Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Celebrate Summer with FOUR Poetry Peeks Today!

We Did It!
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Life is chock full of moments to feel happy about.  One accomplishment to feel happy about is a writing piece finished and shared with friends or with readers we do not even know.  Today I am grateful to share all kinds of writing by poets and songwriters of different ages.  Today's poem is for the writers of the pieces you are about to read...and for all of you who celebrate writing with me all year long.  Thank you!

Please sit back and take great pleasure in these works...

First, I welcome First Grade Teacher Mark Kehl of Arcade Elementary in Arcade, NY and his young poet, Colton.

From Mark:

Colton had overheard his parents talk about their previous home.  He is only 8 but is writing about a house that they had for 11 years.  He is an old soul.

Welcome, now, to First Grade Teacher Amanda Urbanski and her poets from Cattaraugus - Little Valley Elementary School in Cattaraugus, NY.

A musical welcome to Music Teacher Heather Holden and Songwriter Zoe Lesika of Lindbergh Elementary in Buffalo, NY.  Zoe approached Heather with the beautiful melody she wrote which turns my "Song" from FOREST HAS A SONG into a real song.  It is beautiful, and I am so grateful to Zoe for writing it and for Heather for reaching out and sharing it.

Illustration by Robin Gourley
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Beautiful melody by Zoe Lesika

And a hearty welcome to Sixth Grade Teacher Helene Albrecht and her two classes of poets from  Oradell Public Schools in Oradell, NJ.  

From Helene:

During Poetry Month we began over a month long unit on poetry where students were immersed in reading and writing different kinds of poetry.  The children listened to music while writing poetry inspired by paint chip colors. They also wrote color poems by Writing the Rainbow, The Poem Farm's challenge to pick a random crayon from a box of crayons to create poems. 

I introduced my students to blackout poetry using different text. The amazing pictures that were created can be found on our Instagram  Many of the ideas for poems, such as list poems and just because poems, came from 30 Days of Poetry, a name many of us ELA teachers use to describe our poetry units.  Among others, I used the following websites as resources: Mrs. McKeown's Thirty Days of Poetry, 30 Days of Poetry, 30 Days of Poetry (II).

At the end of our Poetry Unit, we invited the parents in so that we could share our creations. The children chose one of their favorite poems from their Poetry Notebook and created a slide for our class slide shows which you can view below.

Lucky, lucky us.  Thank you to everybody who was part of these beautiful celebrations.  I celebrate and thank all of you today!   Please, kind reader...leave these writers a kind comment.

If you have not yet visited, Linda Rief has opened her gorgeous notebooks this month over at  my other blog, Sharing Our Notebooks. Please visit and leave a comment by next Thursday, July 29 to be entered into a giveaway of one of Linda's books.  You can find all kinds of notebook inspiration over there!y

Heidi is hosting today's Poetry Friday by celebrating her students and their over at my juicy little universe.  Visit her warm space for this week's roundup of poetry and friendship.

Happy happy summer to all!  I am on a blogging holiday for July...and maybe longer. During this time, I will complete a writing project for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, draft a proposal with an illustrator, organize the poems already here, and make some jam!  You can still find me at The Poem Farm Facebook Page, Twitter, and Instagram, sharing old poems from the archives and other things I find along the path of summer.  Much joy!


Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, June 16, 2017

We Write Poems for Friends and Occasions & A Peek!

Farewell, Frogs!
by Amy LV

Students - I wrote today's poem for some kindergarten friends in Weston, MA. Christie Wyman's students of Country School have been caring for tadpoles, and this week it was time to let them go.  They are frogs now.  And the kindergarteners have grown too.

Sometimes people write poems for special occasions.  We can write poems for birthdays, for goodbyes, for hellos, for funerals and anniversaries and to say thank you.  When I learned that Mrs. Wyman's students would be saying goodbye to their frog friends, for whom they've even kept a Frog Blog, I felt this poem inside of me.  (Some of you may have noticed that it is on the same theme as last week's poem, "To My Kitten"...writers get into moods sometimes.)

Summer is a wide open time to think about the people you love and care about. Perhaps you, too, will write poems for special days throughout July and August. Remember - you don't need a holiday on the calendar to have a special day.  You can make up your own, just as the main character in Byrd Baylor's I'M IN CHARGE OF CELEBRATIONS does.

We have a writing celebration here today too...

Today I am so happy to welcome Second Grade Teacher Kristine Cordes and her student poets from Jefferson Ave Elementary in Fairport, NY!  What a treat!

My second graders love to write poetry and have even chosen to write poetry when they have options for free choice.  

We started our poetry unit by discussing the “mysteries that stir within us” (this was not my idea).  I challenged students to think about any and all experiences and moments in their lives that created feeling such as happiness, sadness, excitement, boredom, and more.  We wrote down these ideas in our composition notebooks in an “idea” section.  We also referred to our “heart maps” (a graphic organizer with collections of meaningful small moments) and our “I” map (a collection of things they know about and could teach someone ).  

Once we realized that we each have a lot of great ideas at our fingertips that we can use for poetry, we looked at several books written by poets and used these as our mentor texts for what we could try to do.  We noticed: how line breaks are used; that poems don’t have to rhyme; a poem can tell a story, it can be a list, or it can be an observation of something. 

We looked at everything through different eyes and tried to make comparisons between the world, our experiences and our creativity. There are no wrong answers and no wrong ways to write a poem! 

Many students who struggled, benefited from first thinking of a small moment, writing a few sentences about it and then experimenting with line breaks to turn this story into a poem.  They really loved this because it showed them that they have the poem inside their minds! 

We explored writing about our favorite color and connecting it to a special memory and they really loved writing weather poems after a recent visit by Glenn Johnson from Channel 13!  

Our class enjoyed poetry so much that we created a class anthology and sent it away to Scholastic to be made into a real hard cover book!  Each day, students had a chance to write a new poem or revise/edit a rough draft of an old poem and place it in their “Poetry Pockets” displayed in the hallway for anyone passing by to read.  The poems in this collection reflect our innermost feelings, experiences and thoughts.   Enjoy!

Thank you, Mrs. Cordes and thank you, poets, for this wonderful Poetry Friday present.  I wish you all summertimes full of full hearts, stories, and poems.

I am so happy that Linda Rief has opened her gorgeous notebooks this week at Sharing Our Notebooks. lease visit and leave a comment by Thursday, July 29 to be entered into a giveaway of one of Linda's books.  You can find all kinds of notebook inspiration over there!

Carol is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at Carol's Corner with a beautiful feature about the new Poet Laureate of the United States, Tracy K. Smith.  All are always welcome to this weekly gathering of poetry and friendship!

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, June 9, 2017

To My Kitten - A Poem Can Be About Two Things

Photo by Georgia VanDerwater

Students - Our family is fostering kittens right now, something we love to do and yet have not done in a couple of years.  This means that we are taking care of kittens and their mamas until we can find homes for the kittens. Once we find homes for all kittens, we will give their mamas back to their owners.

It fills us with a lot of joy to watch these little ones grow up.  But it's always a wee bit sad too, because we want to keep them all with us.  

Eliza's Kittens (Eliza is eating!)
Photo by Amy LV

Mamacita and Her Roaming Kittens
Photo by Amy LV (with kitten on right foot)

As I wrote today's poem about these sweet kittens growing up and finding new places to live, growing into big new lives, I realized that I might also be writing about our daughter who graduates from high school this month and will soon be off to New York City for college.  Do you think that a poem can be about two things at the same time? (I do.)

Pay attention to your brain as you write. Sometimes you may think you are writing about one subject, and your brain or heart is thinking about another subject at the exact same time.  Please let me know if this happens to you!

I am thrilled to share that Linda Rief has opened her gorgeous notebooks this week at Sharing Our Notebooks.  That blog is back up and going again, so please visit and leave a comment to be entered into a giveaway of one of Linda's books.  You can find all kinds of notebook inspiration over there!

Mary Lee is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at A Year of Reading with wonderful story poem.  All are always welcome at these weekly gatherings of poetry and friendship.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Apology - Poems About Feelings

You Can Never Take It Back
by Amy LV

Students - I found today's poem in an old notebook from 2011.  Below, you can see two drafts of it as well as a little note about why I likely wrote it: I was short with my husband.

Old Notebooks are Friends
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You'll notice that today's version repeats I am sorry three times rather than changing the last line to simply I am.  Somehow this felt right to me.

I like the tooth fence.  I appreciate apologies and learned from my mother that to apologize is brave and that it really matters to the hurt person.

Keeping a notebook helps me not only write better, but I like to think that it helps me to become a kinder soul.  Reflection is healthy.  And going back to read old notebooks is like hopping on a time machine made out of paper and ink.  Who knows what poems we will find in our pasts?  We can only find them, though, if we write regularly.  Notebooks are friends.

Margaret is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at Reflections on the Teche with a lovely book share and invitation to write.  All are always welcome at these weekly gatherings of poetry and friendship.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Birds and Words and Play and Spring!

Sparrow Sighting
by Amy LV

Students - This poem grew from a few words and an experience.

The Words - The other week, as I spoke to a group of kindergarten children in Buffalo, NY, I taught them the difference between a bluebird and a blue jay.  A teacher in the room said, "Oh!  Bluebirds are rare."  And they are a bit rare.  Our family feels lucky to have bluebirds in our pasture as they love nesting in the boxes my husband has mounted on a couple of fence posts. But bluebirds are, indeed, a little bit rare.  This got me thinking about how important it is to appreciate things that are not rare...the daily things.  Our daily birds.

The Experience -  When I walked our dogs around the pasture the other day, a flash of blue darted from one of those fence post birdhouses.  This always happens, and it is magical to see that flash of blue flitting above the grass.  It is a moment I love living over and over again.

Sometimes words and experiences come together in a poem.  And this poem is a list poem because it simply lists many birds (over and over!) and a concrete poem because the names of the birds are each written in a color from each bird. This was fun, something I have not much played with with writing.  Years ago, I did this in a poem about playing solitaire, and that popped up again here.  Color play.

Allow words and experience and play to come together in your poems. We are each at our best when we let sparks of joy and surprise peek through us!

If ever you're stuck as to what to also might try beginning with the words, "I have taught myself...." and see where they take you.  You don't have to keep those words in your poem, but they might bring you to an interesting set of thoughts.

Speaking of joy and words and I am superhappy to welcome Poet Ella Bender from Sheila Cocilovia's second grade at Jefferson Ave Elementary in Fairport, NY. Ella's poem is modeled after my Revision is..., and I am honored.

Here are Ella's words...and her poem:

When Amy came in and gave us the gift of her poem, Revision is..., we read it every day in class and it inspired me to write Spring is... I liked how it sort of rhymed and that it had repeating lines...The scary part was because in the spring, sometimes there are bees that chase you, and that can be scary!

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Thank you, Ella, for sharing your spring celebration list poem with us here today!  

Mrs. Wyman is the winner of last week's giveaway of Kwame Alexander's new book, OUT OF WONDER!  Congratulations!  (I will bring it to you when I see you next week!)  If you missed last week's post, featuring young poet Ben, please do take a peek HERE to read his work.

Kiesha is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at Whispers from the Ridge with a lovely book share and invitation to write.  All are always welcome at these weekly gatherings of poetry and friendship.

Please share a comment below if you wish.

Friday, May 12, 2017

A Poetry Birthday Party for Poet Ben!

Village Bench
Photo by Amy LV

Students - Today's poem is for a friend, a friend you'll meet in a moment.  My new friend Ben.  Cats love to visit Ben's poems, and so when I knew Ben would be visiting today for his birthday, I wanted to write a poem about this truth.

Then, last evening, as I took a walk through the village, I saw the scene you see above: an bench holding only a bag reading I HEART CATS.  Perhaps cats around the world are all thinking about Ben's sixth birthday today!

Sometimes when I sit to write, I write a poem for someone I care about.  A thought of someone you care for is a great reason to place pen to paper.  If ever you are feeling stuck...consider your loved ones.  Who would appreciate a gift of words right now?  Who might need such a gift? Who do you wish to surprise?

Today it is my honor and delight to welcome a young poet and birthday boy to The Poem Farm.

Young Ben, his mother, his school's literacy coach, and one of his teachers join us today from Crossroads Academy-Quality Hill in Kansas City, Missouri.  I couldn't feel luckier!  Happy birthday, Ben!

Meet Ben!

A Note from Ben's Mom

Ben is a very special poet with a unique voice. He has been reading and writing poetry since he was two. His first poem, written in 2013, was a haiku:

A lady laughing?
Mama laughing. Falafel?
Falafel laughing.

Two of Ben’s favorite poets are Emily Dickinson and E.E. Cummings. One of his favorite phrases when he was two was “so many kinds of yes.” Here is a video of two-year-old Ben reading part of a Cummings poem about springtime: “Sweet spring is your time is my time is our time…”

Since 2013, Ben has read poems, made videos, and created artwork inspired by poets during Poetry Month. Here is a video of Ben reading William Carlos Williams for Poetry Month 2014: "The Red Wheelbarrow."

And a video of him reading Pablo Neruda for Poetry Month 2015: "Ode to Hope."

The Balloon of the Mind by W.B. Yeats
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A Note from Instructional Coach Mrs. Callahan

 I am the Instructional Coach at Ben’s school, and, since January, I have had the privilege of spending most afternoons with Ben.  During this time, Ben has worked on various poetry challenges and created two full books of poetry. Writing is Ben’s way to do what he loves. I introduced Ben to the poetry and lessons of Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, and he soon became a huge fan of The Poem Farm and Amy’s work. 

 A Note from Teacher Mrs. Lupton

 Ben has great interest and talent with poetry.  He loves words and his skills far surpass an average 5 year old. To try and meet Ben where he is, give him what he needs, and feed his creative spirit, we came up with the idea of partnering him with Emily Callahan (a fellow lover of poetry) during our school wide intervention time to work on deepening his understanding and love of poetry.

Hi I’m Ben!
Today, May 12, is my 6th birthday!

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I am a founding 1st grader at Crossroads Academy-Quality Hill.  Our school opened in August, 2016.  It is located in the heart of Downtown Kansas City, Missouri. I am lucky to have wonderful teachers here and the chance to write and read poems almost every day. I am a big fan of poetry! Here's a video of me showing this!

I like writing poems about cats. I like cats. Poems can follow any rules.  You do not have to write poems with the same rules that I did. I like writing poems because they can be about anything. I was 5 years old when I started publishing my poetry books.

This year, I discovered Amy’s 2012 National Poetry Month Dictionary Hike Challenge, and I was inspired to do my own! I have published two books: Alphabet Challenge for Poems: Poems A-Z and Color Poems (based on Amy’s Poetry Month challenge this year).

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You can hear me read these books and watch the book movies!


Here are some of my favorite poems from my first book, ALPHABET CHALLENGE, POEMS A-Z:

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Here are two of my favorite poems from my second book, BEN'S COLOR POEMS:

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I am working on my 3rd book, EMOTION POEMS.  Here are some of my emotion poems so far:

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On May 3, I got to Skype with Amy! My parents got to come too!

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Here is my favorite poetry quote and some of my thoughts about poetry…

“A poem helps the mind
play with it’s well-trod patterns of thought, and
can even help reroute
those patterns by making
us see the familiar anew.”
-Mark Yakich

“A poem is like a song
without music.
A poem is like a machine,
But also like a wild animal.
Every part is precisely
placed and chosen, but it
doesn’t have to follow any
-Ben Stoker

Thank you to Amy, Mrs. Callahan, Mrs. Lupton, Mrs. Weseloh, Mrs. Reasby and Ms. Williams for helping and encouraging me.

Have fun and keep writing!
Love, Ben

Thank you so much to Ben and to his parents and teachers for joining us today.  What a celebration!  Ben, may your year ahead be full of joy, full of poetry, full of cats!  xo

To celebrate Ben's writing, today I am offering a giveaway of Kwame Alexander's new book, OUT OF WONDER: POEMS CELEBRATING POETS.

Image result for out of wonder alexander

Please comment to be entered into this giveaway, and I will draw a name next Thursday and announce the winner next Friday!

To continue enjoying poetry all week long, visit Tara at A Teaching Life where you will find this week's Poetry Friday roundup.  All are always welcome!