Friday, July 22, 2016

Inspired by Nature, Inspired by a Teacher


Fingernail Clams Feeding from Western New York Woodland Vernal Pool
(Scooped from a Vernal Pool in Winter, Returned in Spring)
Video by Mark VanDerwater




Students - It is good to have a special place where you can go to be alone, to think and to pay attention to the world.  Here on our property, we have a vernal pool, a little body of water that just stays for part of the year, and my husband Mark loves to go and visit the critters.  There is a vernal pool at his high school too, and above, you can see a video Mark took of some of the teeny critters in wintertime, after they had warmed up inside his classroom.

When we are quiet and when we visit a place again and again, watching and writing, looking and drawing, we can learn very much.  About the world and about ourselves too.

I have another teacher friend who loves vernal pools too...

Today I am absolutely delighted to introduce Christie Wyman, a wise kindergarten teacher at Country Elementary School in Weston, Massachusetts.  I have followed Christie's beautiful teaching on Twitter (@MrsWymansClass), and I feel very lucky to welcome her and her last year's students to The Poem Farm today.  Enjoy this watercolor celebration of words...paying tribute to some plants and animals who live close by.  Welcome, Christie!  Welcome, writers and artists!


My Kindergarten students and I are inspired daily by the natural beauty of the school grounds of our PreK-3rd Grade elementary school and adjacent town conservation trails. 


Not far along one of the walking trails sits a vernal pool -- the first in a series of them, in fact. We visit this particular spot every 6-8 weeks to observe the changing of the seasons, learn about communities and habitats, and the wildlife that make their home in this truly magical place. Some animals are seen; some leave signs of their presence; others remain elusive throughout the year.


As the year progresses, our knowledge about vernal pools and their inhabitants grows. We use a schema chart with Post-its to record our thinking throughout the year, including our current and new learning, our misconceptions, and questions. Nature’s “cast of characters” inspired us in a new direction this year --writing poetry about them and painting their portraits in watercolors.

We began our poetry project by adopting a character. Each student researched their vernal pool community inhabitant and made a list of facts they had learned. After individually conferring about these facts, we gently -- ever so gently -- shaped them to take on a different form: poetry. Some Kindergarten poets chose to have their character do the talking, while others preferred to ask them questions. All are a lovely intermingling of science content knowledge and literacy learning. 

We’d like to introduce them to you now!





















Thank you so much, Christie and students, for joining us today.  These poems are works of art are luscious, and if the critters and trees could read...they would surely feel honored.

Teachers - This is an exquisite example of tying poetry and art to science, and these young writers' poems would be magnificent mentor texts for other young writers studying habitats near to their own schoolyards.

In other happy news...  Many many congratulations to wise poet Irene Latham, winner of the 2016 International Literacy Association Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award for her wonderful DEAR WANDERING WILDEBEEST!  Irene shared a bit of her revision process here in 2014, and I am so happy that her book - and her gifts - have been recognized with this generous award from Lee Bennett Hopkins.


Chelanne is hosting today's Poetry Friday party over at Books4Learning, and she offers a peek into Irene's book too.  Don't miss!  Each Friday, someone new hosts Poetry Friday, a listing of the week's poems and poetry ideas all around the blogosphere. All are always welcome to visit and share.  Happy Poetry Friday!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, July 15, 2016

For My Faraway Friend - Poems about Real Feelings


Cat in La Alberca, Spain
Photo by Amy LV




Students - I just returned from a week in La Alberca, Spain, as part of a program that included both Spanish and English speaking adults.  It was a beautiful time, and in one short week, all of us became good friends.  Now, we are all back or heading back to our own homes, knowing how far away we all live from each other, wondering if we will ever meet again.  It reminded me of my childhood days at summer camp, when a week can begin with complete strangers and end with dear friends.

So, today's poem is about the real feelings I have in my heart right now.  Though I took many actual photographs of the time with my new Spanish and Anglo friends, I also took pictures with my heart.  And those will always be with me.

What feelings are in your heart right now?  There are probably many, feelings right in the living room of your heart, and feelings in the attic too.  Poke around.  You might just find a poem idea in there.

Mary Lee is hosting this week's Poetry Friday roundup over at A Year of Reading.  Visit her place to find out what all of the moo-ing is all about!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Reminders from History - A Poem for Older Children



Postcard - Anne Frank House, Facade Secret Annex
Photo by Allard Bovenberg




Students - I am this week volunteering at an English immersion adult week in La Alberca, Spain with Diverbo.  There are fourteen English speaking adults here (from Canada, England, Australia, and the United States) and there are nine Spaniards.  The job of the English speakers is to only speak English, as the Spanish people are here to strengthen their English.

On the way to Spain, my daughters (part of the Diverbo teen program) and I spent a day in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and we visited the Anne Frank House and Museum.  Walking through the rooms where young Anne wrote about her life during the horrors of Nazi rule made me think about the power humans have - for evil and for good.

Anne's father, Otto Frank, really did mark lines on the wall in the Secret Annex, to show his daughters' growth.  And Anne pasted pictures of royalty and movie stars upon her wall, to make it feel like home, even though it was not home, but a secret annex where Anne's family, another family, and one more man stayed in hopes of staying safe.  They were all killed for being Jewish, all except for Anne's father Otto, who survived Auschwitz and had Anne's diary published after the war.

I am grateful to Anne for writing, as her story is the story of many.  Because she wrote it down, we have a small window into one child's life - one normal child's life in the most dire of circumstances.  Many children today live in terrible circumstances, and Anne's diary and legacy reminds me of this.  Too, her words remind me of my responsibility.  How am I helping, as Anne's family's friends tried to help her?

To learn a bit more about what a helping person does, I am reading ANNE FRANK REMEMBERED (there is also a documentary by the same name) by Miep Gies and Alison Leslie Gold.  Miep Gies was one of the employees of Otto Frank, Anne's father.  Miep, her husband, and others brought food to Anne and her family and tried to keep them safe; this was at risk to their own safety, but they did what was right.  After Otto Frank returned, Miep gave him Anne's diary and other writings.  She had kept them, hoping to one day return them to Anne.

A Book by a Helper
Photo by Amy LV

There are many ways to learn about the world.  We widen our horizons and deepen our understandings by reading, talking with others, traveling, and allowing ourselves to think and write about what we notice and observe and believe.

This week's Poetry Friday roundup is over at The Logonauts with Katie.  Here you will discover many poetry happenings around the blogosphere this week.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, July 1, 2016

It Might Have Been Different - Listening for Echoes



Amy, November 1970
Photo by Debby or George Ludwig



Students - Today's poem is, I suppose, a cross between my own curiosity about what my life would have been like if I'd been born elsewhere (would I be me?) and my sadness about racism and fighting and war.  Each of us is plopped into a life situation beyond our control, and at some point....we begin controlling it more and more.  I feel very fortunate to live in a peaceful place, yet I am very aware that it could have been different.

Writing that last sentence, I heard an echo in it.  In her wonderful poem Otherwise, poet Jane Kenyon repeats the line, "It might/have been otherwise."  And at this moment, I know for certain that the title of today's poem came straight from Kenyon's poem, one I have read over and over again.

Remember to reread poems and books that you love.  When we do this, the rhythms and melodies of line and story become embroidered upon our own writing hearts.

Over at my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks, you can find out who won the book giveaway of Aimee Buckner's NOTEBOOK KNOW-HOW.  Coming next over there is recent high school graduate, Alexandra Zurbrick, and I am excited to welcome her.

Today you can find Poetry Friday over at Tabatha's place, Tabatha Yeatts: The Opposite of Indifference. Please stop on by and check out this week's poetry joy.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Hi! - A Greeting from a Wolf Spiderling



One Little Voice
by Amy LV




Students - Earlier one evening this week, my husband called me outside to see a mother wolf spider covered in babies.  I had never seen this before, and I find myself thinking about it over and over.  When I saw her, I half wanted to run away and half wanted to pick her up.  So I compromised,  bent down, and looked closely.  I was unable to get a photograph in time, but I have one in my head that I can go back and revisit when I'm feeling wolf spidery.

Of course this led me to want to read more about wolf spiders, and I found myself amazed by their eight eyes and by the mothers' devotion to their babies.  When I sat to write, it makes complete sense that this is what I wrote.  I can't stop thinking about it?

It is important to look at fascinating things when people invite you to do so. Even if you're not in the mood.  Get up.  Go look.  Store away what you see in your mind.  You might write about it someday.

If you would like read a little bit more about wolf spiders and see a photograph of a wolf spider mom with her babies, visit KidZone, and if you'd like to see even more photographs, there are many at Google Images.

Diane is hosting today's Poetry Friday party of summer here at Random Noodling. All are always welcome to this weekly celebration of poems and poets and words and friendship!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Monday, June 13, 2016

For Older Students - Sometimes Writers Feel Lost

Crying Peace Sign
by Amy LV




Students - Sometimes writers feel lost, as if suddenly a cozy place has become frightening.  Life can be confusing, both the small worlds we live in and the big world we all share.  

At such where-do-I-turn-what-do-I-do-now times, writing can be a friend in the darkness, a small candle warming your small corner of this planet we share.  We can ask questions with our words, and we can try to offer hope.  We can remind ourselves that yes, love is all that matters, and from this loving place may we live.

The "we" in this poem refers to all of us.  What can we do as a world to help keep each other safe?

The world holds much beauty.
Sing to someone.
Read a story to someone.
Make a kindness promise you can keep.

My love to you.
Amy
xo

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Taking Classes, Appreciating Now, Sitting...


Front Porch View
Photo by Amy LV




Students - Last weekend our family went on our annual trip as part of the Allegheny Nature Pilgrimage.  One of the classes I took was a writing class with Karen Lee Lewis of The Blue Plate Studio.  This was a thoughtful and inspiring class, and as part of it, Karen read us some beautiful ecopoetry and gave us time to write creatively about birds.  I loved hearing others' writing, and during my writing time, I worked on the poem above.

Karen read from and recommended this book, it is now on my to-read list.  


Taking a class from a great writing teacher gave me new things to think about and pushed me in new ways. I loved being a student, sitting surrounded by colorful paint chips, wise words on chart paper, and the sounds of pencils working on novels, newspaper articles, poems, memories...all about birds.

Today I leave you with three summer thoughts:

1.  Take a summer writing class if you can.  Even for one day, even with a friend your age who has one new writing idea to share with you.  Let another's writing advice push you.

2.  Appreciate something small and daily.  Let this small daily thing move you to write.  Perhaps think about birds, as I did in my class with Karen.

3. Sit.  Make time for sitting and paying attention this summer.  There are so many cool activities to join, but leave time for sitting.  Space is good for all of us and for our writing too.

If you missed Tuesday's post here at The Poem Farm, please visit and leave a comment for the third grade writers from Heather Sass's class in Webster, NY.  You'll be treated to a joyous collection of poems celebrating bodies, inspired by two books: LOVE THAT DOG by Sharon Creech and THE BEST PART OF ME  by Wendy Ewald.

Over at Sharing Our Notebooks, I am so happy to host teacher Katie Liseo and her adventurous student notebookers with a very inspiring post and giveaway of Aimee Buckner's NOTEBOOK KNOW-HOW. You have two days left to comment and enter that giveaway, as I am drawing a name on Sunday.

Carol is hosting Poetry Friday roundup over at Beyond Literacy Link.  Stop over and enjoy all of this week's poetry offerings...Poetry Friday is for everyone!

Please share a comment below if you wish.