Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Happy Birthday to Me...and National Poetry Month!

Today, March 29, 2017, is the seventh birthday of The Poem Farm!  To celebrate this happy occasion and all of the wonderful friends I have made here, I will give away 10 copies of my EVERY DAY BIRDS to a class or group in special need of books.  If you have a suggestion as to where to send these books, please leave it in the comments, and I will announce the winner (one winner for all 10 books) on Friday, April 12.

10 Copies for Children in Need

We are almost to the eve of the beginning of National Poetry Month. Started by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, this month-long celebration is always full of delights and surprises. You can learn more about ways to celebrate National Poetry Month at  This logo below comes from the site, a treasure trove of poetry goodness.

Each year at The Poem Farm, just like many other writers, I choose to write and share a poem each day. It has been fun to organize these poems around themes, and during the weeks before April, I find myself trying to choose something that piques my interest.  Before we talk about this year's Poetry Month project at The Poem Farm, here's a timeline of my past Poetry Month projects here.

2010 - The Poem Farm Begins!  I wrote a poem each day for a month, beginning actually, on March 29, 2010. This blog just to be a one month project, just for me, to get me writing again as I awaited the publication of FOREST HAS A SONG.  At the end of April 2010, I was having too much fun to stop, decided to go for one whole year, publishing a poem at The Poem Farm each day.  After that, I still hung around!

2011 - For each day of April 2011, I continued to write and share daily poems.  However, I had no theme as the blog was just entering its second year.

2012 - A-Z Dictionary Hike - Here's where the themes began.  Each day of April 2012, I opened my children's dictionary to a different letter, starting with A, ending with Z.  Eyes closed, I pointed to a word and this word became the title of that day's poem.

2013 - Drawing into Poems - For each day of April 2013, I slowed myself down and looked closely at an object, drawing it with black pen into my notebook. On some days, I wrote poems from these drawings, but on many days, I simply allowed the looking-drawing practice to practice becoming a closer observer.

2014 - Thrift Store - For each day of April 2014, I wrote a poem from a photograph of an item I found in a thrift store.  These poems are no longer at The Poem Farm as I am trying to sell them as a collection.

2015 - Sing That Poem - For each day of April 2015, I wrote a poem to the meter of a well-known tune and challenged readers to match the poem to the tune by seeing if it was singable to the same meter.

2016 - Wallow in Wonder - For my 2016 National Poetry Month project, I celebrated learning and writing from learning, writing poems from each daily Wonder at Wonderopolis.  I have not yet collected these posts into one post, but I will do so.

And now....this year!

This year's National Poetry Month project at The Poem Farm is....

(Do you recognize the meter and rhyme scheme of this poem?)

Each day of April 2017, I will close my eyes, and I will reach into my box of 64 Crayola crayons.

Aerial View of Crayola Box
Photo by Georgia LV

Each day I will choose a crayon (without looking), pulling this crayon out of the box. This daily selected crayon will in some way inspire the poem for the next day.  So, on March 31st, I will select the crayon for April 1st, on April 1st I will select the crayon for April 2nd's poem, and on through the month, thinking and writing about one color each day for a total of 30 poems inspired by colors.

Writing from colors is popular with poets.  My friend Laura Shovan did this in at her blog in February 2014, inviting poets to write from Pantone colors each day.  And folks will often write poems inspired by paint chip colors, as you can see here at Mrs. Hall's blog, Fabulous in Fifth.

I welcome any classrooms of poets who wish to share class poems (class poems only please) related to each day's color.  You'll see instructions on how to do this beginning on April 1.

Happy almost National Poetry Month!  Write a rainbow!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Poem Pep Talks & A Poetry Peek

My Pencil Case and Current Notebook
Photo by Amy LV

Students - I have been out of my normal writing routine.  Some good family things, and a big and different writing project have pulled me away from my notebook. These things have been good.....but oh, how I have missed my notebook.  I feel like I have been missing part of me.

So when I began writing this morning, I really did need to give myself a pep talk.  I wrote and wrote to myself about how much better I feel when I am writing regularly, and how much easier it is to write when writing is a habit.  Good habits help with living, yet sometimes I let my habits go.  Then, I must happily chase them down again.  That's what today looks like.

As way led onto way in this morning's notebook writing, my pep talk became a poem.  I thought I was writing it for you.  But if I am honest, I will tell you that I wrote it for you...and for me.  The words in this poem are true for me.  I hope that it will give me courage when I think to myself, "I don't know if I can find a writing idea today."  And I hope it might help you too.  Just begin.

We all have struggles in life, and sometimes writing a pep talk or a pep talk poem can lift a person up.  You might choose to write a pep talk or a pep talk poem for a friend or a family member...or for yourself.   The way we speak to each other and ourselves changes our thinking.  So writing to ourselves in positive ways matters and makes a difference.

And now...a Poetry Peek!  Today I could not be happier to welcome second grade teacher and author Mary Anne Sacco from P.S. 290, The Manhattan New School in New York City.  Mary Anne is author, with Karen Ruzzo, of a book I love, SIGNIFICANT STUDIES FOR SECOND GRADE, a book that I know helped inspire my own EVERY DAY BIRDS.  

The Cozy Writing Home of Our Grade 2 Poets
Photo by Mary Anne Sacco

by Mary Anne Sacco 

This winter’s second snow day in NYC was announced the day before it occurred. I perused The Poem Farm, as  I do often, when looking for some mentor poetry to use with my second graders.  Even though the first day of Spring was only a week away, on this Snow Day Eve, we found ourselves reading aloud John Rocco’s BLIZZARD.

We read these two poems from Amy. 

That evening the students had these poems in their home learning packet as mentors to help them write their own snow day poems.

It’s March and we have been using poetry in our home learning packets and in class since the beginning of the year. I also immersed the kids in a short December poetry genre study.  We focused on list poems and poems of address.  The most powerful teaching came from studying a few mentor poems. And these young writers are still holding those lessons with them. The slashes in some of these poems you'll read indicate the places where the students are planning their line breaks. 

My students love poetry and many of them choose writing a poem as a home learning choice to share with the class or a family member.  

Here are a few poetry writing tips from my students.

A Tip from Gillian

Tips from Serena and Georgia

Here are some Poetry Hands.

Poetry Hands Write
Photo by Mary Anne Sacco

Poetry Hands Make Books
Photo by Mary Anne Sacco

And here are some poems students wrote for snow day home learning.

by Olivia

by Conor

by Shiloh

by Georgia

by Aidan

by Caitlin

Some of these students' winter poems, as well as their spring poems, will soon be included in home learning packets too.

Thank you so much to Mary Anne and these poets for joining us today, during the first week of spring!  We can write about any weather at any time of year...and now as we totter between winter and spring, we thank you for these celebrations of snow.

Please allow me, too, to share a beautiful book about snow days.  If you do not yet own BEFORE MORNING, by poet Joyce Sidman, do not miss this enchanting work of art.

To honor today's poets, I will offer a giveaway of Joyce's book, to be sent to a commenter on today's post.  I'll draw names next Thursday, March 30...and will announce the winner next Friday as I host the Poetry Friday, Poetry Month Eve festivities and share my April Poetry Project.  (If you think your class might like to play along this year, pull out some crayons.  I'm buying a new box of 64 Crayolas.)

Catherine is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup and Kwame Alexander's new OUT OF WONDER at Reading to the Core.  Please stop by and visit. We share poems each week, and everyone is always invited.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Looking, Thinking, and a Poetry Peek

Family Album Page by John Conolly
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Today, on St. Patrick's Day, I am finding myself thinking about my family and how they traveled over the ocean at different times to live here in the United States.  I took a bit of time to look at my mother's mother's father's photo album...and it got me thinking.

Consider taking time to look at some old pictures or old family belongings.  See what new thoughts they give to you.  You never know....

And now, a Poetry Peek!

Last week I was very lucky to visit several schools in Northern New Jersey.  One of these was Radburn Elementary School, and they held a poetry contest the week I visited.  Here are the two poets whose poems were selected by the school for sharing here at The Poem Farm.  So many congratulations to all who wrote....writing a poem is a present to yourself.  

Today, welcome to Ulee and Thanvi, whose poems explore questions and wonders. Enjoy their thoughtful poems, shared with us by Radburn principal Jill Lindsey.

Never Nothing

Thinking about nothing is thinking about something
Doing nothing is doing something
Being nowhere is being somewhere
When I'm up to nothing, I'm up to something
Because there is never nothing

An empty room is filled with air
Just as every head is filled with hair!

If an empty room is filled with air
And the action of doing nothing is doing something
What is an empty thought?
Without nothing, without something
Is that possible?
No, because there is never nothing.

by Ulee K., grade 5

What do Parents do?

What do parents do?
do dads work or
eat pizza all day?
what do parents do?
do moms cook
dinner or
watch TV until
they're asleep!
I do not know
what parents do
when I'm at
school but I
sure want to
now what they

by Thanvi Y., grade 2

Reading these poems may have reminded you of some questions that you wonder about.  As Ulee and Thanvi show us, things we wonder about can inspire strong poetry.

Happy week!

Please visit Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge this week for the Poetry Friday roundup, a weekly celebration of poetry and all of its goodnesses.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, March 3, 2017

My Camera is an Extra Eye & A Poetry Peek

Taking a Picture
by Amy LV

(I will add audio as soon as Sound Cloud allows me to do so!)

Students - This week's poem was inspired by our visitors today, visitors who took their own photographs and wrote poems about them. I like to write poems about the photographs that I take, and there is something about looking for beauty that always lets you find it.  We find what we seek.

You might choose to take a few photographs of your own this week, paying attention to the mysteries and magic bits all around you.  Consider writing a poem from one of your own pictures.

Today I feel very lucky to welcome teacher Darlene Daley and her third grade poets from Canandaigua, NY. I met Darlene last fall, and it is such a pleasure to welcome her and her students today.  Please enjoy this beautiful celebration of word and image!  

by Darlene Daley

They say that a picture paints a thousand words, but can a poem make you feel them?  This was the question my third grade class delved into when writing poems from photographs.

My focus this year has been on celebrating inquiry with great zeal.  I wanted my students to understand that I wasn’t looking for answers, but instead celebrating their learning process and questions. This has sparked students’ curiosity as they dive deeper into reading, writing, mathematics, and the content areas with a passion I have never seen! 

 I had shared with the students a book that evoked my curiosity.  I picked up J. Patrick Lewis's National GEOGRAPHIC BOOK OF NATURE POETRY at the Rochester Children’s Book Festival where I met Amy for the first time and told my students how I was inspired by the photography and the poems in the book.  The words and photos transported me to so many breathtaking locations.  My senses were awakened, and I was left with many new questions I wanted to explore.  

I shared several of the poems and posed this question to my students – “Do you think we could write poems and take photos, bringing readers into our imaginations, allowing them to feel our powerful emotions?”  My students were excited about the prospect of this artistic experiment.  

We began our process by exploring other narrative poems about nature, and we used these mentor authors to help us harness the craft of writing narrative poems.  Our first step was to examine how the poets included sensory details, precise language,  and imagery, just to name a few craft techniques.  At first, we wrote from nature photos taken by my semi-professional photographer friend, but soon we were ready to take our own pictures.

We collaborated with Josh Mull, one of our art teachers, to discuss photography.  We examined how angles, various camera modes, and perspectives help capture the images one is after.

One cold, wintry day, we all set out (with a couple of parent volunteers) to capture our own images.  We were inspired by so much amazing beauty around our school that we had never noticed before. We used our pictures to create new poems.

As we reflected on our journey, students were surprised by what other readers thought of their poems and how their words awakened the senses of others.  They shouted with excitement, “Can we do this again when spring comes?”

The answer is…”Yes, of course, my poets, of course!”  

Frozen in Time

Time’s standing still
Hands frozen in place
No bell rings
Rusted numbers one through twelve
Stuck to brick’s ledge
Kids are anxiously waiting
For the clock to move.

Photograph and Poem by Elijah

Goodbye Winter

Winter has just six weeks left,
Now that groundhog saw his shadow.
But it seems like spring,
Since the last sign of the cold season
Is the bright red berry tree.
Dozens of blood red,
Inedible fruit,
Sprawl up from the small tree’s root.
Only burst of color,
Against some almost melted snow.
More winter wouldn’t hurt.

Photograph and Poem by Miriam

A Snowy Winter Wonderland

Under the bridge in midwinter
Is a river
And as the snow fall
As light as a feather
If you look closely
You will see
Little white bubbles
Trying to break free.
There is a layer of ice
Thinner than paper
The twigs are frozen
In a pose.
It’s all one of a kind.

Photograph and Poem by Alexia

The Three Branched Tree

Dangling dead leaves
On crusty branches
Swaying in the breeze.
It looks like a spider web.
This three sided tree
It’s home is at the school
And it’s covered in rough chocolate bark.
Leads you to dream.
Wild things like a pterodactyl protecting their egg

Photograph and Poem by Aidan


The icy cold lake
Is as white as the snow
The leaves tumbling down
On the icebergs
As the trees blow over the lake
The water rushes down
As the cold stream moves
The snow rushes down
The trees around the cold rushing river
Makes it look so cold and dark
The snow drops down
On every piece of ice
As the leaves fall from the sky
And as the wind
Blows the trees
Back and forth
And the crumbled leaves

Photograph and Poem by Mya

Enjoy these reflections on our photo poetry project:

“Poetry is fun and it can teach you a lot.  Using pictures allowed our creativity to shine”
-- Chase, Student

“Poetry can make you relax or energize you.  It is nice to listen to and fun to write.”
--Alexia, Student

It is an unforgettable experience when a creative classroom teacher such as Darlene Daley inspires an entire group of students to create with bravery and confidence. It is the ultimate experience when this creative classroom teacher and her class inspires multitudes of others (students and teachers alike)…it’s contagious!
--Josh Mull, Art Teacher

“I learned poetry doesn’t need to rhyme.  It is lots of fun.  Anything can inspire you to write a poem, even the most unusual things.”
- Max, Student

Combining poetry with other areas (content areas, art, music, etc.) unleashes the students' hidden creative spirits, engaging them with the world in new ways.

I think it is essential for students to experience poetry on a regular basis.  Students need to know that there is a poet living inside of everyone, and it is important to tap into each student's individual inspiration.  

Thank you so much, Darlene and Poets, for joining us here at The Poem Farm today.  If you see someone out with a camera this weekend, it may be because of your words here today.  My gratitude!

This is the birthday month of wonderful poet Billy Collins, and many of us are celebrating him for Poetry Friday today!  Please allow me to recommend a photograph-related poem by this great man that may well inspire some picture memories of your own -- "Class Picture, 1954." 

Heidi is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup and Billy Collins birthday extravaganza over at my juicy little universe.  Please stop by and visit. We share poems each week, and everyone is always invited.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Make a How-To Poem and a New Craft Too

Tree Eraser Stamps
Photo by Amy LV

Students - The older I get, the more I realize what makes me happiest.  I am happiest when I am making something new.  And this craft, described step-by-step in today's poem, is a neat one that you might like to try. It's easy and so rewarding to make stamps from erasers. You can use your stamps to make your own cards or even wrapping paper.

Here's a picture of my stamp-making supplies.  You don't need much to make your own stamp.

Stamp Making Supplies
Photo by Amy LV

Today's poem is a poem that teaches how to do something.  It's a procedural, or how-to poem.  If you wish to write  a poem like this one, you might think about something that makes you happiest, or something you would like to teach someone else to do.  Then, your reader how to do this new thing.

Christina is the winner of last week's giveaway for five copies (thank you, Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell!) of HERE WE GO.  Christina, please send me an e-mail to with your snail mail address, and I will share it with Janet.

Karen is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup over at Karen Edmisten.  Please stop by and visit. We share poems each week, and everyone is invited.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Finding Poems in Moments of Surprise - And a Giveaway!

Mini Monster and Sarah
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Sometimes as I go through my day, I notice something curious. Yesterday, I looked at the couch and saw Mini and Sarah...sharing!  These two are not exactly pals, so it was a small ah-ha! moment for me, a bright moment of the afternoon.

Writing ideas are all around, and one place you can find one is in the small bits of life that surprise you. Yesterday I also saw a flock of robins swooping up from a sumac tree.  There's a poem in there just waiting...

And now...a Poetry Peek and a giveaway too...

Today I am very happy to share the latest from Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong...HERE WE GO!  This book, like YOU JUST WAIT is a POETRY FRIDAY POWER BOOK, meaning that it is an interactive book full of mentor poems, places for young writers to play with words, and pages for poetry writing.

This collection is very timely, addressing concerns that face many of our friends and neighbors right now.  It is a warmly and whimsically illustrated volume focusing on social action and stepping up to make your own corner of the world a more loving place.  And it's just full of poems, one each by Naomi Shihab Nye, Carole Boston Weatherford, Joseph Bruchac, David Bowles, Ibtisam Barakat, Eileen Spinelli, David L. Harrison, Kate Coombs, Robyn Hood Black, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes, RenĂ©e M. LaTulippe, Margaret Simon, and 24 poems by Janet Wong, threading the 36 poems into a story in different voices.

Here is a poem that is staying with me, one that helps me remember who I hope to be in hard times, by Michelle Heidenrich Barnes.

I asked Janet Wong to share a thought about this HERE WE GO with us today.  She says:

This book shows how you go from having a spark of an idea to getting your community behind you, including the important step of thanking your supporters. The kids who read this book might want to start, as the kids in HERE WE GO do, with something simple like a food drive or walk-a-thon to raise money for the local food bank. Fighting hunger is something that anyone in any town can agree on, right? And any school district, too: because if your students don’t have healthy food, they can’t concentrate. Fighting hunger = better learning! 

You can read more about HERE WE GO at any of these cozy homes online:
Irene Latham's Live Your Poem
Laurie L. Birchall's Poetry for Teaching
Mary Lee Hahn's A Reading Year 
Sylvia Vardell’s Poetry for Children 
Michelle Heidenrich Barnes's Today's Little Ditty
Linda Kulp Trout's Write Time
Katie's The Logonauts

Janet and Sylvia have generously offered to send 5 copies of HERE WE GO to one winner, someone who comments on this blog post by next Thursday evening, February 23. If you win, please give the books to a group: book club group, or home school group, or other group of students who will enjoy reading and writing on its pages.

Jone is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup over at Check it Out.  Head over there for poems, ideas, and community.  We are a welcoming community....and we welcome you!

Please share a comment below if you wish.