Sunday, April 19, 2009

Poetry Break: Serious

When looking at poetry it is important to connect to the written words and have them move you. This poem is about the hardships of growing up and coming to terms with all of the labels other have found to describe what is wrong about you. We all go about giving out these labels everyday. They create doubt in others or ourselves when we hear them.
It is important to remain strong in order to stay true to your own uniqueness while growing and going through life.
I found this poem in an edited book of stories and poems by Sandy Asher called, On Her Way Stores and Poems About Growing Up Girl.


Twelve
By Donna Jo Napoli

I’ve always known I was a girl,
It doesn’t matter that they call me
tomboy
for climbing trees
catching lizards
making bows and arrows from palm fronds on empty lots.
It doesn’t matter that they warn me
only boys
like math
build birdhouses
argue about the infallibility of the pope with the grown
men who play poker with my father.
It doesn’t matter because I’ve always known.


But I look in the mirror now
And I see something they will recognize, sooner or later:
my outside changes.
It’s not a metamorphosis
not like a tadpole becoming a frog
but its not just getting bigger, either,
not just a teeny turtle turning into a big one.
I’m a little woman, a girl grown, or growing.

They will see, they will know. They will finally accept
I’m a girl, no matter.

As for me, I’ve always known.
My body may be lumpy and clumsy
but my head
oh, my head is full of grace.
It always has been.
It always will be.


This poem opens up great ideas for discussion, sharing and hopefully accepting differences in cultures and lifestyles.

What is stereotyping?

How difficult is it over coming stereotype?

Are there still some things, for example jobs, that only certain people or sexes should do?

What are some stereotypes that you feel are just silly?
Asher, Sandy. 2004. Napoli, Donna Jo. "Twelve" p. 85. On Her Way: Stories and Poems About Growing Up Girl. New York: Dutton Children's Books.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Poetry Book Review: Janeczko


A Foot in the Mouth: Poems to Speak, Sing and Shout.
by Paul B. Janeczko

This collection compiled by Paul Janeczko consists of poems broken into ten chapters for sharing. All aspects of poetry for reading aloud and in groups is covered. There are tongue twisters, bilingual poems, poems for one, two and three voices and more. This is fun stuff and a must have for a classroom shelf. Poetry like Edward Lear’s “Owl and the Pussy-Cat”, Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing” and William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth, Act IV, Scene 1” are all included bringing new life to these wonderful works. Inside I found a concrete poem by one of my favorites poets.

Ping-Pong Poem

The
words
In-
side
This
Ping-
Pong
poem
Bounce
back
And
forth
Like a
metronome.

By Douglas Florian

Janeczko, Paul B. 2009. Florian, Douglas. "A Ping-Pong Poem" p. 29. A Foot in the Mouth: Poems to Speak, Sing, and Shout. Cambridge, Mass: Candlewick Press

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Poetry Choice: Poetry by Children

This collection of poetry by young writers was compiled by the WritersCorps. This organization gives inner-city teens the skills and encouragement to explore this difficult writing genre. WritersCorps operates in New York City, San Francisco and Washington D.C.. They teach and mentor young writers then collect and publish their best works.

A major contributor to this cause, writer Isabel Allende, also wrote the foreword.
The work here is an excellent jumping off point in helping wrap young minds around poetry as an alternative mode of expression.

Breaking the kids into discussions groups regarding this collection and the writer's situations can be natural bridges to comparisons and empathy. As a follow-up, have the teen writers try their hand at writing out their experiences putting it all that out there in rhyme.

Twelve Days

12 winos drinking

11 crackheads tweaking

10 rats eating

9 hookers hookin'

8 dogs barking

7 babies crying

6 cats sleeping

5 robbers creeping

4 gangs shooting

3 guys screaming

2 cars rocking

and a hobo taking a pee.


Cameron Contos-Slaten (age 12)

DeDonato, Colette. 2004. Contos-Slaten, Cameron. "Twelve Days" p. 65. City of One: Young Writers Speak to the World. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Poetry Break: Refrain

Searching for a poem with a refrain that requires audience participation. Well, here is one you won't quickly forget! This fun poem was found in The Paper Doorway: funny verse and nothing worse by Dean R. Koontz. If you are familiar with the author you will know that his work will have lots of twist and surprises.

The book is illustrated by Phil Parks and at the end of the book the author includes a poem which informs the reader that hidden throughout all of the illustrations is a mouse. This leads to the poem that I have chosen which is all about a mouse. And like the narrator, in the poem "What Do We Do, What Do We Do?" the first time I came across a mouse the same reactions took place. Thank goodness calmer heads prevailed at my house.

When reading this poem with your group give them a cue to have them all shout the refrain like holding up a toy mouse.
I used red to highlight the refrain.

WHAT DO WE DO,

WHAT DO WE DO?

There’s a mouse in the house!

Do we burn the place down?

There’s a mouse in the house!

Do we get out of town?

There’s a mouse in the house!

Do we use dynamite?

There’s a mouse in the house!

Do we all die of fright?

There’s a mouse in the house!

Do we buy fifty cats?

There’s a mouse in the house!

Do we all just go bats?

There’s a mouse in the house!

Do we live in the yard?

There’s a mouse in the house!

Do we hire a guard?

There’s a mouse in the house!

There’s a mouse in the house!

There’s a mouse in the house!

There’s a mouse in the house!

Wait a minute.
Unless I’m dreaming.
The mouse just fled
from all the screaming.


Koontz, Dean R., and Phil Parks. 2001. The paper doorway: funny verse and nothing worse. New York: HarperCollins

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Poetry Book Review: New Book

This is a beautiful book, whose poetry explores all of the variations and richness of being black. The first page opens with the dazzling line, “Colors, without black couldn’t sparkle quite so bright”. A sweet and welcoming introduction for what is to come. All of the rest of the poems continue to embellish and reaffirm how wonderful and so loved these colors are. The Blacker the Berry was written by Joyce Carol Thomas. The illustrations by Floyd Cooper brilliantly bring these poems to life.

Here is a taste of the sweetness.

Cranberry Red

My skin is red
And my hair is red
“He’s redder than a cranberry,” they said
when I was born.

Why am I red?

Maybe it’s because I like cranberry sauce
With holiday dinners
Expecting me, Mama ate it every day

Maybe it’s my Irish ancestors
Who reddened the Africa in my face
I don’t’ know

My father’s side of the family
Has hair as crinkly and red as mine
When we measure who we are
We don’t leave anybody out
We count who we are
And add all who came before us
The way we figure it
We’re just great

Thomas, Joyce Carol and Cooper,
Floyd. 2008. The Blacker the Berry. New York: HarperCollins.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Poetry Choice: Newer Book

We all know fussy eaters. Imagine combining those fussy eaters with those foods which they won't dare eat. The book does this giving the added twist that the food feels the same way as picky eaters do about them. What wonderful poems Robert Weinstock has created in his Food Hates You, Too and other poems.
Just published this year, this is a must have for not only the classroom but for the home.

A great activity would be to have raw vegetables, or different fruits like star fruits, pineapples, kiwis and other unusual foods to taste while you share these poems. A unique diversity connection program could be created through this poetry connection. Having parents share their cultural background through food by inviting families into the program with the homemade dishes for the class to try.

This poem by Robert Weinstock explores the days of the week with the foods related to them.


Monday

Monday smells like dinner rolls
Or is it buttered toast?
Or maybe oatmeal served in bowls
Smells like a Monday most?

Tuesday feels like lemon peels,
Through sometimes more like limes.
Tuesday also sometimes feels
Like clementines. Sometimes.

Wednesday’s mostly tuna fish
In casseroles with peas.
A gloppy goop all yellowish
With moldy cheddar cheese.

Thursday’s usually gingerbread
Or else it’s rhubarb pie.
But could be liverwurst instead
Of these. Don’t ask me why

Friday’s is a rack of ribs,
Beef fondue, and sushi boats.
And moo shu pork and plastic bibs
And also root beer floats.

Saturday’s like honeydews
Like cucumbers and kiwis,
Or Southeast Asian rambutans, whose
Juice is sweet like lychees.

Sunday should be filled with jam
and browned like griddle cakes
Then sliced like baked Virginia ham,
And rubbed like stomachaches.

Robert Weinstock


Weinstock, Robert. 2009. “Monday.” p. 20. Food hates you, too and other poems. New York, New York: Disney Hyperion books.




Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Poetry Break: Spring

Looking for a poem to help kick-off spring, I found this lovely Langston Hughes poem in a collection of poetry for young children. The collection is by Jane Yolan, Andrew Fusek Peters and is beautifully illustrated by Polly Dunbar.

April Rain Song

Let the rain kiss you.

Let the rain beat upon your head

With silver liquid drops. Let the rain sing you a lullaby.

The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk.

The rain makes running pools in the gutter.

The rain plays a little sleep-song

On our roof at night-

And I love the rain.


Langston Hughes
Hughes, Langston. “April Rain Song.” p.74. Yolen, Jane, Andrew Peters, and Polly Dunbar. 2007. Here's a little poem: a very first book of poetry. Cambridge, Mass: Candlewick Press.

Spring is just around the corner. We are starting to see crocuses popping their heads through the ground to peek at the world. What a great time to start a little cup gardens for flowers. Have your students bring in an old mug that no one uses anymore to 'go green'. What a lovely Mother's Day gift, a small plant and poem about spring!