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A teacher educator discusses children's literature and issues related to teaching children and their future teachers.
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1. Poetry Friday - The Gray of Day

I've been reading some terrific new poetry books this week, so today I'm sharing a lovely poem from the book EVERYTHING IS A POEM: THE BEST OF J. PATRICK LEWIS.

The Gray of Day

Shy Evening paints all heaven gray,
Erasing blue from balmy Day,

Uncolors brute box elders, oaks,
And elms with even, gentle strokes,

Then finds the houses, whereupon
She dabs her brush ... their lights come on

As if two dozen stars fell down
To twinkle life into the town.

But Evening's easel leaves undone
One mischief streak of western Sun

To grace the masterpiece she drew—
Still Live: An Evening's Point of View

Till he robs her of fading light,
That thief of art, black-hearted Night.

Poem ©J. Patrick Lewis. All rights reserved.


I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Renée LaTulippe at No Water River. Happy poetry Friday friends!

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2. Monday Poetry Stretch - Polysemantic words

I'm always inspired and a bit in awe when I read a poem that uses the same word in multiple ways. I often wish I were this clever. However, I've begun to think that like many things, getting better is a matter of practice.

Polysemantic words are words that have multiple, diverse meanings. I often share these words in math and science to highlight just how confusing content vocabulary can be for students. Think about the word scale. Scale can be:
  • an instrument used to measure weight or mass
  • the outer covering on a reptile or fish
  • a proportion between two sets of dimensions
  • a series of musical tones in ascending or descending order
  • the act of climbing 
I'm sure you can think of many words that have multiple meanings. Your challenge this week is to pick a polysemantic word and use it in multiple ways in a poem of any form. I hope you will join me. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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3. Elementary School Homework and Reading in Math and Science

Yesterday I read a post by Donalyn Miller entitled No More Language Arts and Crafts. It struck a chord with me as I thought about how we try to motivate kids to read, and all the ways we get it wrong.

First, let me respond to this by telling you about a little rant I usually end up making during the first weeks of the semester. It generally occurs when I teach students how to write lesson plans and we get to the section labeled homework. I've seen a lot of bad homework over the years, as a parent and a teacher educator reading lesson plans. It seems that no one really thinks about why we give homework. What purpose does it serve? How does it advance what you're doing in the classroom? Is it absolutely necessary? Homework should be given because it is beneficial to student learning, and not because it's "school policy."

There has been a lot of research done on the effects of homework. One of the best introductions to this is the Educational Leadership piece The Case For and Against Homework.

I do tell my students (future teachers) that I think a worksheet with 25 problems is a terrible idea for math homework. I would rather see students solve one good problem and explain how they did it than use rote skills to complete a series of problems that doesn't do much to engage their brains. Also, too many teachers assign homework as practice long before students are ready to tackle the problems on their own.

Ultimately, my suggestion for elementary school homework is "Read, play, and puzzle."
Read - Reading for homework is a no-brainer, and EVERYTHING and ANYTHING should count. How can we ever hope to build stamina if kids don't sit and read? Kids should be read to and read on their own. Please don't tell me that wordless picture books and graphic novels don't count. You won't convince me that reading David Wiesner's wordless book Flotsam is any less challenging or engaging than a "traditional" picture book with words. Or that the graphic novel The Great American Dust Bowl by Don Brown isn't a masterpiece of history and science, weaving together sourced facts in an accurate historical narrative. 
Play - Kids weren't meant to sit in a chair all day long. They need time to run, play, imagine, create, and do all kinds of things the curriculum doesn't allow them to do. When kids get home from school the first order of business shouldn't be homework. They should be allowed to run and play outside, ride a bike, walk the dog, catch frogs (if they do that sort of thing), climb trees, and more. They should build with LEGO and GoldiBlox, draw pictures, build train track, topple dominoes, play board games, and more. Play is just as important as structured learning, and kids don't get enough of it today.  
Puzzle - When was the last time you sat down to solve a puzzle and did it for fun? I do this all the time. Sudoku, crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, logic problems, tangrams ... I could go on. Puzzles are good for the brain. They develop critical thinking and problem solving skills. They teach kids to persevere, guess and check, collaborate with others, and try a whole host of new strategies. Can you think of a better training ground for mathematical thinking than puzzling? Now imagine if your teacher encouraged you to do this for homework. 

Let me bring this back to reading and how we document what kids do. When I taught middle school science I had a large classroom library. Most of the books were nonfiction of the Eyewitness variety, though I had a lot of books by Patricia Lauber and Seymour Simon. Every Friday one class of kids went home with a book from my library. EVERY KID. There were not reading logs, no book report forms, no AR tests. The books came back on Thursday and each child gave a quick book talk. These were informal. We sat in a circle, they held up their books, gave the title and author, and then gave a general overview and one cool thing they learned. Each student was given one minute. The hardest part of the assignment? Cutting kids off at the one-minute mark so everyone had a chance to speak. I only lost two books in the three years I did this. Kids didn't forget to bring them back. They often wanted to keep books longer than the week. And you know what? THEY WANTED TO READ. The bonus for me was that they were learning a lot of science on their own and from their peers. During the week they had their books there were lots of side conversations about what they were reading.

Isn't this what we want? Kids excited about reading and what they are learning? Yes, I think so.

I've been working on a series of "homework" bags to share with my classes. The math bags contain a book and a game (with all the materials and directions to play). Homework is reading and play. The beauty is that the play is mathematically oriented, so kids are practicing and reinforcing basic skills. The science bags contain a pair of linked books, usually a nonfiction or poetry title with a picture book. For example, one bag pairs a copy of the book An Island Grows by Lola Schaefer with the book Volcano Rising by Elizabeth Rusch. Where I can include cheap materials and activity ideas, I may just do that. 

Ultimately, I don't want reading or homework to be a chore. I want kids to be engaged and thinking. I don't believe homework should be given out per some classroom policy, but should be thoughtfully devised and intentionally planned. If we do this, it will make a difference.

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4. Monday Poetry Stretch - Labor

Sorry I missed you last week, but with the start of the semester here, things got a bit crazy.

Yesterday during morning mass and the Prayers of the Faithful we prayed for those who labor and wish to do so. I thought a lot about that over the course of the day and realized how very lucky I am to not only be employed, but to be engaged in work that (for the most part!) love to do.

So, this is not very inspired on this day, but I want to write about work and labors of love. I hope you will join me. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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5. Monday Poetry Stretch - Joy

This weekend I watched my niece get married. I'm a bit shocked that time has passed so quickly and that we've all aged (some more gracefully than others). There were lots of smiles this weekend, a great deal of happiness, and a whole lot of joy.

What makes you happy or joyful? Let's write about that this week. I hope you will join me. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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6. Monday Poetry Stretch - The Kitchen

I had planned to write to form again this week, but I found myself thinking quite a lot of my mother this weekend, and nearly every memory was of her in the kitchen.

As a child I hated chores in the kitchen, particularly drying the dishes, but these are some of the times with my mom I remember most fondly. She always washed. I dried and put dishes away. I can still see her the ceramic elephant on the windowsill, trunk raised and holding her rings while she plunged her hands into very hot soapy water to scrub the pots and pans. That elephant sits on my kitchen windowsill now.

Perhaps my fondest memory of my mom standing with her back against the oven, waiting for it to warm her in the cold of winter. I wasn't tall enough to reap such benefits, but can remember putting my hand on her back and feeling just how toasty she'd gotten.

So, your challenge for this week is to write a poem set in the kitchen. I hope you will join me. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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7. Poetry Friday - Of Modern Books

I'm especially fond of the pantoum as a poetic form. Here is a lovely example.

Of Modern Books
by Carolyn Wells

               (A Pantoum)

Of making many books there is no end,
   Though myriads have to deep oblivion gone;
Each day new manuscripts are being penned,
   And still the ceaseless tide of ink flows on.

Though myriads have to deep oblivion gone,
   New volumes daily issue from the press;
And still the ceaseless tide of ink flows on—
   The prospect is disheartening, I confess.

Read the poem in its entirety.


I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by by Mary Lee at A Year of Reading. Happy poetry Friday friends!

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8. Monday Poetry Stretch - Macaronic Verse

Back in 2011 we wrote poems in the form of macaronic verse. It's been a long time, so this seems like a good time to revisit the form. The Handbook of Poetic Forms defines macaronic verse in this fashion.
Macaronic verse is a peculiar, rare and often comic form of poetry that sometimes borders on nonsense. It is a mixture of two (or more) languages in a poem, in which the poet usually subjects one language to the grammatical laws of another to make people laugh.
Poetry Base describes macaronic verse this way.
The definition is a poem in a mixture of two languages, one of them preferably Latin. Usually the mixture of languages is a bit absurd. The word of one language may be terminated with common endings in the other.
So, your challenge for this week is to write a poem that uses more than one language. I hope you will join me this week in writing macaronic verse. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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9. Poetry Friday - The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls

It's been one week since posting a poem about the sand, and I'm still dreaming of the sea.

The Tide Rises, the Tide Falls
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The tide rises, the tide falls,
The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;
Along the sea-sands damp and brown
The traveller hastens toward the town,
      And the tide rises, the tide falls.

Darkness settles on roofs and walls,
But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls;
The little waves, with their soft, white hands,
Efface the footprints in the sands,
      And the tide rises, the tide falls.

The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls
Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;
The day returns, but nevermore
Returns the traveller to the shore,
      And the tide rises, the tide falls.



I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong at Poetry for Children. Happy poetry Friday friends!

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10. Monday Poetry Stretch - Mask/Persona Poem

In my Poetry Friday post I shared a poem from the book DOGS AND DRAGONS, TREES AND DREAMS by Karla Kuskin.

Published in 1980, Kuskin wrote:
An Introduction Children May Feel Free To IgnoreThe double purpose of this introduction is to bring together poems I wrote for children between 1958 and 1975 and to discuss the process of introducing poetry to children.
Throughout the book the poems are prefaced with insights into the nature of reading, writing, and appreciating poetry. Here's an example.
As you read a poem aloud listen to the sounds of the words. They have infinite variety. There are short, brittle sounds, soft rolling sounds, stuttering sounds and the sibilance of many s's, long liquid sounds flowing with o's. In some poems there is not so much sense as sound.
Near the end of the book Kuskin shares a number of mask or persona poems. The preface to this collection reads:
The following five poems do not have titles. As you read each poem you will figure out what it is describing. Each one tells how it would feel to be something other than yourself.
I've read a lot of descriptions of mask poems. I think I like this one best. Here's one of the poems she shared.

If you,
Like me,
Were made of fur
And sun warmed you,
Like me,
You'd purr.

You can read more about persona poems (and teaching them) at the Poetry Foundation.

I hope you will join me this week in writing a mask/persona poem. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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11. Poetry Friday - Sitting in the Sand

Last week I left Virginia and made the long road trip to NY. Ten+ hours in a car is not my idea of fun. However, getting home is always lovely. I had a nice visit with my mother, who happens to be celebrating her 85th birthday today, and my brother and his family. I drove home earlier this week in what at times were torrential downpours.

My trips to western NY always include a trip to Lake Ontario to walk on the pier. I take my mother with me and push her in her wheelchair. These walks are quite nostalgic, as she tells me all about growing up in the town of Summerville on the lake.

I'll be heading back in a month for my niece's wedding, which means I probably won't see the ocean this summer unless I take time off to make a day trip. Just like my visits to the lake, I find so much peace and comfort in the water.

Today I'm sharing a poem from a book I found last week in a library discard pile. That book is DOGS AND DRAGONS, TREES AND DREAMS by Karla Kuskin.


Sitting in the Sand
by Karla Kuskin

Sitting in the sand and the sea comes up
So you put your hands together
And you use them like a cup
And you dip them in the water
With a scooping kind of motion
And before the sea goes out again
You have a sip of ocean.

I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference. Happy poetry Friday friends.

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12. Monday Poetry Stretch - Faith and Hope

I love the poems that were shared as part of last week's stretch to write about America. I understand the sentiments of both pride and disappointment. What came out in some of the comments and conversations I had afterwards is that even though we are discouraged, we have not lost hope.

A few years back when I traveled to China, I decided to get a tattoo to commemorate my trip. I knew exactly what I wanted. This is my tattoo.


Traditionally, Chinese characters were read from top to bottom and right to left. However, in modern times the western approach to reading from left to right and top to bottom is often used. Read in this fashion, the characters represent faith, hope, and love. Some days it's particularly hard to keep the faith and have hope. Whenever I forget this I need only look in the mirror, my tattoo a gentle reminder to press on. 

This seems like the moment to write about faith, hope, or both.  I do hope you will join me this week. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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13. Monday Poetry Stretch - America Is ...

Last week my Thursday class focused on using primary sources, interpreting documents and analyzing art and photographs. We also looked at the book THE ART OF FREEDOM: HOW ARTISTS SEE AMERICA, by Bob Raczka. Using very simple text and art from the likes of Georgia O'Keefe, Thomas Hart Benton, John Trumbull, Stuart Davis, and more, Raczka provides an introduction to the things that make us American. In pictures and words America is depicted as hard work, jazz, baseball, freedom, and more.

This book got me thinking about the stretch this week. Since the 4th of July is Friday, this seems like a perfect time to write about what America is.  I hope you will join me in writing about America this week. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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14. Poetry Friday - Wildflowers

At the end of each week I head to church to practice the music I'll be singing on Sunday morning. I could probably lead most of these songs in my sleep, but I feel better about croaking out songs at 8:30 on Sunday morning when I've had a bit of rehearsal.

This time of year my favorite thing about visiting the church is Father George's garden. Right now it is filled with gorgeous wildflowers. Seeing them today reminded me of this poem.

Wildflowers
by Reginald Gibbons

Coleridge carefully wrote down a whole page  
of them, all beginning with the letter b.  
Guidebooks preserve our knowledge
of their hues and shapes, their breeding.

Read the poem in its entirety.


I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Buffy Silverman at Buffy's Blog. Happy poetry Friday friends.

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15. Monday Poetry Stretch - Quiet

Over the weekend I was reading excerpts from the essays of Alfred Brendel on music and came across a notion that has stuck with me.

"The word 'listen' contains the same letters as the word 'silent'."
It seems so obvious and simple really, but silence is so important. The silence in music often conveys as much as the notes. It is in the silence that I do my best thinking, best writing, and best observing. I also can't help but think this is important to convey in the classroom as I teach kids how to speak with others and to actively listen.

So, silence seems like a good topic for writing this week. I hope you will join me in writing about quiet this week. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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16. Tuesday Poetry Stretch - Collections

Late again, I am. I spent the day yesterday cleaning house with my son. It's an end of the school year tradition. He goes through his books, "toys" (he's 13 now, so apparently I can't call them toys any longer) and other materials he's collected over the course of the year and offers them up for donation. A large box of books is going to teacher friends, the rest have gone to Freecycle.

I've done a lot of cleaning out over the last year, first as we downsized my mother to a 190 square foot room in a nursing home, and just recently as we've downsized my in-laws from a 3000+ square foot home to a retirement cottage of just over 1400 square feet. All this downsizing has made me realize how much "stuff" I have that I don't need. As hard as it is to let go of things, this "stuff" does not make my life. There is much I can and will gladly give away, but the collections? Now this is where I have difficulty.

  • I have a hefty stamp collection, but I have taken it to my office and now use it in my teaching. 
  • I have been collecting teapots (individual sizes) since my college days. I use one or two, but the rest sit on a shelf where I love to look at them. 
  • I have a large collection of of pottery I use in the kitchen. Most of these dishes only see the light of day a few times a year, but again, I have glass-front cabinets and love to see them.
  • My largest collection of items is books, and books I just can't bear to part with.
Do you have a collection? If it could talk, what would it say? What would you say about it? Let's write about collections this week. I hope you will join us. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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17. Monday Poetry Stretch - Book Spine Poems

Back in April, Travis over at 100 Scope Notes sponsored a gallery of book spine poems. He's been doing this since 2010, so if you check out this year's gallery, you can also explore poems from other years. Book spine poems are the equivalent of visual centos. You take someone else's words and arrange them to make something new.

This morning while re-shelving books from last week's classes, a few titles jumped out at me. I suppose you could say my books goaded me into the stretch this week. Here are my poems.


Black stars in a white night sky
light and shadow
a million dots
tap dancing on the roof
where I live


Outside your window
a whiff of pine, a hint of skunk
one leaf rides the wind.
In November,
forest has a song

With the exception of A MILLION DOTS, all of these are poetry books.

I hope you'll join me in perusing your shelves and creating a book spine poem this week. I don't think you can leave a photo in the comments, so please share a link to your poem.

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18. My Ardent Thanks

In introducing my Poetry Friday post on Sorrow, Diane Mayr wrote "Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect is back. She's been having a difficult month and so, she's posting a poem called "Sorrow." Since a shared sorrow is a sorrow halved, then by the end of the day, her readers should have her back on the joy track."

Many of you dropped by to offer offer words of wisdom, virtual hugs, and kind thoughts.

Diane wrote "Embrace the sadness for without it, you can't appreciate the happy times."

Tanita left me this lovely poem.

Still Morning
by W.S. Merwin

It appears now that there is only one
age and it knows
nothing of age as the flying birds know
nothing of the air they are flying through
or of the day that bears them up
through themselves
and I am a child before there are words
arms are holding me up in a shadow
voices murmur in a shadow
as I watch one patch of sunlight moving
across the green carpet
in a building
gone long ago and all the voices
silent and each word they said in that time
silent now
while I go on seeing that patch of sunlight

Mary Lee reminded me why I love Poetry Friday and the Kidlitosphere so much when she wrote "I am thankful to be part of a community where you could lay it before us (along with a poem) and allow us to gather round you, hold you up, help you move on."

Margaret Simon wrote "Sorrow is like a ceaseless rain, but when it is through, the sun shines and the flowers bloom and we see life anew. That is my hope for you."

Laura wrote "We all have seasons of loss—times of year when anniversaries and birthdays of those we've lost make us sad. Millay's poem captures that slowed-down feeling that comes with grief. Sending you a virtual hug.

There were many more lovely messages shared through e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter. Your support has broken through the clouds and allowed the sun to shine through. I can't thank you enough for that. The next time I need some cheering up, I will return to this post to soak up the kindness.

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19. Science Poetry Pairings - All Things Science

Alas, it is the 30th of April and National Poetry Month is coming to a close. I've enjoyed pulling books from my shelves and sharing them with you. Originally my intent was to tackle a subject area each week, but when I realized that I had more science than I knew what to do with, I decided to stick with a theme that is near and dear to my heart.

Today I'm going to share the Poetry Friday Anthology for Science and some final ideas about authors and books every teacher should have in his/her classroom, or should at least know about. If you haven't made friends with your school or local children's librarian, please do! Librarians are invaluable resources in helping you find good books for instruction.

Poetry Book
The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science, compiled by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, is a collection of 218 poems by 78 different poets. In the acknowledgements (p. 303) the authors have this to say about science and poetry.
... For generations, poets have been observing nature, exploring the physical world, and asking questions about the universe. 
It shouldn't be surprising that poetry has a lot to offer the sciences. In fact, astrophysicist Adam Frank revealed, "Poems and poetry are, for me, a deep form of knowing, just like science . . . each, in its way, is a way to understand the world." Poets and scientists both seek to observe, explain, and understand the world around them.
You'll find 36 weeks of poems for every grade from K-5. That's means there are 216 grade level poems, bookended by opening and closing poems for everyone. Every grade level poem is accompanied by a Take 5! box containing teaching tips and ideas. Here's an example.
Imagine Small
by Eileen Spinelli
Imagine something very small:
a rubber duck, a pin-pong ball.
Imagine something smaller yet:
a pebble or a violet.
Go smaller now: a silver bead,
a baby's tooth, a pumpkin seed.
Keep going—
freckle, flea, or gnat,
a speck of dander from the cate.
Imagine that.
And then imagine this—so cool!—
a teeny-tiny molecule.
So teeny-tiny you and I
can't see it with the naked eye.
To think of it gives me a chill.
But there is something smaller still:
the atom!
Billions fit in a fleck of foam
or on the dot at the end of this poem.
Billions.
Poem ©Eileen Spinelli. All rights reserved.

The Take 5! box that accompanies this poem begins with this idea.
  1. Before sharing this poem, invite students to close their eyes and imagine the smallest thing they can think of. Then read this poem aloud, pausing before each stanza for added effect.
In addition to a wealth of poems and teaching tips, you'll also find information on reading poetry aloud, building your own poetry library, children's poetry websites and blogs, websites to support science learning, a science glossary, and much more. If you haven't used poetry in teaching science before now, this is the book to get you started.

Authors and Series You Should Know
When I began teaching science in the laste 80s, my classroom library was filled with books by Patricia Lauber, Seymour Simon and Franklyn Branley. The Magic School Bus series had just been born, Eyewitness books were popping up all over, Vicki Cobb was writing fun and engaging hands-on activity books for kids, and the Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science series was regularly adding new titles. 

We are fortunate today that there are MANY terrific authors and illustrators/photographers of incredible nonfiction science books for kids. I've had the pleasure of sharing many with you over the course of this month. Here are the authors I recommend to my preservice teachers, and whose books I drag with me into the elementary classrooms that are kind enough to have me. 

I wish I had time to write some words about each of these talented folks, but instead I've linked to their web sites where possible. Not wanting to show any favoritism, I've listed them alphabetically.
And here are a few series that are not to be missed. 
If I've missed a terrific author or series, please let me know so I can them to the list.

I hope you've enjoyed exploring science and poetry with me this month. My goal is to post once a week about some other perfect pairing of poetry and nonfiction picture books. For now, however, I take my leave to grade exams and final projects as I wrap up my 20th year at the University. Thanks to everyone who's stopped by to visit this month. I've enjoyed having you.

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20. National Poetry Month - Recap and Reflections

It's hard to believe that National Poetry Month is over. Like others who bemoan the fact that we trot out certain subjects and peoples for monthly celebrations instead of making them part of the fabric of our lives and teaching throughout the year, I have mixed feelings about a month devoted to poetry. While I am appreciative that it exists and that it generally compels teachers and others to pay attention, I want more for poetry. More reading, more writing, more consideration beyond the 30 days in April. I hope that through my poetry pairings teachers will find poetry creeping into the classroom all year round.

Here's a recap of the month with links to the topics presented and a few reflections thrown in.
  1. Darwin and the Galapagos - I'm mortified that I failed to include Jason Chin's amazing book ISLAND: A STORY OF THE GALAPAGOS. I may just go back and add it so that the post becomes a book trio.
  2. Frogs and Toads
  3. Nature of Science
  4. Volcanoes
  5. Going Green
  6. Dinosaurs - In many states dinosaurs are not part of the elementary curriculum. I probably should have mentioned that in my post. However, in the last revision of our state standards, a standard was added to second grade that read "fossils provide information about living systems that were on Earth years ago." That works for me!
  7. Birds - I could have easily created two posts (or more!) featuring birds. Next time around I'll be sure to include the books BEAKS! by Sneed Collard III and FEATHERS: NOT JUST FOR FLYING by Melissa Stewart.
  8. Nocturnal Animals
  9. Food Chains
  10. The Ocean
  11. Animal Senses
  12. Animal Dads
  13. The Moon - This post included two books of poetry and one nonfiction title. This is another topic that could have garnered two posts. I wish I had done this so that I could have included a book about space exploration, like IF YOU DECIDE TO GO TO THE MOON by Faith McNulty, or ASTRONAUT HANDBOOK by Meghan McCarthy. I also failed to include Gail Gibbons and THE MOON BOOK
  14. Extinction
  15. Butterflies - I'm very happy with the nonfiction titles I chose for this one, but I was remiss in not including Nic Bishop's book BUTTERFLIES AND MOTHS.
  16. Bugs - Do you have any idea how many poetry books there are about bugs? LOTS! This topic also could have encompassed two posts. My son was upset I didn't include his favorite, ULTIMATE BUGOPEDIA: THE MOST COMPLETE BUG REFERENCE EVER from National Geographic Kids.
  17. Seasons
  18. Animal Collectives
  19. Forests
  20. Rain
  21. African Animals
  22. Animal Homes
  23. The Human Body - Steve Jenkins already had a number of books in my pairings by the time I wrote this one, but I should have included his work BONES: SKELETONS AND HOW THEY WORK.
  24. Geography
  25. Camouflage
  26. Museums
  27. Water
  28. Water (Again!)
  29. Assorted Science In Poem and Verse
  30. All Things Science
I wish I had written posts on trees (not to be confused with forests!), deserts, inventions, and numbers. 

Despite that fact that I always feel like I can do better, reflecting on the month and recapping has taught me that there is much ground left to cover. I look forward to exploring it with you.

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21. Poetry Friday - A Rainy Day

We've had our fair share of rain this week. My apologies to all my friends in California. If I could send it all to you, I would.

Here's are two poem for these wet days. Both come from Eve Merriam's book A Poem for a Pickle: Funnybone Verses.

A Rainy Day
by Eve Merriam

No balls are batted,
dog's fur is matted,
crossing guard is rubber-hatted,
sidewalk is splatted,
hair curl is flatted,
quarrels are spatted,
scraggly cat is scatted,
dampness is dratted.


Light Rain, a Downpour,
and Pigeons Feasting on Crumbs
from a Picnic in the Park
by Eve Merriam


Pitter patter,
splitter splatter,
skitter scatter.


I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Katya at Write.Sketch.Repeat. Happy poetry Friday friends.

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22. Monday Poetry Stretch - Diminishing Rhyme

I am still working my way through The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises From Poets Who Teach, jotting ideas in one of the many journals I have tucked away. This week I want to try an exercise from this book entitled Emotion/Motion/Ocean/Shun. Here's what Susan Mitchell writes:
If you read the title of this exercise aloud, you will hear a quadruple rhyme. But if you examine the words themselves, you will notice that there is something special about this rhyme scheme. The sound shun is contained in ocean, the sounds of both shun and ocean in motion, and shunocean and motion can all be folded into emotion. Such a rhyme scheme, which incidentally was favored by the seventeenth-century poet George Herbert, is called diminishing rhyme because the rhyme words get smaller as you move from emotion to shun. But I prefer the term nesting rhymes because the words nest one inside the other like Russian wooden dolls.
Here is an example of this form from the George Herbert poem "Paradise".
I bless Thee, Lord, because I grow
Among the trees, which in a row
To Thee both fruit and order ow 
Read the poem in its entirety
So, that's it. Your challenge is to write a poem that uses diminishing rhyme. Won't you join us? Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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23. Biographical Poetry Pairings - César Chavez

In 2008 the state of Virginia added Cesar Chavez to the standards for history and social science in third grade. Under the heading of civics instruction students learn about the importance of the basic principles of democracy and identify the contributions of selected individuals.  Chavez was added to a list that already included George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall, and Martin Luther King, Jr.. As this list is meant to expose children to people who worked to defend the basic principles that form the foundation of our government, I was thrilled when he was added.

If you don't know much about Chavez, here's a quick video introduction.

Today's pairing offers a glimpse into the life and work of Cesar Chavez.

Poetry Book
César: ¡, Se Puede! Yes We Can, written by Carmen Bernier-Grand and illustrated by David Diaz, is a biography written in a series of 19 free verse poems. It is one of the most comprehensive and moving biographies of the man I have ever read. What is different about this work is that it does not shy away from the difficulties and injustices he faced in his life. Instead, his life story is told head on, shining a spotlight on the good and bad times. It begins not with his birth, but a poem that wonders at what and who he would become. From here the poems describe his name, his dad, his mom, happy moments of childhood, the Depression, the constant moving, working the fields, schooling, losing the family ranch, the farm workers' struggles, organizing the workers, his death, and much more.

Here is the poem that opens the book.
Who Could Tell?
¡Hijole!
Who could tell?
Who could tell
that Cesario Estrada Chavez,
the shy American
wearing a checkered shirt,
walking with a can to ease his back
from the burden of the fields,
could organize so many people
to march for La Causa, The Cause?
Who could tell
that he with a soft pan dulce voice,
hair the color of mesquite,
and downcast, Aztec eyes,
would have the courage to speak up
for the campesinosto get better pay,
better housing,
better health?
¡Hijole!
Who could tell?
Here is one of my favorite poems from the book.
Crooked Lines

"God has written in exceedingly
crooked lines."

What made César follow
Father McDonnell
from camp to camp
and Mass to Mass?

What made Father McDonnell
give César the teachings and prayers
of Saint Francis of Assisi:
"Lord, make me an instrument
of your peace"?

Why did a book about Saint Francis
mention Mahatma Gandhi,
a man of peace who won many battles
against injustices in India?

Why did César talk
to Father McDonnell
about his passion for peaceful change
and the leadership hidden deep
inside him?

What made Father McDonnell
send Fred Ross, from the
Community Service Organization,
to see César?

God's crooked lines.
Poems ©Carmen Bernier-Grand. All rights reserved.

The back matter is extensive and includes a section of notes, a glossary of Spanish terms used in the poems, a short synopsis of Chávez's life, a brief chronology, the author's sources, and a collection of Chávez's quotes. On the back jacket of the book readers will find Chavez's core values. They were: service to others, sacrifice, a preference to help the most needy, determination, nonviolence, acceptance of all people, respect for life and environment, community, knowledge, and innovation.

Nonfiction Picture Book
Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez, written by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by Yuyi Morales, is a biography of Chavez that focuses on the impact of his early years, his work in the fields and organizing the workers, and efforts to sign the first contract for farmworkers. Krull shares both the highs and lows of his life, painting his as a kind and patient man who worked tirelessly on behalf of others. Here is an excerpt from his youth.
Cesar swallowed his bitter homesickness and worked alongside his family. He was small and not very strong, but still a fierce worker. Nearly every crop caused torment. Yanking out beets broke the skin between his thumb and index finger. Grapevines sprayed with bug-killing chemicals made his eyes sting and his lungs wheeze. Lettuce had to the be the worst. Thinning lettuce all day with a short-handled hoe would make hot spasms shoot through his back. Farm chores on someone else's farm instead of his own felt like a form of slavery.
As Cesar grew older and began to work on behalf of the farmworkers, he organized them and supported a nonviolent approach. Here is another excerpt.
In a fight for justice, he told everyone, truth was a better weapon than violence. "Nonviolence," he said, "takes more guts." It meant using imagination to find ways to overcome powerlessness. 
More and more people listened. 
One night, 150 people poured into an old abandoned theater in Fresno. At this first meeting of the National Farm Workers Association, Cesar unveiled its flag—a bold black eagle, the sacred bird of the Aztec Indians.
La Causa—The Cause—was born. 
Text ©Kathleen Krull. All rights reserved.

While the book ends with the signing of the first contract for farm workers, there was still much work to be done. Krull shares some of the highlights of Chavez's continued work in an Author's Note. 

The Art
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the art in these two books. Both of these illustrators, David Diaz and Yuyi Morales, have earned medals and been honored by the The Pura Belpré Award. This award is "presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth."  HARVESTING HOPE was an honor book for illustration in 2004, while CÉSAR: ¡SÍ, SE PUEDE! YES WE CAN was an honor book for illustration in 2006. While different in style, they are both gorgeous accompaniments to the stories of Chavez.

Perfect Together
There are a number of other good biographies written for children about Chavez. These two are my favorites, in part because the illustrations are so highly reflective of the culture they represent. I also think the two pair nicely in that a number of the poems match times in the life of Chavez highlighted by Krull.

For additional resources, consider these sites.

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24. Poetry Friday - Sorrow

I've been away for a few weeks, not a surprising turn at the end of the semester. When I come down from the high of April and posting on poetry every day, I am always faced with finals, graduation, and wrapping up the academic year.

However, it's not just the end of school that puts me in a gray place each May. On May 5th I remember my father on his birthday, and again on May 7th, the anniversary of his death. This year marked 5 years without him. On May 10th I marked what would have been my parent's 62nd wedding anniversary. All of these dates are closely followed by graduation, an event celebrated here at UR on Mother's day.

This year was especially difficult, as the university community was shocked and saddened by the tragic death of two members of the women's basketball staff in a terrible accident. I knew both of these women. The first was Ginny Doyle. I looked forward to seeing her every spring, as she brought me recruits interested in education. In nearly 14 years working together she never called me Tricia, even though I insisted. She always called me Dr. Stohr. So, I took to calling her Coach Doyle, never Ginny. Over the years she introduced me to a number of remarkable young scholar athletes with a passion for teaching, many of them becoming my students. The second was Natalie Lewis. Natalie was a student of mine, but more than that, she was a connection to home. When I first taught Natalie we made that connection that only folks from Buffalo can make. We talked about food, things we missed, and locations we both knew and loved. I learned quickly that Natalie grew up just a block from the tiny apartment my husband lived in, and the one we shared for a few short months after being wed. Even after her classes with me were complete, she stopped by to visit. I went to see her swim. She came by during student teaching to raid my bookshelves and borrow materials. When she took the job at UR, I would often stop by to say hello on my walk to work. She had a big heart, an old soul, and so much joy that you couldn't help but smile when you saw her.

So, I've been silent for a few weeks, trying to push past the gray and back into the sunshine. It would be so much easier if Mother Nature would cooperate. It was 95 here on Wednesday and 65 on Thursday.

In light of the recent death of Maya Angelou, I've been reading her poems, but I imagine lots of folks are sharing her work today. Instead, I'm allowing myself just one last wallow before I pick myself up and dust myself off.

Sorrow
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Sorrow like a ceaseless rain
      Beats upon my heart.
People twist and scream in pain, —
Dawn will find them still again;
This has neither wax nor wane,
      Neither stop nor start.

People dress and go to town;
      I sit in my chair.
All my thoughts are slow and brown:
Standing up or sitting down
Little matters, or what gown
      Or what shoes I wear.

I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Diane at Random Noodling. Happy poetry Friday friends.

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25. Tuesday Poetry Stretch - Ideograms

As my mother would say, I'm a day late and a dollar short, but at least I'm here.

This in one of my favorite May Swenson poems, second only to Analysis of Baseball.

Cardinal Ideograms
by May Swenson

0     A mouth.  Can blow or breathe,
       be a funnel, or Hello.

1     A grass blade or cut.

2     A question seated.  And a proud
       bird’s neck.

3     Shallow mitten for a two-fingered hand.

4     Three-cornered hut
       on one stilt.  Sometimes built
       so the roof gapes.

I love the notion of writing about the shape of things. What do you see in the number 6? Or the letter Y? What kind of ideogramatic poem can from the word S-P-R-I-N-G? (Ideogramatic? Yeah, I just made that up!)

Visit Joyce Sidman's site to see how she used the words in her name to write an ideogram poem. Now it's your turn to write an ideogram poem. Won't you join us? Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

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