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."