Friday, March 27, 2015

Shadow Show - Poems About What We Always Do

Hand, Wall, Light, Shadow
Photo by Amy LV

Students - We all have favorite habits that become regular parts of our lives, small rituals and routines that tie one day to the next, that make us who we are.  Today's poem is about something that many children (and adults) like to do - make hand shadows!  Making hand shadows feels like a game between person, light, and wall, and today's poem celebrates this simple way to enjoy dusk or night.

This verse is made up of four quatrains (four line stanzas) with the second and fourth lines of each stanza rhyming.  Do you notice the repetition of the words my hands throughout?  I am hoping that this repetition makes it feel like the hands are dancing through the different lines, shaping words in the poem just like hands will shape pictures on a wall.

What are the simple joys that add happiness to your life?  The rituals that you carry from day to day?  These small habits will feed you well as a writer.

Well, happy last Poetry Friday of March 2015.  Weather-wise here in Western New York, March has come in like a lion...and it is going out like a poem!  Here's some news.

I am happy to share that on Monday evening, March 30, I will kick off Poetry Month by hosting a WonderChat for Wonderopolis on the topic of "Celebrating Wonder and Poetry."  The time for this is 8pm EST, and you can see the button for it up in the left  hand corner of this page.

Next Friday, the first Poetry Friday of Poetry Month, I'll be hosting Poetry Friday here at The Poem Farm.  Many Poetry Friday friends are planning poetry projects, and I can't wait to visit them throughout next month. I'll have a special month-long poetry project running here too, and I will announce this on April 1.  My host-post will go live at on Poetry Friday midnight for all poetry owls.

Next Sunday evening, April 5, also at 8pm EST (date may change - this is Easter), I will be happily co-hosting the Teach and Celebrate Writing Twitter Chat with Ruth Ayres and Christy Rush-Levine...also about poetry...hooray!

Jone is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at Check it Out.  Swing on over to her place to meet new friends, find old ones, and bask in the joys of song and silence.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, March 20, 2015

I Hear the First Robin - Listening for Poems

Happy Spring!
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Spring is reaching Western New York!  And I am filled with joy.  And sometimes...when one is filled with joy, one must write a a poem about it.  Just the other day, we counted four robins sitting on a patch of grass (a patch of grass, not snow) in our yard.  It was fun to just count them, to think of all of the flowers and birds and goodnesses that will be bursting back to life in the next few weeks.

When I sat down to write yesterday, I began by imagining that I was hearing the flapping of robin wings from a far far distance, that I could hear spring coming, flap-by-flap, all the way to New York State.  That idea may find its way into another poem, but somehow, this robin in the verse above just wanted to sing its own poem today.

Listen for the poem that wants to be written.  For what wants to be written might surprise you.  You might not even know that you have a robin - or a lightning bolt - or a seashell - or a baseball - or a bowl of ice cream - living inside of you, waiting to speak.

We call these poems, poems that are in the voice of other beings or objects, persona poems or mask poems.  When you write such a poem, you have the opportunity to try on a new voice, to imagine what it would be like to speak and think and feel as another.  That's just neat, don't you think?

To learn more about the American Robin and to listen to its voice, visit All About Birds, the website of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Happy first day of spring...from me and from the robin too!

In book sharing news, I have a giveaway going through the rest of today for two copies of THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY FOR CELEBRATIONS from pomelo books - one student edition and one teacher/librarian edition.  

This is a big book full of fun and thoughtful poems for all year long, in both English and Spanish.  The poems were selected by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong creators of Poetry Friday Anthology series, and I am excited to have written the October 31 poem for Halloween.  If you would like to be entered to win a copy of this book, please leave a comment on the giveaway post at The Poem Farm Facebook page, a place where I share all kinds of poems and poetry news.  I'll announce the winner there tomorrow.

Catherine is hosting today's Poetry Friday party over at Reading to the Core.  All are welcome to stop by her place and join us as we pass the poetry cookie plate.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Teaching Poems - What Do I Know?

New Friends
by Amy LV

Students - I am a dog lover!  Our family has two dogs, Cali and Sage, and we love them and they love each other. Sometimes when I walk down the street and see a new dog, I just want to get to know it.  But it's not so safe to pet strange dogs, so I always ask the owner and follow the steps in this poem when meeting a new dog.  When our chidren were small, I taught them to ask the owner for permission before petting any dogs as well.

This is a poem that teaches HOW to do something.  And writing a procedural poem is almost like writing a how-to book, only in a poem, the writer writes from line to line and the reader reads from line to line instead of from page to page.  You may notice that today's poem rhymes, but it rhymes in a conversational way.

What do you know how to do?  Funny things? Serious things? Crafts? Cooking? Games? Friendship tips? Building? Anything in the world...what could you teach? Might you write a poem about it?

Here is a dog I met last month in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Just looking at his picture makes me smile.

Happy week ahead!  I wish you dogs!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, March 6, 2015

SPARKing Again - Collaborating with an Artist

Last week, I participated in Spark once more.  It had been a while since I had taken part in Amy Souza's brainchild where perfect friends or strangers swap art, music, or writing and are given ten days to make new art, music, or writing inspired by what they have been given.  I was so happily paired with artist Tora Estep.

Here you see the painting I received on the first day, and right after, you will see the poem that it inspired.

The Magpies

Below is the poem I gave to Tora on day one of our collaboration.  Right after, you will see her painting that grew from it.


Students - it is great fun to be part of this kind of collaboration, and this is why I have taken part in Spark several times. (If you wish, you can see all of the Spark collaborations I've been a part of here.)  And as I always say, try it!  Consider getting with a friend and swapping art or music or writing.  Give yourself a handful of days by which you must each create something new from what you have received.  If you do try it, please let me know...if it's poetry, I'd adore featuring you here.

We are so much more together than each of us can ever be alone.  Collaborating is a joy.

Speaking of collaborating, this week we celebrated a baby poetry book birthday! So many congratulations to Lee Bennett Hopkins and Alyssa Nassner for their new snuggly board book, LULLABY AND KISSES SWEET.  I am honored to have a poem in this book - it's cuddling with poems by so many of my poetry friends.

Robyn Campbell is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at her site, Robyn Campbell.  Visit there to learn about all of the poetry goodies being passed around all day, all night, all week long!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Struck by a Tiny Paper Home

Squishy's Paper Home
Home by Alex and Friends
Photo by Amy LV

Students - This past Wednesday, I visited Plank South Elementary School in Webster, NY, and at the end of the day, fourth grader Alex showed me her small toy turtle Squishy (can you see part of his name on that yellow sticky note?), and his neat paper home.  She began with the folded walls and floor, and her friends were helping her build the rest (not exactly in the way my poem says...I made some parts up).  When I saw this paper home, I thought, "If I were Squishy, I'd be happy to have such a cozy place to live!"  

When I was a young girl, I loved making homes for little animals out of boxes and anything I could find.  So, seeing Squishy's home struck something inside of me. Much of writing is about just this - being struck by things. And then notice when you are struck.  What do you find funny or quirky or deeply sad or fascinating? These are the things you should write about.  Taking pictures helps me to remember, but so does my notebook and so does this blog.  Now, because I wrapped my arms and ink and time around this memory, Alex and her friends and Squishy will always have a little piece of real estate in my heart.  Thank you, Alex!

You will notice that there is a rhyme scheme to this poem.  It is almost in squished together quatrains, except for the last lines which stretch out from four to five in order to slow down the ending.

I am so pleased to welcome Natalie S. today!  Earlier this week, I also visited another school - Douglas J. Regan Intermediate in Lockport, NY.  As a part of that visit, I had the opportunity to eat lunch and write with several fourth grade writers, including Natalie from Breann Kolacz's class.  Natalie offered to share this poem with all of us for today's Poetry Friday gathering.

Old Bedroom
by Natalie S.

Come join me 
As you open the door
You will see 
The bright 
Yellow wall
With the 
Butterflies and 
Everywhere you look
Is a memory I’ll
Treasure for ever
You see the 
Bright sun through
The big window
You can hear 
The birds chirping
As they soar 
Among the clouds
And stars

Don't you feel like you are there?  Thank you so much, Natalie, for this lovely tour of memory and beauty.

Gena has won this month's drawing over at Sharing Our Notebooks.  Gena, if you see this, please drop me a line with your snail mail address and your choice of book. Congratulations!  And to all who notebook or know notebookers, I am looking for new posters over at Sharing Our Notebooks.  Right now I am particularly interested in all kinds of unusual notebooks and also notebooks kept by boys or men.  It would be good to get some guy notebooks up over there, so if you know any notebooker of any age, I would so appreciate it if you would send that person my way.

Heidi is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup today over at My Juicy Little Universe.  Be sure to CHeck out the CHallenge she has offered for MarCH!

Please share a commnent below if you wish.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

100 Reasons to be Thankful

Celebrating with Gratitude
by Amy LV

Students - This week, my friend, second grade teacher Sheila Cocilova, and I have been talking about writing occasion poems.  She has been writing poems about Dr. Seuss, and I have been thinking about the fullness of February. The other week, a wise friend (Who were you?  I forgot!) told me that someone should write a poem for February, a month stuffed with special days, or August, a month with almost none. Writing back and forth with Sheila reminded me that the 100th day of school is near now, and her work on those Dr. Seuss poems inspired me to try writing an occasion poem too.

It can be wonderful to get an idea from a friend!  On a day when you're not sure what to write, why not just walk around and look at what everyone else has been writing?  Perhaps all friends could just put out their folders or notebooks and folks could walk around quietly, reading what each writer has placed on top to share. Allow each of these offerings to invite you into a new writing idea you might not have planned on your own.  Today I have Sheila to thank for mine.  Thank you, Sheila!

And thank you as well to Tarak McLain.  Several years ago, I heard Tarak's voice sharing thirty of one hundred of his important beliefs on a This I Believe npr program.  His voice and thoughtfulness have helped me and have helped many students of all ages find ideas for their own opinion writing.

Today's small verse, as you have likely figured out, is a simple list poem.  And a thankful list is something you can keep yourself.  Science shows that people who write down and think about what they are thankful for are happier people?  This makes sense, don't you think?  You can keep a poster of things and moments to be thankful for with your classmates or you can keep your own gratitude journal like my friend Catie does.  I once knew a teacher and class of students who kept gratitude journals as part of their writers notebooks.  There are many ways to be thankful on this beautiful planet.

Here's an invitation!  I hereby invite any class that begins a 100 Reasons Celebration List to share it here.  Teachers - Please just send me an e-mail to with your photograph, and I will add your picture (the year doesn't matter...these posts come back each year in varioius ways) to the bottom of today's post. 

Here is a thankful list written by Librarian Gretchen Seibert's students at Edison Elementary in Tonawanda, NY.

Edison Students' Gratitude List 2015
Photo by Amy LV

Gratitude List by Edison Students 2015 - Close Up
Photo by Amy LV

I am thankful to have made so many friends here at The Poem Farm.  Thank YOU!

Speaking of gratitude, if you haven't yet seen Olga McLaren's Grandmother Journals over at my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks, don't miss them.  They're something else.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, February 20, 2015

That Moment Before Snapping a Photograph

Turkey Tree
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Yesterday I was lucky enough to see nine turkeys in that small empty tree you see above...not the evergreen, but the deciduous tree in front.  I was driving my car along, and when I looked out the window, I could not believe my eyes.  The tree looked to be covered in enormous and strange ornaments.  But they really were turkeys!  This picture is the moment after they all flew away.  Can you still hear their wings flapping?

Today's poem is a free verse poem, no rhyme or regular meter at all.  But I still read it aloud many times to be sure that the rhythms - while not regular - sang each into the next.  When you write a free verse poem, many of the decisions you will make are decisions about line breaks.  Where exactly would you like the reader to pause, even for just a wee bit?  Put your line breaks there.

It is interesting to write from photographs, and if you visit here regularly, you know that I do this often.  Usually, though, I write about the moment in the photograph or something from the photograph that anyone could see.  Today, though, my focus is on a different moment.  You might try this too. Find a photograph or think of one and write about the moment before or the moment after the picture was taken.  The piece you write could be true or it could come from your own wild imagination.  You might write a poem, but you could also write a story, or anything else.  The ways we best find ideas will work for us across all types of writing.

Mary Lee Hahn is the winner of last week's giveaway of LEND A HAND written by John Frank and illustrated by London Ladd.  Mary Lee, please just send me an e-mail and let me know if you would like the book sent to you or to a friend!

If you have not yet visited Olga McLaren's grandmother journals over at my blog Sharing Our Notebooks, I welcome you to do so.  She has written an inspiring post, and there is a giveaway as well.

Linda Baie is hosting this Poetry Friday Palooza over at TeacherDance.  Please head on over there to enjoy the poems, the festivities, and the friendship!

Please share a comment below if you wish.