Saturday, February 21, 2009

Module 4

POETRY BREAK: SPRING-- A poem about the season of spring, spring holidays or spring events


Rain, rain, go away? No way! Read this poem to children who can't go out to play and their frustration might just turn into inspiration!

April Spring Rain

by Langston Hughes

Let the rain kiss you,
Let the rain beat upon
your head with
silver liquid drops.
Let the rain sing you a

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

And I love the rain.

From The Bill Martin Jr. Big Book of Poetry, edited by Bill Martin Jr. with Michael Sampson. Simon & Schuster. 2008


Read this poem on a rainy day and take some time to quietly listen to the rain.

Read this poem as a companion to Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse and talk about how the characters in the book long for rain to relieve the drought they are experiencing.

Read the poem on the first day of April and discuss weather patterns.

Read other poems about rain (Rain, rain go away; April showers bring May flowers, the Itsy Bitsy Spider)

Make rain noises with bodies only. Rub hands together, snap fingers, clap hands, slide/stomp feet. Start soft and slow. Go faster and faster,and harder and harder, just like a real rain storm. Act out a rain storm, complete with "claps" of thunder, flashes of lightning (turning lights off and on), out came the sun, and so on.

Make a rainstick. Use rice or beans and paper towel rollers, or be creative with other materials on hand. Decorate them, use them in the dramatic play. Talk about how authentic rainsticks are made. According to rainsticks were invented in Chile, are made from cactus and were believed to produce rainstorms when played. For more information, pictures, and even a sound clip, go to What an exciting way to tie into a unit on Chile or weather!

POETRY BOOK REVIEW: CURRICULUM CONNECTION-- A book of poetry for children or teens ideally suited to science, math, or social studies instruction and published since 1995

The Brothers' War, Civil War Voices in Verse
By J. Patrick Lewis
National Geographic, 2007
ISBN 978-1-4263-0037-0


This book for middle and high school students, describes the Civil War in poems written by J. Patrick Lewis from the point of view of soldiers, family members, slaves, abolitionists, and generals. Lewis writes each poem in a different format. Each poem is paired with poignant photographs from the war and historical notes. In the author's notes at the end of the book, Lewis explains his writing choices. Also included at the end of the book is a helpful timeline of Civil War events, and a map of the United States with major battles marked. The Civil War took the lives of thousands of Americans, including brothers and family members who joined opposite sides and fought against each other, as illustrated in the following poem from the book.

Blood of Our Fathers,
Blood of Our Sons
The First Battle of Bull Run
July 21, 1861

Five thousand fell that day by Sudley Road,
Five thousand left their mothers in despair.
A world gone red-the Bull Run overflowed
With blood, raining in the violent air.
On widow Henry's fallow fields, I saw
A boy about my age fall where he stood,
Face down, writhing, clutching at mud and straw,
As if God's earth could do him any good.
By what outrageous powers of circumstance
Do men take arms against their very own?
The Yankee sergeant's bullet snapped the bone.
Roy Pugh, his Rebel son, had little chance.
Distraught, the sergeant rolled him on his side.
Roy whispered, "Father...Why?" before he died.


Use the timeline at the end of the book to select poems to correspond with the study and discussions of Civil War battles.

Discuss the connection between the photographs, poems and events of the war.

The author encourages readers "to try your own hand at a poem written from a point of view not your own...Try telling the same story from another point of view. Every event can be seen through multiple prisms".


POETRY CHOICE: BIOGRAPHICAL POETRY—Post a Poetry BREAK with a biographical poem of your choice OR a Poetry BOOK REVIEW on a biographical poetry book of your choice


Cesar Chavez was a Mexican American who helped organize the National Farm Worker Association which later became the United Farm Workers Union. He led the movement to bring about better working conditions and quality of life for the people who harvest this country's food. Read the following poem to start the discussion of this heroic man's life.


by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand

Cesario was his real name.
Not See-zar. Not even Cesar.

Cesario Estrada Chavez
was the name given to him
by his parents,
Juana Estrada
Librado Chavez
en el dia de su santo,
March 31, 1927,
near Yuma, Arizona.

named for his abuelito,
better known as Papa Chayo.

Calling him See-zar Cha-VEZ
came later,
when his teacher couldn't
or wouldn't
call him Cesario.

People called him
See-zar Cha-VEZ
or Cesar Chavez.
It was better to call him
Friend of the Farm Workers,
for those were la gente
for whom he struggled.
From Cesar, Si, Se Puede! Yes We Can; written by Carment T. Berneier-Grand, illustrated by David Diaz. Marchall Cavendish, 2004.


Translate the Spanish words in italics to English using the glossary in the back of the book.

If possible, translate and read the entire poem in Spanish.

Talk about why the teacher would not call Chavez by his given name. Discuss how it would feel to not be called by one's name, especially by a teacher.

Read the rest of the book to learn more about Cesar Chavez, migrant farm workers, and the United Farmers Union.

Module 3


Introduction: This poem is written in concrete form:

Two in Bed
by Abram Bunn Ross

When my brother Tommy
Sleeps in bed with me,
He doubles up
And makes

And 'cause the bed is not so wide,
A part of him is on my side.

from Poetry Speaks to Children Edited by Elise Paschen, Dominique Raccah and Nikki Giovanni
Illustrators: Wendy Rasmussen, Judy Love and Paula Zinngrage Wendland
Sourcebooks MediaFusion, 2005

Extensions: Discuss the shape of the poem. Some questions to consider: Why did the writer arrange the lines of the poem in the v-shape? Did this add interest to the poem? Do you still like the poem even though it doesn't rhyme? Have you ever slept with someone who got on your side of the bed? Do you share a bed or your room with a sibling or someone else? Has anyone ever done anything that got in your "space"? If so, what did you do? Point out that sometimes it helps to write about frustrating things. Challenge the children to think and write about a time when someone did something annoying to them. In discussing the shape of the poem, it might be fun to act out the poem to illustrate how uncomfortable it would be to have someone doubled up in the shape of a V right next to them in bed. Maybe the children would enjoy making the shapes of other letters with their bodies. The children could pick a letter or shape and try to write a poem in that shape. Look through other poetry books to find concrete poems.



Your Own, Sylvia: a verse portrait of Sylvia Plath
by Stephanie Hemphill
Random House 2007

Introduction: This book is written by a poet about a poet. It is a collection of poems written in a variety of styles, from the point of view of people who knew the writer Sylvia Plath. Much has been written about Sylvia Plath, who lived from 1932-1963. Stephanie Hemphill, who wrote Your Own Sylvia, studied these writings and the works of Plath in her research for this fictional book based on truth. The result is an emotional story about a talented and tormented writer, that introduces the reader to the writings of Sylvia Plath and her short life. Readers will be hungry for more of Plath's and Hemphill's work after reading Your Own Sylvia.

Extensions: Sylvia Plath took her own life at the age of 30. After reading Your Own Sylvia, discuss the following social issues included in the book and relavent to Plath's life: suicide, depression, women's roles in society, dysfunctional families, relationships with parents, sexuality.

Discuss the different forms of poetry included in the book. For example, the poem Dysfunction (p. 223) is written in haiku. It starts out:

Hysterical at
my doorstep, no coats on the
children. No clothes, no

She melts, hands
me little Nick, will I help
her, watch them, she's sick,...

(p. 82) describes Plath from the point of view of a former teacher who visits her after she is hospitalized for depression. Each line begins with a different letter of the alphabet, beginning with a, b, c, and so on.

Absent as a
bear in deep winter, her mind
can't connect, her memory appears
dead. Her ace brain has switched off....

Students might enjoy experimenting with writing poetry in haiku or abecedarian style.

Examine interesting phrasing, especially with respect to literary ties. In Sunday Night, Monday Night, (p. 230) Sylvia's neighbor notes, with perhaps a reference to Lewis Carol's character in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland:

Whatever that Dr. Horder prescribes
makes her hatter mad tonight...

In June, 1962, Hemphill includes another literary reference, this time to Shakespeare. Sylvia's mother visits and observes:

Sivvy announces repeatedly
that happiness dances around her bed.
She has the perfect home, the perfect
children, the perfect husband.
But I believe she doth protest too heartily...

Challenge the students to find other literary references.

Sylvia Plath kept extensive journals. Students could be given a few minutes to write in journals each class period.

Encourage students to go to to learn more about Sylvia Plath; and to read more of her works including Winter Trees and Collected Poems.



Introduction: The following poem does not rhyme.

The Reason I like Chocolate
by Nikki Giovanni

The reason I like chocolate
is I can lick my fingers
and nobody tells me I'm not polite

I especially like scary movies
'cause I can snuggle with Mommy
or my big sister and they don't laugh

I like to cry sometimes 'cause
everybody says "whats's the matter
don't cry"

and I like books
for all those reasons
but mostly 'cause they just make me

and I really like
to be happy

from A Family of Poems by Caroline Kennedy
Illustrated by Jon J. Muth
Hyperion, 2005

Extensions: Get the children's reaction to the poem. Ask if they like it even though it does not rhyme. Talk about the rhythm and pauses. Divide the class into small groups and do tandem readings, either within the groups, or having each group read a stanza. Have the children point out the things the writer likes in the poem, chocolate, scary movies and so on. Let the children discuss and write down things they like and why. Have a chocolate-y snack!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Module 2

POETRY BREAK: NCTE AWARD POET- A poem written by an NCTE Award winning poet


Use the following poem for a poetry break in the classroom. Have the children quietly look outside the window and take note of the things they see outside. After a few moments, read the poem Right Outside My Window.

Right Outside My Window
by Mary Ann Hoberman

There's always something new to see
Right outside my window.
Each day I wonder what will be
Right outside my window.
In spring the wind whips up a kite
Right outside my window.
Silver raindrops catch the light
Right outside my window.
Clouds sail in the summer sky
Right outside my window.
A baby bird begins to fly
Right outside my window.
Falling leaves drift to the ground
Right outside my window.
A spider weaves her web around
Right outside my window.
Snowflakes tumble soft and white
Right outside my window.
The moon shines in to say goodnight
Right outside my window.
Summer, autumn, winter, spring,
Right outside my window.
What brand new changes will they bring
Right outside my window.

Right Outside My Window, by Mary Ann Hoberman; illustrated by Nicholas Wilton; Mondo Publishing, 2002.


After reading the poem, ask the children to share what they see outside the window. Let them discuss, write about or illustrate their observations.

Another approach to sharing this poem would be to invite the children to close their eyes while you read the poem. Ask them to visualize the images in the poem. After a few moments, with eyes still closed, ask children to imagine other things that they might see outside a window. Let them share if they like. Let the whole class refrain, right outside my window, after each person shares.

Read the poem again showing the illustrations in the book.

Write down the children's suggestions of what they see outside a window. Include "Right outside my window" between each line. Read the new poem aloud, allowing the children to read their own lines or letting them read each others. Encourage them to use rhyming words, and pair lines accordingly.


POETRY BOOK REVIEW: MULTICULTURAL-- A book of poetry for children or teens by a poet (or poets) of color published since 1995

The Blacker the Berry by Joyce Carol Thomas; illustrated by Floyd Cooper. HarperCollins, 2008.


The Blacker the Berry: Poems by Joyce Carol Thomas and illustrated by Floyd Cooper was given the 2009 Corretta Scott King Award for illustrations. It was also named a Coretta Scott King author honor book.

This collection of poems uses the metaphor of berries and their colors to celebrate the range of skin colors of african american children. The illustrations portray african american boys and girls with all shades of skin color , from the darkest eggplant, to the lightest milky.


Talk with children about different skin colors, hair colors, eye colors.
Have children draw and color self portraits with careful attention to these attributes.
Have berries for snack. Examine, compare and taste the difference between the different types of berries.



Comets, Stars, the Moon and Mars: Space Poems and Paintings, written and illustrated by Douglas Florian. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007

Book Review:

What a wonderful poetry collection and beautifully illustrated book about space and the planets! There is a poem about each planet, plus interesting facts and colorful illustrations. The mixed media illustrations are whimsically done in bold watercolors and collage. Flipping through the pages gives the reader the feeling of floating in the night sky, through galaxies, past stars, and around planets. Unexpected pleasures are circular cut-outs on some pages and a galactic glossary at the end of the book.

Poetry Break


Use this book with children who are studying space and the solar system.


Begin by reading the The Universe.

The Universe

by Douglass Florian

The universe is every place,
Including all the e m p t y space.
It's every star and galaxy,
All objects of astronomy,
Geography, zoology
(Each cat and dog and bumblebee),
All persons throughout history-
Including you,
Including me.

Read a poem about each planet as it is studied.
Have each student choose a planet poem to read, study and illustrate.
Discuss the Galactic Glossary in the back of the book.
Examine the art in the book, identifying elements in the collages.
Make a solar system collage as a group project.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Module 1

POETRY BREAK: SCHOOL/LIBRARY/BOOKS-- A poem about school, the library or books and reading


Read this poem to children before they visit the library.

Please Bury Me in the Library

By J. Patrick Lewis

Please bury me in the library

In the clean, well-lighted stacks

Of Novels, History, Poetry,

Right next to the Paperbacks,

Where the Kids' Books dance

With True Romance

And the Dictionary dozes.

Please bury me in the library

With a dozen long-stemmed proses.

Way back by a rack of Magazines,

I won't be sad too often,

If they bury me in the library

With Bookworms in my coffin.

Lewis, J. Patrick. 2005. PLEASE BURY ME IN THE LIBRARY. illus. by Kyle M. Stone. New York, NY: Harcourt, Inc. ISBN 0152163875.


Give the children a checklist and send them on a scavenger hunt in the library looking for the following items mentioned in the poem: novels, history, poetry, paperbacks, kids' books, romance books, dictionaries, prose, magazines.

Talk about new words and what they mean: stacks, dozes, proses, bookworms, coffin.

Point out the rhyming words: stacks/paperbacks; dance/romance; and so on.

Choose a favorite activity and try to think of rhyming words about that activity.

Write a poem about a favorite activity.


POETRY BOOK REVIEW: HOPKINS ANTHOLOGY-- A poetry collection compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Hopkins, Lee Bennett.1983. THE SKY IS FULL OF SONG. illus. by Dirk Zimmer. HarperCollins. ISBN 0060225823.


This small book is a collection of poems about the seasons. It is colorfully illustrated with linocuts by Dirk Zimmer.


The poems would be a great addition to a storytime or lesson about weather, the seasons, or holidays included in the collection. Read a poem to correspond with the beginning of a new month. Invite the children to write about the weather or the changing seasons. Children will enjoy examining the artwork in the book and experimenting with the process of printmaking or stamping. According to Wikapedia, "linocut is a printmaking technique, a variant of woodcut in which a sheet of linoleum (sometimes mounted on a wooden block) is used for the relief surface. A design is cut into the linoleum surface with a sharp knife."



February is Black History Month. It can be a challenge to celebrate with young children who cannot grasp the concepts of slavery, equality, and the contributions of African American inventors and leaders. They can, however, appreciate the unique characteristics and culture of African heritage. CHERISH ME is a charming book based on the poem by Joyce Carol Thomas that will appeal to all people, regardless of age or skin color.

Thomas, Joyce Carol. 1998. CHERISH ME. Ill. by Nneka Bennett. New York, NY: HarperFestival . ISBN 0694010979


This book will work well with any age group, but will especially appeal to very young children. The poem is simple and elegant. The words and images are familiar to very young children, yet interesting and meaningful to older listeners. Each line is depicted on a two page spread with pictures of a beautiful and energetic young African American girl. The illustrations are big, bright, and bold enough to share with a group. The poem is repeated at the end of the book on one page, lending itself to a second reading of the poem, alone without the pictures.

After reading the book and poem, discuss the background of Joyce Carol Thomas. Read the class the following excerpt from The University of Tennessee Website where Thomas currently teaches.

"Joyce Carol Thomas was born into a large family of migrant cotton pickers in 1938. The fifth of nine children, she spent much of her childhood working in the fields alongside her parents and siblings. She was born and educated in Ponca City, Oklahoma, although during the picking season she traveled with her family to many of the surrounding areas, staying in the homes of friends, relatives, or fellow workers. She usually missed the beginning of the school year to work in the cotton fields. Although her family was not well-off, and had little leisure time, Thomas grew up among the stories her friends and family told to lighten the long workdays. This exposure primed her to enjoy reading, and by the age of ten she was an avid reader."

Accessed from the University of Tennessee Website, February 6, 2009

This brief biography of Joyce Carol Thomas will inspire rich discussion, including:

1) how Thomas's background might have influenced the imagery she uses in the poem.

2) how Thomas's interest in reading and her education affected her life, particularly her professional accomplishments.

3) the definition of migrant workers, and what life must have been like for Thomas and her family.

Joyce Carol Thomas writes poetry and books for children, young adults and adults. She has won many awards for her writing. Her book, THE BLACKER THE BERRY, was a 2009 Coretta Scott King honor book. Choose this or any one of her works to read and discuss after introducing students to this prolific author and her work with her poem, Cherish Me.

Cherish Me

By Joyce Carol Thomas

I sprang up from mother earth

She clothed me in her own colors

I was nourished by father sun

He glazed the pottery of my skin

I am beautiful by design

The pattern of night in my hair

The pattern of music in my rhthym

As you would cherish a thing of beauty

Cherish me