Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Here is my bibliography of all of the great poetry books I read and used to create this blog. I hope you have enjoyed it!

Books Used For My Poetry Blog, “Poetic Picks”

Bagert, Brod. 2007. Shout! Little poems that roar. New York: Dail Books for
Young Readers.

Cullinan, Bernice E., ed. 1996. A jar of tiny stars: poems by NCTE award-winning
poets. Pennsylvania: Wordsong .

Florian, Douglas. 2000. Mammalabilia. New York: Harcourt, Inc.

Foxworthy, Jeff. 2009. Silly street. New York. HarperCollins Children’s Books.

Franco, Betsy, ed. 2008. Falling hard: 100 love poems by teenagers. Cambridge, MA:
Candlewick Press.

Giovonni, Nikki. 2008 Hip hop speaks to children: a celebration of poetry with a beat.
Illinois: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky.

Grandits, John. 2004. Technically, it’s not my fault. New York: Houghton
Mifflin Company.

Grimes, Nikki. 2006. Thanks a million. New York: Greenwillow Books.

Hopkins, Lee Bennett. 2006. Got geography! New York: Greenwillow Books.

Hopkins, Lee Bennett. 1999. Lives: poems about famous Americans. New York:
Harper Collins.

Lewis, J. Patrick. 2005. Please bury me in the library. New York: Gulliver Books.

Lewis, J. Patrick. 2004. Scien-Trickery: riddles in science. New York: Harcourt, Inc.

Janeczko, Paul. 2005. A kick in the head: An everyday guide to poetic forms.
Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.

Mora, Pat. 2007. Yum! MmMm! Que rico! America’s sprouting. New York: Lee and
Low Books.

Singer, Marilyn. 2003. Fireflies at Midnight. New York: Anthenum Books for Young

Waters, Fiona. 2007. Poems from many cultures. London: Evans Brothers Limited.

Woodson, Jacqueline. 2003. Locomotion. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Poetry Break: Serious Poem

Poem: All Mixed Up

By Janet Wong

From the Book: Poems From Many Cultures

Compiled by Fiona Waters

Published By: Evans Brothers Limited; 2007 (Reprint)

ISBN # 978-0-237-52104-2


Have you ever been excluded from a group because you were not dressed the right way? How did it make you feel? Can you imagine being excluded from a group because of the color of your skin? At least with clothes, you can change them and try to blend in. Skin color can not be changed. What does it mean to be Multicultural? Does it mean your skin is a different color? Can you belong for your unique qualities and heritage? Have students think about these things as you read Janet Wong's poem to them.

All Mixed Up

What does multicultural mean?
Stuck int he middle
in between
all kinds of food
and clothes
and talk?
Listening to bamboo flutes
play rock?
Turning tortillas
over the stove,
burning the tips
of chopsticks?

Why does my teacher love that word?
Is it something she ate -
or something she heard?
Loud drums
beating in the park?
Does she call me
because my skin is


Tell students that the author of this poem is of American, Chinese and Korean descent. How do you think growing up with so many cultural influences affects her writing? Have students think about the poem from that perspective as you read it again. Challenge students to think of a time when they felt judged whether it was by their clothes or color of their skin and use those feelings to write a poem based on their experiences.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Poetry Break: Poetry by Children

Poem: Indian Tea

Written by: Christine Stoddard, age 15

From the Book: Falling Hard: 100 Love Poems by Teenagers

Edited by: Betsy Franco

Published by: Candlewick Press; 2008

ISBN#: 978-0-7636-3437-7


Ask students if they have ever looked forward to something only to have the event never happen. How did they feel? Has anyone ever promised to do something with them and then changed their mind? Did that person even show up to the planned event? How did that make them feel? Tell students that you are going to be sharing a poem with them that may remind them of some of those feelings. Read the poem to the students:

Indian Tea

It's noon
Where are you?
You promised me lunch
There's a cafe on the corner
With Croissants and Indian tea
A gray pussy cat hunts beneath the table
Searching for scraps of ham
And Salami
She sneezes at the peppercorn
It's cute
We could've enjoyed that together
But I'll just lunch alone
And laugh at the little kitty by myself
I didn't want to share my croissant with you anyway


Wait a few minutes and let students silently reflect on the poem. Ask students if they think the narrator is upset with the fact she has been stood up, or is she really okay with it. After discussing this point with the students, ask how the poem's mood would change if you read it as ifmthe narrator was angry, or if they were trying to act like it was no big deal that she has been left to eat alone. Have volunteers re-read the poem in different voices. Ask students to think about how their thoughts about the poem change depending upon the tone it is read to them.

Poetry Book Review--Janeczko

A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms

Selected by Paul B. Janecko
Illustsrated by Chris Raschka

Publisher: Candlewick Press; 2005

ISBN #: 978-0-7636-0662-6


This collection of poetic forms is as entertaining as it is educational. The twenty-nine poetic forms included in this collection are accompanied by an excellent example of that form. Each form presented in the collection includes a concise, easy to understand description of the type of form and the "rules" it follows. An introduction prepares the reader by describing how some poetic forms have rules as to how many words or lines that form might have. Janeczko also informs the reader in the introduction of the best way to read the poetry in this book to experience the unique forms and try to figure out how the poem follows its required format.

My Thoughts on This Book:

This book was quite an education for me! I knew the name of many of the forms Janeczko includes in this compilation, but did not know the exact rules each form follows. After reading the poems and their descriptions, I am inspired to try some of these forms myself! This book is a must have for anyone who teaches writing especially the writing of poetry. The poems that accompany each poetic form are excellent choices that allow for students to easily see the requirements for that form and recreate those requirements in their own poem.

Chris Raschka's colorful illustrations that accompany each page are art lessons in themselves. The medium used (watercolor, ink, and torn paper) add a playfulness to the collection that invites readers to try their hand at becoming a poet.

Review Excerpts:

From Booklist (Starred Review): This is the introduction that will ignite enthusiasm. The airy spaces between the words and images will invite readers to find their own responses to the poems and encourage their interest in the underlying rules, which, Janeczko says, "make poetry--like sports--more fun."

Friday, April 10, 2009

Poetry Break: New Book

Poem: Silly Street

Written by: Jeff Foxworthy

From the Book: Silly Street

Published by: Harper Collins Publishers, 2009

ISBN #: 978-0-06-


Ask students what they like to do when they are being silly. After listening to their responses, ask them, "If there was a place to go to where you could be silly all the time, what do you think it would look like?" Again give students the opportunity to respond. Once students have shared, tell them you will be reading a poem today that introduces them to just such a silly place. For this Poetry Break, be sure to allow time for the extension.

This Way to Silly Street
by Jeff Foxworthy

Sometimes you're silly
And you know that it's true.
When you're feeling that way,
There are things you can do.

Like jumping in circles
Or spinning around.
Try doing cartwheels
Without falling down.

You could stand on your head
And wiggle your toes,
Or just walk around
With a spoon on your nose.

But if you're looking for more
And want something new,
Then I know a cool place
That's just waiting for you.


Read the poem a second time. Give students drawing paper and crayons and ask them to illustrate their idea of what Silly Street looks like. Be sure to have them include themselves in the picture doing something silly! Allow time for students to share their pictures and descriptions of their silly activity. Then read the next poem in the book, "Silly Street."

Silly Street
by Jeff Foxworthy

In the heart of the city
Is a place people meet.
It's this and it's that
And it's called Silly Street.
There are snowballs for sale
If you feel like throwing,
And bubbles to buy
If you feel like blowing.
If you like to jump rope,
There are plenty to use.
There are cots in the shad
If you're needing a snooze.
There are Frisbees to fling
And kites you can fly.
If you like to make noise,
Give the trumpets a try.
There are things you'll see there
You won't see other p;laces,
Like the flying squirrel circus
And pink elephant races.

Have students describe to a partner and similarities and differences between their version of Silly Street and the one described in the poem.

Poetry Break: Refrain

Poem: The Library Cheer

Written by: Brod Bagert

From the Book: Shout! Little Poems That Roar

Published by: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2007

ISBN #: 978-0-8037-2972-8


Gather students in front of you, and ask, "What's the best thing in the library?" Accept appropriate responses as you wait for a student to reply, "Books!" Display the poem on chart paper written in two colors--one for the refrain, and one for the verses. Explain to the students that this poem is a cheer for the library's great books, and then read it with enthusiasm.

The Library Cheer
by Brod Bagert

Books are good!
Books are great!
I want books!

Bird books,
Bug books,
Bear books too,
Words and pictures
Through and through.

Books are good!
Books are great!
I want books!

Books in color,
Black and white,
Skinny books,
Fat books,
Day and night.

Books are good!
Books are great!
I want books!

Sad books,
Glad books,
Funny books too,
Books for me
And books for you.

Books are good!
Books are great!
I want books!


Once students hear the poem, explain that you will reread it, but this time they join in on the refrain. Read the refrain together, and explain that each time they get to the text in that color they will join in. The second color is for the words the teacher reads. As students become familiar with the verses, assign specific lines to students, and have them read them out. Practice this poem often so students can begin each library lesson with a choral reading to get them ready for books!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Poetry Book Review: Yum! MmMm! Que Rico!

Yum! MmMm! Que Rico! Americas' Sproutings

Written by: Pat Mora

Illustrated by: Rafael Lopez

Publisher: Lee and Low Books; 2007

ISBN #: 978-1-58430-271-1


This collection of fourteen haiku poems by Pat Mora are all about foods that are native to the Americas. Each poem is accompanied by some background information about each individual food as well as a colorful illustration that brings each verse to life.

My Thoughts on This Book:

One warning about this book--don't read it when you are hungry! The colorful illustrations by Lopez vibrantly jump off the page almost as juicy as the fruits described in some of the haiku! Pat Mora does a beautiful job of describing these foods native to the Americas in the concise haiku format. Her word choice is perfect to describe these delicious foods--many of which I did not realize were native to the Americas until I read this book. This would be an excellent book to share with students to introduce them to the poetic form of haiku.

The background information provided about each food are an added bonus, providing the reader with the origins of each food as well as ways each food can be prepared and served. I also enjoyed the touches of Spanish influence throughout the book from Spanish words interspersed throughout some of the poems. A great way to add some Spanish to your vocabulary!

Review Excerpt:

From School Library Journal: "Teachers will find this a welcome addition to their social-studies units, but it should also win a broad general audience for its inventive, fun-filled approach to an ever-popular topic: food."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Poetry Break: Spring

Poem: Robin

Written by: Marilyn Singer

From: Fireflies at Midnight

Illustrated by: Ken Robbins

Published by: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2003
ISBN #: 978-0-689-82492-0


Ask students to name some things that let us know spring is on the way. Keep track of their responses on a piece of chart paper. After listing several responses, tell students that the way how you know spring is in the air is that robins begin showing up in the backyard. Explain that the poem you are about to share is from the robin's point of view. Have students softly "chirp" like a bird as you read the poem to them.

by Marilyn Singer

Up cheerup I'm up
Let me be first to greet the light
First cheerily first
Hello day, good-bye night

Up cheerup I'm up
In this tree soon chicks will hatch
soon Cheerily soon
Down below are worms to catch

Up cheerup I'm up
Hail chicks and worms and sky!
Hail cheerily hail
Morning robins are not shy


Repeat the poem with students reading along with you on the first and third lines of each verse. Have students think back to the list they made before reading them poem. Challenge them to take another sign of spring and create a poem about that object or sign.

Poetry Break: Biographical Poetry

Poem: Eleanor Roosevelt

Written by: Rebecca Kai Dotlich

From: LIVES: Poems About Famous Americans

Anthology by: Lee Bennett Hopkins

Illustrated by: Leslie Staub

ISBN: 0-06-027767-X


Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies 2000, National Council for Social Studies & Children's Book Council


Ask students if they know who Eleanor Roosevelt was. Ask if they know what title is given to the President's wife. When they respond with First Lady, tell them that Eleanor Roosevelt was President Franklin Roosevelt's wife. Explain how during FDR's presidency, the nation was suffering from the Great Depression, and then became involved in World War II. Eleanor Roosevelt was a person that many Americans looked to for comfort during these times. Share the poem:

Elanor Roosevelt
by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

She chiseled out
the rarest place;
First Lady of the World, that face--
a portrait
of beguiling grace
endeared her to us all.

Who among us can't recall
the words she spoke
to soothe the poor.
And soldiers who had been to war
declared her their own

Our First Lady Eleanor; this Nation's charming chancellor.

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt--
No one knows the burdens she felt,
and yet,
her gentle spirit stirred
a passion in
the land she served.

She calmed the crowds each time she spoke.
Her gallant words
helped those to cope
who hadn't dared,
to hope.
Courageous deeds so humbly dealt--

We miss our Mrs. Roosevelt.


Reread the poem again, having students join you in chorus on each phrase or word in italics. Place the poem in the biography section of the library with a display of books about Eleanor Roosevelt. Challenge students to discover some of the things that Eleanor Roosevelt did that made her so loved by the people of America. Post these findings near the display.

Poetry Book Review: Scien-Trickery


Written by: J. Patrick Lewis

Illustrated by: Frank Remkiewicz

Publisher: Harcourt, Inc.; 2004

ISBN #: 0-15-216681-5

This collection of science topics is presented to the reader in a poetic format with a twist--the riddle. Each poem describes something science related--people, concepts, places, and then challenges the reader to guess the item described.

My Thoughts On This Book:

I must admit--when I was in the classroom, math science did not get much attention. Reading and History did--I'm sure it had something to do with the fact I was a much better student in those subject areas. Where was this book when I needed it????? Scien-Trickery is the perfect blend of engaging poetry and science concepts for someone who is as science challenged as myself. This book is a must for anyone who teaches science! Each poem presented relates back to science concepts that are givens in a science curriculum. Germs, oxygen, sound, and constellations are a small sample of some of the concepts presented in this engaging format of question and answer. I am sure that this book would challenge even the most reluctant science student to create their own riddle poem for a friend to solve. This book would have been well-worn in my classroom, as I know I would have used it frequently to reinforce science concpts I taught.

The layout and design of this book is equally appealing as well. Illustrator Frank Remkiewicz creates lively backdrops for each poem, and presents each poem on a sheet of spiral paper as if torn from a science notebook. Students (and scientifically challenged teachers) will beg to hear this book over and over.

Review Excerpt:

From Booklist: "Though mostly for fun, this attractive book has a place in classrooms where the study of science involves imagination and deduction as well as rote learning."

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Poetry Break: Poetry That Does Not Rhyme

Poem: Early Explorers

Written by: Marilyn Singer

From: Got Geography!

Anthology by: Lee Bennett Hopkins

Illustrated by: Phillip Stanton

Publisher: Greenwillow Books, 2006

ISBN: 978-0-06-055601-3


Ask students to name some early explorers. Hopefully the responses will be different names of people such as Columbus, Magellan, etc. Ask students if they think there were others that explored new lands before these men. Tell them to think about your question as you read the following poem:

Early Explorers
by Marilyn Singer

No place on earth
is ever undiscovered

Even in Antarctica
where whole mountains are hidden
under ice
penguins already laid shambling tracks
in the snow
before we traveled there

The hottest desert
the deepest jungle
where none of us have ever been
all have been crossed
and crossed again
by wings whirring or silent
feet furred or scaled
hoofed or bare

By adventurers we will never know
explorers who will never tell us
what wonders they have seen


Have students select an animal. Have them pretend they are exploring a region no one has ever seen. What do they see? Give students a piece of paper and pencil, and have them write their own "Early Explorer" poem from the point of view of their selected animal.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Poetry Break: Unusual Form

Poem: Sleepover Conversation

Book: Technically, It's Not My Fault

Written by: John Grandits

Poetic Form: Concrete Poems

Publisher: Clarion Books, 2004

ISBN: 978-0-618-42833


Ask students if they have ever slept over at a friend's house, and what is their favorite part about spending the night somewhere else. After children have shared their answers, display a copy of the poem "Sleepover Conversation so they can see the form of the poem and how it is written for two voices. Share the poem using two distinct voices so students hear both characters.

Sleepover Conversation
by John Grandits

I like sleeping over. Your room is so cool.

Knock yourself out.

I will. You've got totally superior stuff.

No. I mean it. Knock yourself out--
shut up, be quiet, go to sleep.

Let's talk for a while.

You talked all day. You never shut up.
Now go to sleep.

How come you always win at chess?

I'm smarter than you.

I think it's because you're four years older.

No, it's because I'm smarter.

I'm going to practice a lot, and
next time we come to visit, I'll beat you.

I'll still be four years older.
And I'll still be smarter.

I like Huggin' the Rail. I can win that game.

It's s stupid board game. It's just luck.
Whoever rolls the highest number wins.
No skill. All luck.

Don't be a sore loser.

I have a game we can play.

Great! What?

Who can stay quiet the longest.
Ready, set, GO!

Okay, I'll start. . .

. . .

. . .

. . .

. . .

. . .

Hey! No fair.


Ask students what they think happened at the end of the poem. Can they get an idea of how old each boy is? Divide students into two groups and have each group read a specific part. Next, select two students to read each boy's part. Ask students how they liked hearing the poem the best--one narrator, two groups, or two individuals. Did it make a difference in how they enjoyed listening to the poem?

Poetry Book Review: Locomotion


Written by Jacqueline Woodson

Publisher: G. P. Putnum's Sons, 2003

ISBN: 0-399-23115-3


National Book Award Finalist--2003
Coretta Scott King Honor Book


Through his poetry notebook, eleven year old Lonnie shares his tragic story of losing his parents and being sent to a different foster home than his sister. His poems reveal his struggle to make sense of what happened and his hope for one day being reunited with his sister.

My Thoughts About This Book:

Lonnie was a character I instantly sympathized with. As he gradually revealed what had happened to his parents poem by poem, I found myself so wrapped up in his story that I had a hard time putting down the book. This is a story that is told beautifully through various types of verse, and the word choice and poetic language hold the reader captive. I could easily visualize Lonnie's struggles not only in dealing with his parents' death, but in trying to deal with school problems as well. Whether it is in trying to earn Ms. Marcus' approval in his poetry writing or dealing with a classmate who is dealing with health issues, you experience Lonnie's emotional roller coaster throughout the novel. The choices of poetic styles that are used to tell this story are appropriate in conveying the mood of the story to the reader. Through the 60 poems we share Lonnie's grief in losing his parents in a fire to his joy of getting to visit his sister at her foster home across town. Readers will have a hard time putting this book down until they are completely finished as they will want to know how Lonnie makes it to the end of the story.

Review Excerpt:

From School Library Journal: "Despite the spare text, Lonnie's foster mother and the other minor characters are three-dimensional, making the boy's world a convincingly real one. His reflections touch on poverty and on being African American when whites seem to have the material advantages, and return repeatedly to the pain of living apart from his younger sister. Readers, though, will recognize Lonnie as a survivor. As she did in Miracle Boys (Putnam, 2000), the author places the characters in nearly unbearable circumstances, then lets incredible human resiliency shine through."

Friday, February 20, 2009

Poetry Book Review: mammalabilia


Written and Illustrated by: Douglas Florian

Publisher: Harcourt Books, 2000

ISBN: 0-15-202167-1


A New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year
ABA's Pick of the LIsts
A Horn Book Fanfare Selection
An IRA-CBC Children's Choice
A New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
An Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award Winner
A Parent's Guide Children's Medai Award Winner
A Parenting Reading Mgic Award
A Smithsonian Magazine Notable Book for Children


This colorful and fun collection of poetry features furry mammals. A variety of fun mammals are described in entertaining poems that will often make the reader laugh out loud. Often the text is arranged on the page to resemble the animal it is describing (See "The Porcupine" on page 45). This technique adds another unique feature to an already extremely appealing book. The colorful illustrations that accompany each poem will enhance the reader's delight as they read and enjoy each poem.

My Thoughts About this Book:

I first became aware of Douglas Florian's poems when beast feast was a Texas Bluebonnet nominee several years ago. Since then, I have enjoyed reading his poems to students, who find them every bit as entertaining as I do. mammalabilia is one of my favorite collections. I'm sure one of the main reasons I enjoy is because I have always been a big fan of the mammals. I spent many summers working at the Fort Worth Zoo as a Zoo School Teacher, and this would have been an excellent resource to have used in the classes I taught. Many of the short, fun poems featured in the book are perfect to memorize and recite, and would have helped add to the zoo experience as I led my class to the animal we were observing.

The book is appealing in the way it is put together from the beautiful full color illustrations to the fun poetry that works perfectly with each picture. In a few words, Douglas Florian captures the essence of each animal, and the reader almost expects to see the illustrations leap from the page at them. I love how he often uses the text of the poem to "draw" the animal as well, forming camel humps or porcupine quills to present the poem in a fun format.

This book is an excellent addition to any poetry collection--particularly one that belongs to someone who is an animal lover! mammalabilia is well deserving of the numerous honors it has accumulated.

Review Excerpt:

From School Library Journal: "The artist's renderings draw readers into the poem and invite repeated viewings after reading the verse. Pair this title with Mary Ann Hoberman and Malcah Zeldis's A Fine Fat Pig (HarperCollins, 1991) to show children the diversity of images that animals may evoke for poets and artists. Florian has created a zoological garden of delights."

Poetry Book Review: Hip Hop Speaks to Children

Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry With a Beat

Edited by: Nikki Giovanni

Illustrated by: Kristen Balouch, Michele Noiset, Jeremy Tugeau, Alicia Vergel de Dios, and Damian Ward

Published by: Source Books, Inc., 2008

ISBN: 978-1-4022-1048-8


This colorful volume of poetry is full of beautiful words by a variety of notable poets, performers, and even historical figures. There are numerous styles of poetry presented in this book, all ones that encourage the reader to read out loud and with a beat. An accompanying CD features performances by the authors of some of the works. Beautifully colored illustrations accompany each piece enriching the appeal of this book.

My Thoughts About this Book:

From the moment you hold this book in your hands, you know it is a treasure. From the over sized pages, featuring colorful illustrations and numerous art styles to the wealth of poems by noted poets of color featured, this book has something for everyone. I enjoyed the unique layout of each poem featured in the book. Every page turn brought another treat for the eyes in how the poem was presented. The list of authors read like a "Who's Who of Poetry" including Langston Hughes, Eloise Greenfield, Maya Angelou, and even Queen Latifah.

The accompanying CD allows you to hear many of the poems performed by the authors. I particularly enjoyed editor, Nikki Giovonni's descriptions of the different styles of poetry and how they came to be interspersed in between the poetry performances on the CD. The audio performances, allow opportunities for students to hear these poets read their poems with their unique inflection and expression and understanding that only the author of the work could bring to a performance of the poem. I found the recording of Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech a nice addition to the CD, as well as the vocal interpretation of the speech by Nikki Giovanni, Oni Lasana, and Val Gray Ward that ends the CD. I think this would be a great way to inspire students to turn a well-known speech into performance art.

If you are planning to do performance poetry with any age group, I highly recommend this book. The works included here will make a memorable performance for any audience.

Review Excerpt:

From Booklist: "With appeal for preliterate children, their great grandparents, and every generation between, this will be fun for families to share as they get their groove on."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Poetry Break: A Poem from an NCTE Award Winning Poet

Poem: "Pencils" by Barbara Esbensen

Book: A Jar of Tiny Stars: Poems by NCTE Award Winning Poets Edited by Bernice E. Cullinan

Pubisher: Wordsong, 1996

Introduction: Give each student a brand new pencil. Ask students to name some of the things that are going to be written with their pencil. List responses on a piece of chart paper. Encourage responses that involve things you can create with a pencil. Such as a drawing, a poem or story. Once all responses have been recorded, review the list, and then ask students to listen to the poem.

by Barbara Esbensen

The rooms in a pencil
are narrow
but elephants candles and
fit in

In a pencil
noisy words yell for attention
and quiet words wait their turn

How did the slip
into such a tight place?
gives them their

From a broken pencil
an unbroken poem will come!
There is a long story living
in the shortest pencil

Every word in your
is fearless ready to walk
the blue tightrope lines
to teeter and smile
down Ready to come right out
and show you


After reading, have students re-read the poem with you. Use the poem as an introduction to a sustained silent writing time and have students respond to the poem in some way using a pencil. They can draw or write anything they feel inspired to create. Post the finished work of students who wish to share on the wall under the title, "Creations Born From Our Pencils!"

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Poetry Break: African American Poetry

Poem: A Lesson from the Deaf

Book: Thanks a Million by Nikki Grimes

Publisher: Greenwillow Books, 2006

Introduction: Ask students if they know how people who can't hear "speak." Explain how deaf people use sign language to communicate with others. Tell students that this poem explains how to make the sign for "Thank You" in American Sign Language. Have students listen as you read the poem:

A Lesson from the Deaf
by Nikki Grimes

First, sweep one hand
up to your mouth,
as if to blow a velvet kiss.
Like this.

Second, drop that hand
into the other,
crisscross, open palms staring
at the sky.
Do you see?
How your clever hands
create a butterfly?

(Think of shadows
you shape upon a wall at night.
But this is more than play.)

Stand before someone
who has been kind to you.
Follow steps one and two,
and without breathing a word,
your "thank you" will be heard.


Show students the sign for "thank you." Make the sign together. Re-read the poem and make the "thank you" sign together as it is described throughout the poem. Encourage students to say "thank you" to others in sign language like the last stanza of the poem suggests.

Poetry Break: School/Library/Books

Poem: The Big-Word Girl

From the Book: Please Bury Me in the Library by J. Patrick Lewis

Publisher: Gulliver Books, 2005


Ask students if they know the name of the book we use to look up words we may not know how to spell. Prompt them to answer "dictionary" if they are stuck. If students are familiar with dictionaries and their uses, ask them to list some of the reasons one might need to use a dictionary. List these reasons on chart paper. Explain that we can also use the dictionary to learn new words to use, like the character in the following poem:

The Big-Word Girl
by J. Patrick Lewis

Of all the clever girls I know,
Elaine's the one who counts.
But what she counts are syllables
In words I can't pronounce.

I took her to a horror show--
(Godzilla Meets Tooth Fairy)--
But she could not unglue her eyes
From Webster's Dictionary.

She put her trembling hand in mine
(Godzilla smashed the floor!),
For she had come across a word
She'd never seen before!

But when the lights came on, Elaine
Was sound asleep and snoring.
I woke her up. She yawned and said,
"How Uncustomarily,


Post a copy of the poem in the library, next to where the dictionary is displayed. Also post a piece of blank chart paper next to the poem. Encourage students to look up words they come across as they read that they may not know the meaning of. Have students list these words and their meanings on the blank chart paper.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Poetry Book Review: LIVES: Poems About Famous Americans

LIVES: Poems About Famous Americans

Selected by: Lee Bennett Hopkins

Illustrated by: Leslie Staub

Published by: HarperCollins Publishers, 1999

ISBN: 0-06-027767-X

Awards/Recognitions: Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies 2000, National Council for Social Studies & Children's Book Council


This volume of poetry is rich with history, focusing on sixteen individuals who contributed to the history of our country in a significant way. Through fourteen poems, twelve especially written for this book, readers learn about the mark these important individuals left behind.

My Thoughts About this Book:

As a self-proclaimed American history nerd, this book was a treasure to me. I felt drawn to each poem, and was totally lost in the words describing these important Americans. I enjoyed the variety of historical figures used in the collection. From writers (Langston Hughes) to sports celebrities (Babe Ruth) to presidents (Abraham Lincoln), the people highlighted in this book help bring American history to life for any reader. Well known poets (Jane Yolen, Nikki Grimes) create verses that truly capture each individual and their unique contributions to our history and culture. There are a variety of poetic styles for the reader to experience throughout the book. Each poem's subject speaks to the reader with a clear voice and allows the reader to get a feel for the subject's personality and character. Since each poem does relate in some way to a historic event or person, the works are timeless and will have meaning to any future generation.

The illustrations by Leslie Staub are an added bonus, allowing the reader to picture each individual as they read the poems. This book is one that any young history enthusiast should be exposed to again and again.

Review Excerpt:

From School Library Journal: There is a good balance of men and women represented as well as a variety of personalities from Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosa Parks to Neil Armstrong and Langston Hughes. Hopkins's eloquent introduction praises the power of poetry. A winning combination of poems and illustrations.