent much of her youth in South Carolina before her family moved to Brooklyn. Each of these places is beautifully evoked and you can see how each had their influence on the burgeoning writer.

As much is this memoir is about writing, it is the parts about listening I find most interesting. There are a series of short, numbered  haikus throughout the book. As Jacqueline and I  moved through the book together , I noticed how they change.

How to Listen #1

Somewhere in my brain

each laugh, tear and lullaby

becomes a memory

How to Listen #2

In the stores downtown

we’re always followed around

just because we’re brown.

How to Listen #7

Even the silence

has a story to tell you.

Just listen. Listen.

The memoir is full of family stories, and variations of family stories, as in the story of Jacqueline’s birth, that different people remember in different ways.

This is a beautiful book I hope you all take the opportunity to read.

Feathers and ferris wheels

25 Jul

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I always like to support local authors and I recently discovered a new one, Robin Herrera, who has published her first book, Hope is a Ferris Wheel. 

The main character, Star, is a quirky kid. She has recently moved to California from Oregon, lives in a trailer park and has layered blue hair that her classmates call a mullet. To make friends she starts a club. It starts as a Trailer Park Club, but turns into an Emily Dickinson club. I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy this books at first. Star is an odd duck and her life situation is a little depressing. Thank goodness the book is about HOPE because I don;t think I could have finished to without hope. Hope in a happy ending, ope that Star will make friends. One of the real strengths of the book is Star’s relationship with her older sister Winter. Winter has her own set of issues, but she is so supportive of Star I could almost get weepy talking about it.

 The book talks about some tough family issues, so I’m not sure if I would recommend it as a read aloud. There are tough issues, but Star is in 5th grade, making it a tough sell to older kids and a bit mature for some upper elementary readers. However, I believe there are a lot of ways it could be used to encourage kids to write, especially if someone were to read it during a poetry unit. There is the obvious inspiration of Emily Dickinson and specifically her “Hope is the thing with feathers” poem, which really get the club rolling. I had the idea that it would be fun to run an after school  poetry club for kids. Or maybe for teachers. We could all use a little more poetry in our lives.

Hope” is the thing with feathers
by Emily Dickinson
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Poetry Comes Alive

24 Apr

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In honor or today,Poem in Your Pocket Day, I have collected a pocketful of online poetry resources you can use.

1. NaPoWriMo  or National Poetry Writing Month, is an annual project in which participating poets attempt to write a poem a day for the month of April. Although designed for an older audience, there are some daily prompts that can be adapted for younger writers. 

2. Scholastic has some fun resources to use with younger students.

3. Poets.org (The Academy of American Poets) has a page for educators. Activities are suitable for students of all ages.

4. Poetry Out Loud has a downlodable teachers guide and other resources.

5. The BBC also has some great resources.

6. The Poetry Foundation also has tons of resources for teachers.

7. Teachervision has slideshows, printables, activities that connect poetry across the curriculum…..

8. The Poetry Archive has a wealth of information, lesson plans and ideas.

9. The Favorite Poem Project  is dedicated to celebrating, documenting and encouraging poetry’s role in Americans’ lives. It has resources for all levels. 

10. Read Write Think has lesson plans for k-12 teachers.

11. Reading Rockets has videos & lesson ideas suitable for elementary grades.

12. The National Writing Project offers an impressive array of resources to help teachers and students celebrate National Poetry Month, an annual 30-day event that celebrates and promotes the achievement of American poets.

13. You’d expect the NAtional Council of Teachers of English to have some good resources. You can select information based on

14. The NYC Department of Education has lesson  and unit plans you can use.

15.Eductopia provides some online and interactive poetry resources.

16. Education World editors have gathered poetry resources from our archive of lesson plans, activities, projects, articles and Resources.

17. You can learn more about  Verselandia on their blog.

If you have some favorite online  resources, please share them in the comment section below. I will add them to my list.

Here is the booklist from the OASL Regional conference April 26th.

Poems to Learn by Heart 

Leave your Sleep: A Collection of Classic Children’s Poetry

Firefly July

The Crossver by Kwame Alexander

We Go Together by Calef Brown

Your Skeleton is Showing by Kurt Cyrus

The Lightning Dreamer by Margarita Engle

Shiver Me Timbers – Pirate Poems  by Douglas Florian

A Dazzling Display of  Dogs  by Betsy Franco

Dear Hot Dog  by Mordicai Gerstein

I, Too, an America by Langston Hughes

Requiem by Paul B. Janeczko

Poems I Wrote When No One Was Loking by Alan Kurtz

The President’s Stuck in the Bathtub by Susan Katz

Against Butterflies by Ann Lauinger

When Thunder Comes  by J. Patrick Lewis

World Rat Day by J. Patrick Lewis

Cat Talk by patricia MacLachlan

Dizzy in Your Eyes  by Paat Mora

Hi, Koo!  by Jon Muth

How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson

Stardines Swin High Across the Sky by Jack Prelutsky

Bookspeak by Laura Purdie Salas

My Brother’s Book by Maurice Sendak

Swirl by Swirl  by Joyce Sidman

What the Heart Knows  by Joyce Sidman

Follow Follow  by Marilyn Singer

Everyone Out Here Knows  by William Stafford

Digger Dozer Dumper  by Hope Vestergaard

Literally Disturbed  by Ben H. Winters

The Watch that Ends the Night  by Alan Wolf

Pug and Other Animal poems  by Valerie Worth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outside the Box

10 Apr

What do you get when you take a best-selling picture book author’s poems and combine them with a Caldecott winner’s illustrations?

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This is a collection of edgy, affirming, silly, and poignant verse. The book looks like  Shel Silverstein book. I suspect that’s intentional because it is dedicated to him. “The Shel S. , who encouraged every child to play with words, and in doing so, encouraged them to learn how to love, fight, and reach others with words as well”

The poems play with typography, talk about awkward situations, and allow readers to use their imagination. Here are a few samples. Enjoy.

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