Today I’m feeling the accumulation of too much to do and too little time–so when I read Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem Burning the Old Year as part of today’s #verselove prompt at Ethical ELA, the lines an absence shouts, leaves a space shouted at me about the need for space. It’s rough, but here’s the direction I headed.
National Poetry Month is such a perfect excuse to focus classroom reading and writing on poetry. For the last several years I’ve challenged my students to write a poem a day–for every day in the month of April. This year, with first graders and a month that began with Spring Break, I decided to have students write a poem each day they are with me in the classroom.
We warmed up at the end of March with a plunge into defining poetry in poetical terms, creating a collaborative Poetry Is poem as well as individual pieces. (I wrote about that process here.) We’ve explored the schoolyard through our senses and iPad cameras, learning to pay attention. We’ve read books and studied poems and written and written and written.
Yesterday we read The Keeper of Wild Wordsby Brooke Smith and then worked together on a list of wild words that we love. Students added words like waterfall, dragonfly, moonlight, turtle, and dolphin. Words swirled through the classroom as we borrowed from each other, built on ideas from each other, and delighted in the feel of words in our mouth.
Today we built poetry dice. Using a generic fold-a-cube pattern on cardstock, students cut out a flattened cube, wrote their favorite 12 wild words (they made 2 dice), and then folded and taped their finished cubes together. Then came the best part–playing with words and poetry. They rolled their dice, recording the 6 words they rolled in their notebooks. Then they considered those words, how they related (or didn’t) to each other, and wrote poetry. As a teacher of writing, there is nothing more satisfying than watching students transform into confident poets, easily playing with words, experimenting with form and ideas, and bursting to share their poems with me and their classmates.
Here’s a small sampling of poems that emerged from the roll of our student-created poetry dice:
A wolf found a hollow tree.
the wolves sleep at daytime with
very big waves.
A small clown sells big old lemons.
In spring laying on a Hawaii beach,
watching a cloud float by like
a koala climbing a tree or a
dolphin jumping out of the
water and a coati walking
in a jungle.
Under the sea there was a fish
under a rock
There were a lot of other fish
in the green coral
and the coral was as green as a cactus
and it was as wiggly as a snake.
In the trees, in
middle of nowhere,
there’s a field of poppies.
In the sky there’s an
egret flying overhead
with yellow feet like sticks.
At the beach it’s time for the dolphins to play
in the waves.
And serendipitously, the #verselove prompt over at Ethical ELA was to write a “how to be” poem. Inspired by my students, I wrote mine about them.
How to Be a First Grade Poet
Open your eyes wide
using ALL your senses
Feel the roly polys
under your fingers
Smell the cilantro
from the garden
Hear the hawk
calling as it
swoops above the classroom
Taste the sweet red
taking root just
beyond the field
Dance with the words
tumble and roll
calling you to pay attention
Write your world
and read them
love and pride
Phew! I can’t wait to see what poetry will emerge tomorrow!
Over at Ethical ELA, Maureen has challenged us to tell a succinct truth in the style of Lucille Clifton for today’s #verselove prompt. This seems scary–to tell a truth that maybe reveals an ugly underside rather than finding the beauty in something ordinary. But I had a truth to tell–so here it is.
Today’s #verseloveprompt was about choices…and I made a choice that was different from the intended direction (I think). So, today I decided to write a #smallpoem (close to Haiku) to go with a photograph–where I wrote with light.
Verselove over at Ethical ELA continues to be bounty of poetic forms–that all seemed designed to bend or break the rules I had previously learned. Today Tanka, a form I had learned as 5 lines with a 5-7-5-7-7 syllabic pattern was transformed by Cara to a 3 line, 31 syllable meander.
I’m combining #verselove with some #beachlove today in several approximately 31 syllable Tanka.
Today for #verselove over at Ethical ELA, Anna invites us to pick a favorite day and write an acronym poem giving the reasons why. Indecisive seems to describe me today–I could think of so many reasons why each day of the week is my favorite. So, to solve that problem, I picked TODAY.
To decide was too much, concentrate instead on the moment, the now
Own each opportunity, observe carefully, orchestrate possibilities
Dance in the light, dust off the doldrums, decide to grab the joy within reach
Abandon burdens, anticipate with every sense, accept the now
Yank back the curtains, soak in the sun, seize this day: Today
Today’s #verselove prompt over at Ethical ELA gives explicit directions to break rules! Stacey introduced the idea of a Gogyohka poem–a liberated version of a Tanka–a 5 line poem without the restraint of syllable counts. Strangely enough, I had introduced Haiku to my young students yesterday, inviting them to write 3 line poems without strictly adhering to the traditional 5-7-5 format.
To inspire their writing, we headed outside again today, this time with iPads in hand in search of tiny perfect things. (We had read the book by the same name before heading out–looking for tiny treasures so often overlooked.) When you’re 6 or 7, nearly everything is a treasure. They love the poppies that grow along the fenceline, the spiral of the succulents with their variegated greens, and even the gas meter–a metal contraption–that they don’t recognize as having a particular function.
Today’s #verselove prompt over at Ethical ELA is the news. The news? I feel like there is so much I want to avoid about the news–especially for my writing. I considered all day just what take on the news I might embrace. And then the headline…out of our principal’s mouth during lunch today, “The queen bee has moved in…” That’s the news I am going with!
The queen bee has moved in
and her kingdom is swarming near the classroom door
Quirky is a word I love, but still, when I saw it as the #verselove prompt by Kim over at Ethical ELA I felt at a loss. What poem will I write that fits this category?
It’s our first day back after Spring Break–and my first April day with my students. We primed ourselves for National Poetry Month before Spring Break at the end of March by writing a collaborative Poetry Is poem. And today, I brought out a favorite Eve Merriam poem, Peeling an Orange to serve as a mentor text for students. (You can see my experimentation on day 1 of National Poetry Month.) We’ve studied a poem each week of the school year, laying down an appreciation for and familiarity with poetry and the interesting language it is known for. And we write poetry regularly–I love short writing forms (for all ages) and the permission to break rules that poetry allows.
I lay out all of this to establish my own quirkiness as a teacher of writing. My expectations for the 6 and 7 year olds in my class are sky high–and when it comes to writing, they seldom let me down. I establish early on my love for egrets–they make a great writing topic that my students come to know and expect. While they didn’t know much about them early in the school year, they are quite familiar with them now.
Finally–get to the point already! When I picked my students up after lunch today they rushed me, so excited they simply couldn’t stay in line. Mrs. Douillard–there was a snowy egret! What?! I was looking around the playground. Really? A snowy egret on the playground? No–it was flying over the playground. I missed it–but they loved it and loved knowing that I would love it. So, inspired by my students and their excitement, my quirky poem is a Haiku capturing this moment.
snowy egret flies
yellow footed pistons tucked tight
And here I circle back to the first grade poets I love and teach and their Peeling an Orange inspired poetry.
B wrote about lizards
Catching a Lizard
the second hand
in all different
shapes and sizes
not very easy to see
but they are still very
R wrote her own quirky piece
A fuzzy bushy fearless fighter rodent
when he bites you you immediately put your hand on your cut