Friday, May 22, 2015

Writing, Brains, and Notebooks

Writing is Exploring is Writing
by Amy LV

Students - Today's poem is really a how-to poem, but not a clear cut how-to such as "How to Make a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich."  Rather, it is a poem about how to do something that is in a way concrete, and in a way, mysterious - writing.

You will notice that I compare writing to walking a dog.  That's because when I walk my dog, I never know where she will want to go.  We have discoveries and adventures.  Such a sense of discovery and adventure is writing at its best too.

When I started writing this poem, I had no idea where it would go.  Rather, I just followed my pen and mind and there appeared the tracks.

Trust yourself.  If you don't know what you wish to exactly write, just get started, and see where you go.   Allow your pen to find its way into the brambles of metaphor and the secret paths of simile. You may well find a hidden room.

Today I am tickled to welcome English Language Arts director, Mary Wheeler, from St. John School in Houston, Texas with this zany Poetry Peek!  Enjoy!

          Click to play this Smilebox slideshow

Thank you, Mary, for e-mailing me these joyous pictures to share here today.  If anyone tries this way to display poetry, or if you have another way that you like to share students' poems, please let me know as I would love to feature it.

Now that our brains are feeling colorful, I would like to extend an invitation to all. In the past week, my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks, has lit up like a bonfire. It started when Kimberley Moran of iWrite in Maine wrote and asked me about hosting some ideas for student notebooking over the summer.  She wrote the first one, and now we already have 27 entries!  All are welcome to contribute, and you can see the list of how to post here and the list of entries already up here.

Here's how easy it is to share.  Just think of one way you get inspired to write in your notebook (or on your napkin or on your computer or on your arm...) and then write up a paragraph sharing that idea/exercise. Then, snap a photo of a page (or napkin or screen or arm...) and e-mail or Google Doc it to me with a brief bio. Then, I put it up with all the others, and we all have a wondrous list of writing exercises to inspire not only our students...but us too.

All are welcome - students, teachers, writers, artists, mechanics, chefs, jotters, scribblers of all types.  The more variety, the merrier.  I welcome you to share and hope that you will.

Here's an easy Tweet if you just want to copy and use it -

@amylvpoemfarm is collecting #notebook ideas! Share your short paragraph, photo, bio here to join the fun - #writing

Matt Forrest is hosting today's Poetry Friday party at Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme...with wonderful news.  Please stop by, enjoy all of the poetry offerings, and congratulate Matt on his book contract!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Pigeon Poem, Poetry Peek, & Skype Celebration!

by Amy LV

Students - Today's poem grew from the fact that I have been spending more time in the city than I normally do.  This change of scenery is giving me new mindpictures and new thoughts.  With these come new poems.  I hope to spend more time in the city and encourage you to try something you do not usually try, do something you do not usually do.  Stretch the boundaries of who you have always been and make room for new mindpictures, new thoughts, new poems.

You will notice two sets of rhyming words in this short poem.  And you may also have noticed that there are fewer syllables in lines 7 and 8 than in lines 3 and 4...this may have surprised you.  I considered having the last two lines read someting such as:

he starts my school day with delight (8 syllables - a match to - that when his feathers shimmer-glow)

instead of:

he fills me with delight (6 syllables)

But in the end, I decided to go for the shorter ending, to clip it a bit, to break what was to be an expected pattern.  Working and reworking endings is something we often must do as writers of all genres.

It is a treat today to welcome fifth grade teacher Lindsey Holt and her poets from the Ladue Fifth Grade Center in St. Louis, Missouri, to The Poem Farm.  Enjoy this peek into their spring poetry unit.

Here are some strategies that really helped my students find their inner poets!

One of the rituals we stuck to throughout our study of poetry was a read-aloud. We began with Sharon Creech's LOVE THAT DOG.  We used a few guiding questions throughout:  What are Jack's feelings about poetry?  What are the elements of poetry as told by Jack?  How does Jack's perspective on poetry change throughout the book and why?  We kept these posted on anchor charts, and the students added post-its with evidence from the book throughout the unit.

The students felt a connection with the main character Jack because our study mimicked what his class did in the book.  I also had students who did not necessarily love the idea of poetry, and this character validated their feelings.  However, his transformation showed them that if he, the most reluctant of poets, was able to become passionate about it and proud of his work, then they could too.  We also read the sequel, HATE THAT CAT, and my students are very disappointed that there is not a third!  I would recommend that elementary teachers use these books during any study of poetry.

I also made sure to use a variety of mentor texts (both individual poems and volumes of poetry), and I had a bin full of books accessible to students throughout the unit (I've listed some of my and the students' favorites at the bottom).  One of my favorite teacher books is STUDY DRIVEN by Katie Wood Ray, and in it she talks about the idea that students must first read widely that which you want them to write.  We certainly did that, and along the way, my students discovered that poetry can be found out in the world but also in our hearts.  Really, poetry is everywhere.  Thus, when it was time for students to write their own poetry, it seemed very natural to them; it was no longer an intimidating or daunting task of writing.

Our favorite texts:

A FULL MOON IS RISING by Marilyn Singer

And here are some poems from our class:

Ghost of the Sea

Swimming quickly through
the sea

Swaying side to side
like a tree

I am the spider of
the sea.

What could I be?
It's a mystery.

I am a slippery, smooth, and
scary sight to see.

An octopus, an octopus
that's me.

Ghost of the sea.

by Jackson


I watch YouTube
While eating food
A lot to choose from
but I like only some

by Zac


Oceans and Streams
Swimming Quietly I
Believe that water has power
Not greed

by Jackson

Brother and Sister

Mad, Angry
Fighting, Hurting, Kicking
Always Crazy, Always Calm
Helping, Whispering, Quiet
Caring, Sweet

by Harrison

Sugar and Spice

sweet, white
dumping, raining, dancing
You love it or hate it
burning, flaming, stining
hot, steamy

by Lily


Sweet?  Oh no it's not,
Please escape my tongue.
I declare
Yummm, milk

by Lily

Mount. Poem

Grab a shovel
and come with me
to dig in the
mountain of poetry

Dig all day
the hole will grow
deeper into
the poem you'll go

When you've dug
a great big hole
you'll crash into 
the poem's soul

An enormous cave
full of gold
words and wonders
poems untold

And when you've explored 
every crook
bring a friend
to have a look

But never ever
fill up the hole
keep coming down
take a stroll

For the moment
that it is gone
You forget everything
in a single yawn

Read a poem
let it teach
all the things
that you can reach.

by Anika

Clang Went the Chime

Clang went the chime,
As it fell to the ground.
Clang went the chime,
As it fell to the ground.

Bang went the car,
As its door closed.
Bang went the car,
As its door closed.

Kaching went the cash register,
As money was made.
Kaching went the cash register,
As money was made.

by Alexandra


As I sat outside,
I saw the little robin,
Yes, and smiled he did.

by Alexandra

Much gratitude to Lindsey Holt and her students for joining us this Poetry Friday with their writing voices and ideas for learning more about poetry.

In celebration fun, today I finished a three visit Skype-through-Spring with the first graders at Darby Creek Elementary in Hilliard, Ohio.  This morning I was treated to a sharing of children's poems, some written by individual students and some written together.  And at the end of our time today, these young poets were surprised to each receive a copy of FOREST HAS A SONG, purchased by the Darby Creek PTO with signed bookplates I sent last week.

So many thank yous to the teachers and parents who made this exciting series possible.  I learned a lot and loved following the journey of these poets through their teachers, their blogs, their Padlets, and their voices and faces on Skype.  Here you can see teacher Cathy Mere's Tweet, posted the moment before children received their books!

From Teacher Cathy Mere's Twitter Stream

Skype Celebration - May 15, 2015
Photo Collage by Cathy Mere

The winners of last week's giveaway of Barry Lane's FORCE FIELD FOR GOOD CD are Linda A. and Rosi!  Please send me an e-mail to amy at amylv dot com with your address, and I will pass it along to Barry.  Thank you, Barry!

In case you did not see Tuesday's post, I had an extra this week.  Click here to read the paper bag puppet poem and visit some kindergarten poets from Rochester, NY.

Today's Poetry Friday roundup is with Diane Mayr at Random Noodling.  Noodle on over to her place to join in on the festivities.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Puppets and a Poetry Peek

Puppets by Children and Photo by Amy LV

Students - I wrote today's puppet poem for a purpose.  (Now there's some alliteration...)  I was visiting a kindergarten class, and I wanted a puppet poem. So...I wrote one!  

Sometimes there are occasions or moments in life where we are looking for words and are might not be able to find the exact words we seek.  Then it's time to pull out our pencils and write something new.

And now for a Poetry Peek!

Yesterday I was fortunate to visit Nancy Johnstone's and Marilyn Delucia's kindergarten classes as part of the extended day program with Mercier Literacy for Children at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School #9, the school where I student taught in 1992.  We had a few adults working together with children in poetry centers, and I am still smiling to think about it.

In Center One, children made the paper bag puppets you see above and recited the silly poem.

In Center Two, children read poetry books together from a suitcase full of books.

In Center Three, children made up poems and shared them orally in the voices of fuzzy puppets.  

And in Center Four, children wrote poems together with teacher Nancy Johnstone. Today they will be reading these group  poems (I typed them) and painting their own individual color poem books.

Enjoy reading these delightful images and playful color poems illustrated in watercolors.

Thank you very much to Nancy for inviting me to join her for an afternoon of poetry and time with these beautiful children.  It was a delight!

There is still a giveaway going on at last Friday's post.  If you're interested in winning a copy of Barry Lane's great CD, FORCE FIELD FOR GOOD, head on over to Friday's post and leave comment to be entered into Friday's drawing.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Walking Stick, Fifth Grade Poets, & Kindness

Swiss Army Knife
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Spring is here in Western New York, and that means we'll all be out hiking more regularly.  Hiking often means finding and carving walking sticks...we love to peel the bark and carve into sticks, watching the wood chips fall to earth.  Today's poem celebrates this small joy and captures the feeling I have in the woods when I whittle and walk with a stick that I found.

This poem is one of many that I wrote for my forthcoming collection with Clarion/Houghton Mifflin - WITH MY HANDS: POEMS ABOUT MAKING THINGS.  I have been finishing my revisions on this collection (so excited) and know now that this poem will not actually be in the book.  I just wanted to share it here for all of you hikers and whittlers.

Today I am very happy to welcome fifth grade teacher Adrienne Moran and her poets from Douglas J. Regan Intermediate School in the Starpoint Central School District in Lockport, NY.  They spent a lot of time this winter/spring reading and writing poetry, and it is a joy to have the chance to share their work here.  Thank you, poets!  Please enjoy this slideshow of these fifth graders' poetry and process.

You can control the speed of the slideshow with the arrows on the right bottom corner.

So much gratitude to Adrienne Moran and her students.  I am thrilled that they were willing to share their poetry..and their on this beautiful spring day.

And now for a giveaway...

Learn More at Force Field for Good

I am excited and grateful to offer a giveaway of two copies of Force Field For Good, the kindness CD by my friend, great person and writing teacher extraordinaire, Barry Lane.  Barry asked me to share "More Than a Number," "Xenophobia" and also to contribute to a few of the songs on this CD, and I am honored to be part of it. I asked Barry to offer a few words about Force Field for Good, and he responded:

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”

At this time of unprecedented peace in the history of humanity, we need songs and anthems to help both young and old see that peace and unity are not unrealistic fantasies. Peace and unity are possible through belief and active daily struggle.

Like the Starship Enterprise, this CD of 17 songs is a vessel to carry forth an ever- advancing civilization toward unity. Sing these songs with your children and your students. Teach them that the dream of peace becomes real when we know our higher selves and offer our gifts to others.

This CD is also part of a book and curriculum of the same title, Force Field for Good, by Barry and Colleen Mestdagh.  Barry has offered two CDs to two commenters on today's post.  Please leave a comment to enter, and I will announce the two winners next week.

Thank you, Barry!

Michelle is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at Today's Little Ditty.  All are welcome!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, May 1, 2015

May First - Poemsongs and a Poetry Peek

Thank you so much for joining me in my project
for National Poetry Month 2015

I am so grateful for all of the fun and fellowship all around the Kidlitosphere throughout this year's National Poetry Month.  Thank you for all that you shared on blogs, with me in person, with the world.

Sing that Poem! 2015 has officially ended with the recording for yesterday's poem, the final poem, Joanna (for the real Joanna).

And now...a Poetry Peek!

Today I am very happy to welcome Librarian Gayle Kerman from Country Parkway Elementary in the Williamsville Central School District in Williamsville, NY. Below she shares her students' experience with Sing That Poem!.

Recently, I got caught up in Amy’s April challenge of matching her poems to the meter/tune of familiar children’s songs.  I decided to try it with my fourth grade students. What a lucky find.  Most of the work was already done for me.

I am an elementary school librarian and since I only see the students once a week, I was looking for something that would fit into a 30-minute period.  I selected eight of Amy’s poems and pasted them into a Word document. I also made up an answer sheet that listed the 8 songs that matched the poems.  I only had to do a quick introduction to get the class started.  I used a few examples from Alan Katz’s book I’m Still Here in the Bathtub just to give students a better idea of what they should expect once they got started.

Many of the students were already familiar with the Katz book and were big fans to boot, so they were excited about this new challenge ahead of them.  Before turning them loose, we quickly sang the original version of the 8 songs on their answer sheet to be sure that the tunes were familiar to them.

They worked in groups of two or four.  It was a fun activity and many students chuckled over the idea of having “music class in the library!!”

I circled the room for any questions, but the activity really just hummed.  The students LOVED it…both girls AND boys.  I noticed two boys who were intently focusing and enjoying the activity so much I had to pull out my iPhone to take this video of them.

Joseph and Emilio from Mrs. Moser's Fourth Grade Class
Play Sing That Poem! in the Library at Country Parkway Elementary
Video by Librarian Gayle Kerman

During the last 5 minutes of class the solutions were revealed and we sang each poem to the matched tune.  I plan to select 8-10 more poems from the last half of Amy’s April posts and use them at the end of the school year when I will really need some fun stuff!

I am so grateful to Gayle, Joseph, and Emilio for sharing this story and video here today.  I love that we spent some of our National Poetry Month together.

Today, I would like to welcome you to the new page I made with all of my Sing That Poem! poemsongs from April 2015. You can find this page here, and it is filed under the FIND A POEM tab that you see atop this site.

You can find today's Poetry Friday roundup with Ellen at Space City Scribes.

Letterpress Print by Chris
(Thank you, Chris, for allowing me to share.)

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Day 30 - National Poetry Month 2015 - Sing That Poem!

Happy National Poetry Month!
Welcome to Day 30, the last day, of this Year's Poem Farm Project!

Find the Complete April 2015 Poem and Song List Here

First, I would like to welcome all old and new friends to The Poem Farm this April. Spring is a busy time on all farms, and this one is no exception.  Each April, many poets and bloggers take on special poetry projects, and I'm doing so too.  You can learn all about Sing That Poem! and how to play on my April 1st post, where you will also find the list of the whole month's poems and tunes as I write and share them.  If you'd like to print out a matching game page for yourself, you can find one here, and during April 2015, you'll be able to see the song list right over there in the left hand sidebar.

Yesterday's poem was For My Friend.  Here is the tune that goes along with it, below. Did you figure it out?

Here are Margaret Simon's students from Caneview Elementary in New Iberia, Louisiana.  They got it again!

And here, below, is today's poem, the final poem of Sing That Poem 2015.  If you have been playing all month, it is the last song left.  If not, just look at the song list in the sidebar or on your matching form to see if you can puzzle out which tune matches this one. 

by Amy LV

Students - Today's poem comes from an image I have been carrying in my head and heart for some time.  Two years ago, I received a letter from Joanna, one of my friend Vida's library students.  In her letter, Joanna told me that she read my book to the birds in her yard.

It was the most beautiful compliment and most magical picture I could imagine - reading to birds!  

I did not realize it until right now, but I was saving this beautiful image for this beautiful tune.  For some reason, I seemed to save a tricky tune for the very end of this month, but now I know it was right and hope to have done both image and tune a bit of justice.  I am grateful, for Joanna, for Vida, for birds and words and poetry and images we can't forget, for books, and for you.

Thank you for holding my hand through this Poetry Month.  It has been fun singing with friends old and new.  And now...onto May!

On Sunday evening at 8pm EST, I will help faciliate a TwitterChat with Teach and Celebrate Writers all about...poetry!  Please join us for the poetrylove.  And if you are a teacher who would like to learn more about Twitter so that you can participate, check out The Teacher's Guide to Twitter at EduDemic.

Tomorrow is Poetry Friday!  In my post, please look for the complete page for Sing That Poem 2015, where I will include all poems and songs for easy following for those who have missed anything and for future days and years.  

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Day 29 - National Poetry Month 2015 - Sing That Poem!

Happy National Poetry Month!
Welcome to Day 29 of this Year's Poem Farm Project!

Find the Complete April 2015 Poem and Song List Here

First, I would like to welcome all old and new friends to The Poem Farm this April. Spring is a busy time on all farms, and this one is no exception.  Each April, many poets and bloggers take on special poetry projects, and I'm doing so too.  You can learn all about Sing That Poem! and how to play on my April 1st post, where you will also find the list of the whole month's poems and tunes as I write and share them.  If you'd like to print out a matching game page for yourself, you can find one here, and during April 2015, you'll be able to see the song list right over there in the left hand sidebar.

Yesterday's poem was Pocket Poem Song.  Here is the tune that goes along with it, below. Did you figure it out?

A great big welcome to the  fourth grade students in Bernadette Kearns' class at Beaumont Elementary School in Devon, Pennsylvania.  They got it!  Thank you so much for singing to us all.

And here, below, is today's poem.  Look at the song list in the sidebar or on your matching form to see if you can puzzle out which tune matches this one.

Puzzle Present Box Top
Puzzle by Teacher Sheila Cocilova and Students
Photo by Amy LV

Poem Puzzle
Puzzle by Teacher Sheila Cocilova and Students
Photo by Amy LV

Friendship Puzzle Complete
Puzzle by Mrs. Cocilova & Students
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Yesterday, I had the good fortune to visit three schools - Jefferson Avenue Elementary, Brooks Hill Elementary, and Dudley Elementary - in the Fairport Central School District in Fairport, NY  In each school, I met with the whole second grade class as they are all in the middle of a big poetry writing unit. I felt so welcomed and very inspired by these young writers and their teachers.

Teacher and writer Sheila Cocilova and her second grade students sent me home from Fairport with a puzzle present.  Not a singing puzzle, but a real jigzaw puzzle that they made, and you can see a few pictures of it above.  Below you can read the words that travel around the perimeter.

Poetry is like a puzzle
each word like a single puzzle piece
uniquely fitting together with others
to create a beautiful finished product.

Looking at my new puzzle, reading the names of these students and thinking about all of the students and teachers I visited with yesterday...I felt happy to have been in Fairport, and sad to not be there today. This made me remember times that I have moved from one house to another and times when children I know have told me moving stories.

I often say that one word I love in the English language is bittersweet.  It means that something can be both happy and sad at the same time.  That's how I feel about moving and about visiting schools.  It is sweet to meet new friends...and sad to say goodbye.

It has been said that powerful writing grows when we can hold onto two feelings at once, two feelings like bitter and sweet.  If you can remember a time when you felt both happy and sad...this might give you a powerful start to a new piece of writing.

Remember - tomorrow is Poem in Your Pocket Day!  Don't forget to find a poem for your own pocket, and I hope that you enjoy yesterday's Pocket Poem Song too.

Please share a comment below if you wish.