Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Picture Frames - Poem #16 for April 2014 Poetry Project

Learn about this, my April 2014 Poetry Project, HERE!

Picture Frames
Photo by Amy LV

Students - I wrote today's poem on a late night flight from Atlanta, Georgia back home to Buffalo, NY.  It was a bit dark on the plane, and the gentleman next to me probably thought I was bonkers with all of my muttering (reading aloud to help me write next lines) and tapping (to hear the syllables), but I don't mind that.  I may be a little bonkers!

You can see that I scribbled my way through several pages to arrive at this little verse.  On this first spread, you can see that I first thought of writing the poem in the first person, or 'I' voice.

Picture Frames - Draft Page Spread #1
Photo by Amy LV

Below, on the second draft page spread, you see the bulk of the work.  I decided here that I actually wanted the poem to be a bit of a story about lonely frames that wait and finally find their new lives as art gallery frames for a child.

This may be difficult for you to read.  Guess what?  It's difficult for me to read too, but sometimes writing just goes quickly, and one needs to get it down. Neatness can come later.  

By this page spread, I had still not begun work on the ending.

Picture Frames - Draft Page Spread #2
Photo by Amy LV

Draft page spread #3 is where you see the work on the endings.  I also wrote a few endings in my head, endings that never made it to the page.

Picture Frames - Draft Page Spread #3
Photo by Amy LV

And below, in draft page spread #4,  is the last ending work.  After trying many possibilities, I finally decided to end this poem by posing a question to the reader, as one of my favorite poems, "Alley Violinist" by Robert Lax, does.  The end of this poem remains open for conversation.  "What will you find to give a fresh start?

What will YOU find?

Picture Frames - Draft Page Spread #4 
Photo by Amy LV

Please don't miss seventeen-year-old Alex McCarron's great notebooks post over at my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks.  It's truly inspiring!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Two Couches - Poem #15 for April 2014 Poetry Project

Learn about this, my April 2014 Poetry Project, HERE!

Living Room Couch
Photo by Amy LV

Family Room Couch
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Today is Day #15 of my THRIFT STORE LIVE project for National Poetry Month, and as it is a day that's a multiple of 5, it is free verse day!  If you look back, you can read the other free verse poems from this month, a way for me to try to strengthen my writing of free verse.

Today's poem is a two voice poem, two voices of two different couches.  We only have one couch in our home - an everything couch - but some people have one fancier couch and one more homey couch.  In today's verse, I try to let those two imagnied personalities shine through.  

Did you notice that the tag lines I use in today's dialogue match the couches' personalities?  While White Couch announces and declares, Orange Couch says and sighs.  What might this tell a reader about the personalities of these two objects, so similar yet so different?

I do like to trace back the family-idea-tree of poems when I write them, and if I were to guess where today's poem originated in my mind, I would say that it came from three mentors: "Famous" by Naomi Shihab Nye (read it here and you will know why), "Two Guitars" by Victor Hernandez Cruz, THE BEDSPREAD by Sylvia Fair, and I AM THE DOG I AM THE CAT by Donald Hall.  If you know any of these pieces of literature, you might think about which couch in my poem matches which shoe/person/pet in these pieces.  

It is a great thing to read a lot as each text we read deepens the well we draw from when we write.  We never know when our reading will show up, even in wee ways, in our writing, and so read read read we must!  As Gary Paulsen says, "Read like a wolf eats."

Here is today's longhand draft.  I did a lot of thinking about this throughout the day before writing even one word.  The idea of writing about two couches came to me in the shower yesterday morning, and so much of the thinking hummed along inside of me as I went about the day.  Later, sitting at the keyboard, I decided to indent the stanzas for Orange Couch, to make the different speakers more clear.

Two Couches - Draft Page 1
Photo by Amy LV

Happy happy second half of National Poetry Month!  Listen for poems everywhere...

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Cow Mug - Poem #14 for April 2014 Poetry Project

Learn about this, my April 2014 Poetry Project, HERE!

Cow Mug
Photo by Amy LV

Students - I decided early in the day that today would be "Cow Mug Day."  But when it came time to write, I still did not know where to begin.  I did know, though, that writing about a mug was important. Because, you see, no matter which thrift store you visit, you will always find lots of mugs.

More Mugs
Photo by Amy LV

Even More Mugs
Photo by Amy LV

See what I mean?

You can see in the draft below that I began writing by comparing shelves full of mugs to other things. I wrote the first stanza and then moved over to the right side of the draft page below, searching for what the poem should say.

Then, I remembered the field trips that my own fifth grade class used to take with kindergarteners.  We went to a pumpkin farm and we could all pet the animals.  This made me think about how petting cows is everyday life for some children, and for other children, riding the subway is a more everyday experience.  This seemed like a fun avenue to explore.

Cow Mug - Draft Page Spread #1
Photo by Amy LV

I wanted this poem to use very simple words and short phrases.  Many times, as in yesterday's "Mall Store Shirt," I write in quite a conversational tone, with one line flowing right into the next.  For today's poem, I kept each sentence more controlled, fitting just the length of each line.  I am not sure why I did this, but I like it.  For me, it makes the poem sound as if it comes from a younger voice, perhaps the first grade voice from the memory.

You might want to consider this with your poems.  What does the voice of your poem sound like? Who do you want to read your poem?  Knowing this will help you think about the voice in which to write.  Write in the voice that matches your reader's ear.  Think of a foot and a shoe.  Your shoe of writing should match the foot of your reader's ear.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Mall Store Shirt - Poem #13 for April 2014 Poetry Project

Learn about this, my April 2014 Poetry Project, HERE!

Mall Store Shirt
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Yesterday I went to two thrift stores to stock up on photographs for the coming week.  It was such fun, but there was one problem.  I was torn between thinking about what to take pictures of...and what to buy.  I ended up taking lots of photos (some of which you will see this week) and buying four books, a cool garden sculpture, and a long sleeved blouse.  Oh, and a garden trowel.  Victory!

I love having a lot of photographs on hand this month.  It makes me realize that it is important to plan for writing by planning for having lots of ideas.  The more interesting (does not mean expensive or exotic) things we do, the more interesting things we will have to write about.  This means that one important part of being a writer is learning to become interested in things and thereby, interesting.

For the photo-taking part of this project, I stroll through thrift stores and just stare at everything.  I listen for things that want their pictures taken.  Somehow I just know which ones they are.  Then, while driving or walking, I choose whichever one is most meaningful to me at the time.  For some reason, this shirt - a very ordinary trendy shirt - rose to the top today.

Today's poem uses the technique of personification, or giving an inanimate or animal object human feelings and abilities.  Shirts don't think or have friends, but in my poetic head, they do.  

So far one of the best parts of this project is realizing that it is possible to come up with a new angle each day. Many of these poems have been complete surprises to me!

Below you can see the longhand draft work for today's verse.  It just got itself rolling.

Mall Store Shirt - Draft Page Spread #1
Photo by Amy LV

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Books - Poem #12 for April 2014 Poetry Project

Learn about this, my April 2014 Poetry Project, HERE!

Book Sign
Photo by Amy LV

Thrift Store Bookshelf
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Each day of this month, I sit to write, beginning by asking myself the same question - "Should I write from the clothing department?  The toy department?  Housewares?  Shoes?  Furniture?"  I look at my list of already-written poems and see where the collection feels like going.  

Then I try to find an open window of the waiting poem.  "What will let me in? Will I write AS the books, TO the books, ABOUT the books?"

I also think about tone.  "What feeling do I want the poem to have?"  This has been interesting throughout THRIFT STORE LIVE so far.  Many days I have felt a nostalgia for these objects, yet I do not want the collection to be a weepy and sad, so I consider how the tone is moving along.  If one poem is a little bit sad, the next one will not be sad.

Then, it's all about words and sounds, and the head scratching and muttering begins.

In the draft below, you can see that I scribbled in my notebook for only nineteen minutes last night before starting typing, but I type-revised for quite a while because once again, I needed a lot of time to work out the ending.

Endings matter.  How you say goodbye - to a friend, to your mom on the phone, to a reader of your poem - matters.

If you are working on a poem, think hard about the ending.  Do not be afraid to rewrite and rewrite.  Will you write a surprise ending?  A circular ending? A funny or emotional ending?  Try to end your poem a couple of different ways. Which way sounds best to you?

Books - Draft Page #1
Photo by Amy LV

What do I like best in today's verse?  I like the way "less than a" repeats three times to create some internal rhythm and sound.

Today, I offer a giveaway of two books here: one copy of THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY FOR SCIENCE compiled by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong and one copy of my own FOREST HAS A SONG. Each Saturday of April, I will offer this same giveaway here, for eight books in all.  Thank you to Sylvia and Janet for your generosity.  Please leave a comment below, and I will draw two names next Thursday evening to be announced next Poetry Friday!

For last week's winners, check yesterday's post!

For a fabulous Poetry Peek chock full of ideas for sharing poetrylove with your students, don't miss Thursday's post with librarian Vida Zuljevic.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Suitcase - Poem #11 for April 2014 Poetry Project

Learn about this, my April 2014 Poetry Project, HERE!

Photo by Amy LV

Students - Today my writing squeeezed into a small amount of time at the end of the day.  It was a busy and lovely day, and at the end of it...I was ready to sleep!  But no, it is Poetry Month, so write I did.  Instead of turning to my paper notebook last night, though, I thought in my head for a bit and then played with LiveTyping as you can see below.  I am sharing two of the "enlivenings" - the two I thought would be the most interesting to watch.

Can you see how I wrote the last line of the poem before the rest of it. I just liked that idea of the suitcase loving visiting Grandma more than visiting any other place in the world.  And so I just kept working and working the lines. 

Suitcase  Every time they open me I wonder wher
You can see below how I decided that the poem should be in the past tense. When a writer decides on the tense of a poem, it's usually a good thing to keep that tense the same all of the way through.  I started with present tense but switched to past tense when I realized that this suitcase was not living with the same family anymore.

Suitcase  Every time they opened me I wondered
You might want to try LiveTyping yourself.  It's free and easy and lets you look back at your own process in an interesting way.  While I usually do not write on the computer, I do sometimes, and I like looking back at this.

Yesterday I was lucky enough to have author and librarian Vida Zuljevic sharing a Poetry Peek at The Poem Farm!  Please stop by there to read all about the many wonderful ways she celebrates poetry with students.  You will be delighted by her students' poems, and I know that they would love to read your comments too.

The winner's of last Saturday's book giveaway are:
FOREST HAS A SONG - Bridget Wilson

Winners - please send me an e-mail to amy at amylv dot com with your address, and I will mail your books sometime this month!  Stay tuned for the exact same giveaway tomorrow and every Saturday of April 2014.

Blog birthday girl Michelle is hosting today's Poetry Friday party over at Today's Little Ditty! Enjoy the festivities during this second beautiful week of National Poetry Month!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

"Dancing Shoes" - Poem #10 for April 2014 Poetry Project

Learn about this, my April 2014 Poetry Project, HERE!

Dancing Shoes
Photo by Amy LV

Students - It's a free verse day, just like all multiples of five of this month.  "Clocks" on Day #5 was the first free verse poem of the month, and the next one will be on April 15.  I find that setting such challenges for myself helps me to stretch and push myself to try things that I might normally not try.

You will notice, though, that there are still a couple of rhymes hiding in here.  Can you find them?  I was not trying to rhyme this time, but sometimes...when you do something just sneaks in on its own.

I plan to read some more free verse poems this week, to get the sound and feeling of fine free verse inside of my heart and writing head.

By the way, it looks like I just wrote this super fast.  And I did write the draft quickly.  But I went back to the typed version so many times.  And I recorded over and over again, making changes up until 2:00am!

Dancing Shoes - Draft Page Spread #1
Photo by Amy LV

And now, it's time for a...

It is an honor today to welcome Vida Zuljevic, a teacher from the former Yugoslavia who learned English after coming to the USA as a refugee with her family in 1996. Vida earned her BA, MA, and Ed.D. in Education at Washington State University and has worked as a Library Media Specialist for thirteen years.  In her home country, Vida is a published writer of articles in professional education journals as well as the book, CUDESNI SAN (MIRACULOUS DREAM), a collection of short stories for children.  Her self-published, first book in English, WHEN I WAS ALMOST FIVE, tells, in free verse, the story of the beginning of war in the former Yugoslavia seen through the eyes of her then-five-year-old daughter.  A poetry lover from very young age, poetry was a crucial part of Vida's education in former Yugoslavia so it became a part of her being.

Read on to learn some beautiful ways to explore poetry with joy and zest.

Poetry Activities 
at Robinson Elementary School in Pasco, Washington
by Vida Zuljevic

Being a poetry lover ever since I was an elementary school student in my native country, former Yugoslavia, continuing to be one ever since I started teaching about 40 years ago and again after coming to the U.S. and starting to teach here and exploring American children’s poetry more in-depth, I find it an inseparable part of my everyday life (personal and professional), and I think that the benefits for students of using poetry in the classroom, no matter the level, are multifold. I am very thrilled with this opportunity to share some insights about the poetry writing activities I have been doing with my students at the two elementary schools in Pasco, WA , since continuing my teaching career in the U.S., for more than 13 years now.

Those activities, for example, include:
  • Poetry and Puppetry Club, where students are involved in reading various poems, choosing some of them and adapting them for puppet performances
  • Poetry Friday Restaurant during the month of April during lunch break in the library, where student hosts “serve” poetry books of guests’ (their peers’) choice, after which the guests, after reading several poems for themselves,  choose one to “serve” to all guests by reading it aloud in front of others
  • Poetry Slam in April where students tell me in class what day they will be performing poems of their choice, and other students voluntarily come to listen and support them; 
  • Poetry Blog with a second-grade class
  • Publishing students’ poetry regularly in the local newspaper, throughout the school year
  • Annual Poetry Contest
  • More...

For this post, I’d like to describe our Annual Poetry Contest, a school-wide activity I run every year (for seven years now). This year, we had 409 poems turned in! Just as the school year begins, in September, I start promoting poetry among the students. They are encouraged to read and write poetry and turn in their poems during the month of November. Then, during the month of December, my colleagues (usually five or six other teachers, among whom at least three have a bilingual background) and I evaluate the poems turned in and choose 12 for the poetry calendar and 33 for the Poetry Book.

From the beginning of the school year, I bring in wonderful poetry by Janet Wong, Joyce Sidman, Ralph Fletcher, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Nikki Grimes, Pat Mora, Francisco Alarcon, Gerry Soto, Langston Hughes, Lee Bennett Hopkins, David Harrison, and others  to my students’ attention on a daily basis.  I read to them, they read to themselves, they share with their peers, or we do whole-group activities around the poems they bring in or that I choose with a certain goal in mind. 

With this poetry immersion in the library and great support of several colleagues in my school, poetry became a part of our life here at Robinson Elementary. Before November, I teach poetic forms and figurative language to 2nd to 5th grades with lots of modeling and reading of exemplary poetry, especially for younger students. It seems to me that this way, students get the confidence they need to embark on the journey of writing poetry and exploring it eagerly. I also teach revision skills, which are a crucial part of becoming a writer. I use some strategies from Georgia Heard’s THE REVISION TOOLBOX: TEACHING TECHNIQUES THAT WORK.

With K-1st grade students, I mostly do whole-class activities with poetry, like chanting nursery rhymes, reading poetry as an opening activity of every class, pointing to rhythm, wonderful words, rhyming words, etc.  During the month of November, we write a lot of class poems about families, pets, community (school, doctor, teacher, fire fighter), nature, and such. I serve as their scribe. We have a lot of fun, and I turn these poems in for the poetry contest as their class poems.

One important aspect is that students are allowed to write in English or Spanish, whichever language they feel more confident in. That option is another support that my students really respond to very positively because our school serves a student population (900 students) that is 90 percent Spanish-speaking and that has 71 percent in the bilingual transitional program.

Once the poems are evaluated and the best ones chosen, I call their authors to illustrate them, and I send them for publishing, with each poem and its illustration gracing one month of the calendar. I usually use for publishing the Poetry Calendars because they have reasonable prices and discounts starting at 15 calendars ordered ($9.95/calendar), but of course, there are other places to publish the calendars as well. Then, when the calendars arrive, I call the winners to present to them a copy of the calendar, a poetry book (if I have funds to buy them or if I get enough donations), a pencil, and a bookmark, and usually I treat them with an ice cream party. Last year, our Poetry Calendar winners (12 of them) received a copy of DECLARATION OF INTERDEPENDENCE, which Janet Wong generously donated to them. Also, the winners are invited to our regular Young Authors’ night where they share their poetry. (In the library, of course!)

The book publishing takes more time. I order a kit from, a publishing company, and it takes a lot of coordination with classroom teachers to get the illustrations done. This year, our second poetry book will be published in April, and the students and I are very excited. We will get one free book for the library, and the parents can order their copies at the time I send the kit back for publishing.

Once we have our book in hands, we’ll celebrate it with reading poems from it every day as the authors come to the library at their regular library class time. This celebration of our own poets and their work sparks an interest and motivates other students to think “poetry!” evidenced by a regular spike in circulation of poetry books and by many new poems being  turned in to me. I usually send these poems to the local newspaper, where they are regularly published.

Also, from this year, I included a “Promising Poet Library Writing Award” to give to five students who showed advanced poetry-writing skills and who are interested in poetry reading, writing, performing, and promoting poetry among their peers. I awarded them with certificates, poetry books, and notebooks for writing their poetry. This year, Amy sent two copies of her FOREST HAS A SONG as a donation, and I bought A LEAF CAN BE… by Laura Purdie Salas and WHAT THE HEART KNOWS: CHANTS, CHARMS, AND BLESSINGS and RED SINGS FROM TREETOPS -- A YEAR IN COLORS by Joyce Sydman.

"I read  it because it's beautiful," says Karen Morrow Durica, and I cannot think of anything more beautifully said about poetry.  I just paraphrase it "I LOVE it because it's beautiful." That is my "motto" with my students. I hope to develop that sense of poetry in them. I want them to  read and write poetry throughout their lives because poetry is beautiful.

I thank Amy for giving me an opportunity to share about this activity, and if any teachers or parents reading this post need more information or would like to know more about any of the activities mentioned here, I would be more than happy to answer any questions.  Contact me via e-mail at pravopis2000 at yahoo dot com.

Here are a few winning poems from 2014:

Fire, Fire!
By Jazmin V., Grade 4
((Recipient of Promising Poet Library Award 2014)

My cousin, my brother and I
Were playing.
Suddenly, BIP,BIP,BIP!
FIRE! I shouted.
The fire began moving so fast.
My father ran downstairs. CRASH!
We heard broken glass falling and
Daddy ran back with the fire extinguisher.
My mother called 911!
We ran downstairs, scared , terrified
Especially because my mother
Had a broken leg and could not move fast.
The ambulance, cops and the fire truck
Wailed in there in minutes.
Now, we live at my grandma’s house
While she is in Mexico.
The most important thing is
That we all are safe.

Illustration by Jazmin V.

By Mariah M., Grade 3
(Recipient of Promising Poet Library Award 2014)
People love writing poems
On a sunny day, on a rainy day, and always. I’m
Excited about my poems. I LOVE writing poems, too.
Marvelous and lovely

By Mariah M., Grade 3
(Recipient of Promising Poet Library Award 2014)

Falling leaves
Autumn leaves
Letting sunlight shine through
Looking outside-autumn magic!

By Moises P., Grade 3
(Recipient of Promising Poet Library Award 2014)

Plates full
Eat, yum
Gobble, gobble
Spices, sauce
Meatballs in my mouth
Slurp, yum, burp
Get some more
Gobble, gobble, gobble!

My Brother
By Julian S., Grade 2

Tall, smart
Eating, studying, training
My brother is in the Army

Por Joanna C., Grado 5
(Recipient of Promising Poet Library Award 2014)
La nieve es blanca
Es como polvo magico
Callendo, lentamente
Callendo, suavemente
     En el suelo.

Por Joanna C. Grado 5
(Recipient of Promising Poet Library Award 2014)

Feliz, Feliz siempre estoy
En la maƱana Saludos doy
Luego desayuno
Impresionada estoy
Zapatos nuevos me pongo hoy.

By Javier U., Grade 4

Strong, mighty
Walking, pulling, eating
Ferocious as a tiger

Promising Poet Library Writing Award 2014 recipients 
Mariah M. and Joanna C. with with Vida Zuljevic

For me, it is a pleasure to keep this blog as it gives me the opportunity to learn from teachers, students, and librarians like Vida Zuljevic.  Thank you!

I would also like to thank the wonderful students, teachers, adminitrators, and parents at Klem North Elementary School in Webster, NY, for a delightful school visit yesterday.  I am still thinking about your poems and our laughs.

Please don't miss the wonderful post over at my other blog!  Seventeen year old writer, Alex McCarron, shares her journals, index cards, and process over at Sharing Our Notebooks.  Thank you, Alex. 

Please share a comment below if you wish.