Friday, December 31, 2010

Poetry Friday, Poetry Calendars, & #276

Photo by Mark LV

This is poem #31 in my series of poems about poems, and it is my final poem about poems for 2010.  Throughout this week, I will seek a new Poetry Friday theme.

Today I am excited to host fourth grade teacher Theresa Annello from the Gates Chili Central School District as she generously shares her love of poetry and her annual poetry calendar project with us.

I love Christmas.  I love homemade gifts, especially when they are created by children.  I love young writers with their words innocent and pure.  And I love poetry.  Before I elaborate on these thoughts, let's rewind just a bit. 

My love affair with poetry started  many years ago during a Children's Literature course at Hudson Valley Community College.  My passion for books and poems grew even more when our children were born.  Years later when I started teaching, literature and poetry became my lifelines, my "bag of tricks."  However, I quickly learned that poetry was not something to save for a unit or a month in the spring.  The value of poetry and the power of poetry needed a special place in the classroom culture.  And heck, I needed to do something with the poems I was collecting like they were rare, vintage baseball cards.  I was constantly discovering new poets or finding out that some of my favorite authors also wrote fabulous poetry.  This year, I tucked a poem for each student in the envelope with my August "back to school" letter.  By the end of the first day of 4th grade, each student's collection was started.  Their poetry folders now contain fifty or more poems.

Children are drawn to poetry for many reasons.  Poems are fun to read.  Poems are usually shorter pieces of text.  Poems speak to your heart.  Poems are fun to write.  For a while we simply enjoy a wide variety of poems, building our collection, getting to know some poets before taking a closer look at this genre from a writer's stance.  The generosity of writers who build their websites and actively blog has also enriched our literacy lives immensely.

About a year ago, my poetry life got even better after attending a Saturday morning event where Amy Ludwig VanDerwater presented.  Her passion and talents and the ideas I gathered that November morning continue to take me new places in my teaching and my own writing.  Amy and the others I have "met" in the blogging world have solidified my belief that you will be a better teacher of writing if you also write.  I would also add that writing has helped me to be more reflective about my teaching and my life in general.

By now you may be asking, "How does this all relate to my love or Christmas and homemade gifts?"  Several years ago as I was searching for a keepsake gift that incorporated writing, an authentic way to share and celebrate student writing.  In my quest for the perfect holiday gift of writing, the poetry calendar was born.  As a mom, I thought of the holiday projects our own children have created over the years.  I hated tucking them away after the holidays.  I love a refrigerator decorated with children's artwork and writing!  A calendar would have its own special place for twelve months!

By the time I introduce the calendar project, students "know" several poets, have collected some favorites and composed several of their own poems.  This background and stash of poems enables us to complete the project in the short month of December.  Ideally, I would start this project earlier to allow ample time for drafting, revising, and publishing.  We talk about calendars, the months of the year, and possible themes for our calendars.  Most students write and select seasonal poems on topics related to each month.  Many poets choose to incorporate things their families are interested in or pay tribute to family members in their birthday months.  for each month, I plan a mini lesson on a poetry form or the work of a particular poet that we might emulate.  The following list is a sample of lesson topics including helpful internet links.

Beginning a Calendar Page
Photo by Theresa Annello

Special Month Poems
Photo by Theresa Annello

Haiku - we had some fun with GUYKU.  Check out the book link.  Author, Bob Raczka and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds have a knack for connecting with young writers.

Charles Ghigna was also one of our haiku mentors.  Here is a link to his post on haiku.

Color poems - Joyce Sidman's RED SINGS FROM TREETOPS continues to inspire our writing.  Here is a link to her website.

Poet Elaine Magliaro also taught us a lot about color poems at Wild Rose Reader.

Mask poems - For these, we turned to Bobbi Katz and Elaine Magliaro.  Too, poet Joyce Sidman is the perfect mentor for non-fiction poetry.  Many of her books pair a poem with an informational paragraph about the living subject.  Her work was a model when we wrote mask poems.  Even though we did not include the informational paragraph, we referred to texts that helped us to think like the animal, plant, or object that we were pretending to be.  "Things to Do If You are a Pencil" was written by a student and used for the back to school month of September.

 Pencil Poem
Photo by Theresa Annello

Acrostics - at The Miss Rumphius Effect, I was introduced to poet Avis Harley and her book, AFRICAN ACROSTICS.  I was able to get my hands on a copy of AFRICAN ACROSTICS from our local library and must admit that I have a much improved attitude about acrostic poems, a beloved form of many students.  Avis's writing elevates the form to a sophisticated level.

The Poem Farm - Amy's daily blog posts continue to inspire and guide our writing lives.  We love her poems.  Sometimes they make us laugh, other times they bring a tear to our eyes, but they always make us think more deeply about writing and the world around us.  The accompanying reflections and tips for students and teachers have truly helped us to live like writers.  We look closely at what works in writing - word choice, voice, the perfect comparison, the rhythm, etc.  Many students love counting the syllables in each line of a poem and then try to use the same format.

 Adding Poems
Photo by Theresa Annello

Students have the freedom to make choices with their calendars, but they must include eight original poems and must illustrate each month.  Many are quite detailed with fancy borders of text and symbols.  Each student must try the technique from the mini lesson even though it may be saved for a future writing piece.

 Creating Artwork
Photo by Theresa Annello

This is my fifth or sixth year doing the calendar project, and yes, it is a bit crazy...but the end product is priceless.  Like so much of what we do in the classroom, this project changes and grows depending on the strengths, needs, and interests of the students.  I would be remiss if I did not give credit to author extraordinaire, Shelley Harwayne, who writes about adding special events to writing workshop.  Each year, I pull out her book, WRITING THROUGH CHILDHOOD: RETHINKING PROCESS AND PRODUCT.  She provides a brief explanation of third graders creating non-fiction calendars on a topic of their choice.  This idea still intrigues me and one of these years I would like to start the project sooner to allow for some research on a topic of interest.

Completing this project in the short time of December is a bit of a whirlwind, but in my mind and heart, it is well worth it.  There is something about writing, especially poetry writing, that helps create a strong classroom community.  I cannot put my finger on what it is.  Perhaps it's the collaborative effort, the sharing, or the pride in a completed piece of writing that sounds like a favorite poet.  In the end, maybe it's that sparkle in a young writer's eyes and the appreciative nods of his or her classmates.

 December Calendar Page
Photo by Theresa Annello

Clearly I could talk about this forever and will tell you in advance that I always appreciate any feedback that I receive.  Please let me know if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions.  I will close with the words of a favorite poet, Lee Bennett Hopkins: PASS THE POETRY, PLEASE!  Happy 2011!

I am very grateful to Theresa Annello for sharing her generous words and links about poetry calendars.  Please know that Theresa's blog, Looking for the Write Words, is inspiring for the teacher, writer, and parent in all of us.

A very happy New Year to all of you, poetry friends new and old!  I am grateful to have joined this community and find it strange that last year at this time, I had never heard of Poetry Friday.  What on Earth will 2011 bring?

Carol is hosting this Poetry Friday New Year's Eve over at Carol's Corner.  Sleigh on over and bid farewell to 2010 with some poems and cocoa...

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Nests Nestle in Winter Trees in Poem #275

Shrub Nest
Photo by Amy LV

High Nest in Tree
Photo by Amy LV

Large Mystery Nest
Photo by Amy LV

Students - two days after Christmas, I received an e-mail from my Oregonian friend Rachel Sudul (to whom I dedicated "Jewels" in poem #112.)  She wrote, "In winter I like walking around and looking at the naked trees to see the bird nests."  These words stayed with me, and yesterday afternoon as I walked through our woods, I took special care to look for nests hidden in branches and snow.

Sometimes writing is like that.  You take hold of someone's words and they stay with you, simmering like a good soup.  When they've cooked long enough, these words  find their way into your writing.  This is why writers must listen carefully to family, friends, strangers...everyone!

Funny note: as soon as I came back inside from taking these nest photos yesterday, I returned to a fresh e-mail from Rachel.  Guess what she sent?  She sent a note saying, "I'm sending a picture of one of the naked trees a couple of houses away from me."  I found it so funny, such a coincidence that Rachel and I were outside, on different coasts, taking abandoned nest pictures at the same time!

Nest in a Naked Tree
Photo by Rachel Sudul

Tomorrow is the last Poetry Friday of 2010, and I will welcome fourth grade teacher Theresa Annello from the Gates Chili Central School District and her students as they share their poetry calendars.  A New Year's gift to all of us!  

Woolly Nest & New Tea Cozy
(Thank you, Aunt Pat!)
Photo by Amy LV

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Listen to the Snow Piano in Poem #274

Tree Shadows
by Amy LV

Last night, my good friend Noelle and I went for a walk down a quietly dark Raiber Road.  The moon made tree shadows on bright snow, reminding me of how I used to make animal hand shadows in front of the film projector at school.  At once, I saw a piano silhouetted in a field of snow, black against white against black against white.  So yes, this poem is short.  But that is all I wanted to image.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Do You Read In Bed All Night? #273

Little Reader
by Amy LV

Students - when I sat down to write this poem, I knew that I wanted to write a story.  I didn't have an idea about where the words would go.  Instead, I simply jotted down the first two lines into my notebook and followed them.  

I've been thinking and talking a lot lately about something I learned at a workshop long ago.  The workshop leader (I cannot remember who it was) said that every kind of writing is either a story or a list.  Many of my poems are list poems: lists of questions, lists of qualities, lists of describing words or facts.  Today's poem is a story.

Of course this poem idea comes from my own childhood as well as from watching our children sneak reading into the wee hours of the night and morning.  Sometimes when I walk up the stairs to check on them, small nightlights wink off as if I will never know that they have been tucked into books.  Yes, sleep is good.  But you know what?  So is reading.

With its moral at the end, this poemstory reminds me a little bit of a fable.

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Tulips are Waiting for Spring - Poem #272

Very Patient Tulip Bulbs
Photo by Amy LV

We have these two bags of bulbs hanging in our basement, bulbs I purchased in the fall and never planted.  It looks as if our area will have a thaw this week, so maybe we will get them into the ground after all!  These tulips all purples and blues, so if they make it, the show should be quite dramatic.  You can see their little hints of green peeking out already!

Students - I have always been amazed by spring flowers and how they know when to burst into blossom.  It's almost as if each consults a tiny calendar and wears an itty-bitty wristwatch.  Today's poem grew from my amazement at nature and also these bulbs I hope to plant.  Too, I love John Travers Moore's poem, "Springburst," a poem about a flower in the shape of a flower, meant to be read from the bottom, just like a flower grows.

One thing I have always wanted to do is force bulbs indoors.  Each Christmas, I say that I will give ready-to-bloom-flowers as Christmas gifts, but I have yet to do this.  Maybe next year!  If you are interested in trying this yourself, The Garden Helper offers some good tips.

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Poems Can Ask Questions - Poem #271

Yesterday our family had the opportunity to serve a meal at the Response to Love Center in Buffalo, NY.  Service will become a part of our family's life in 2011; it is time that we reach out beyond our own four walls.

Students - you may notice that this poem asks a question right in the last line.  If you want your reader to think about something, go ahead and ask a direct question in your writing.  You will not get to hear the answers in your readers' heads, but you will stir up some thinking.  And stirring up questions is part of any writer's responsibility.

If you did not notice the sidebar note, I will be donating $1 to Reading is Fundamental for every new twitter follower I receive before December 31, 2010.  Here is a list of those participating in this campaign for RIF, launched by Jason Pinter.  If you are not on twitter, I have to say that I wondered about it too.  I'd describe twitter as a quick version of facebook with many fascinating links and connections...all tied to what interests you most, professionally or personally. 

For a wise post about wants and needs, read Stacey's piece over at Two Writing Teachers.  I'm sharing this too late for the giveaway, but these book-peeks are not to be missed.

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Merry Christmas Angel Brings Poem #270

Georgia's Angel 
Photo by Amy LV

Happy birthday to my beautiful sister, Heidi, a thoughtful and bright star whom I love so much.  I am lucky indeed to have an angel as a younger sister!

Last weekend, our 4-H club made wool roving angels.  They were so enchanting that I wanted to take pictures of and write about them.  It was interesting to find a writing idea inside of a craft project, and it was the first time I ever did this. 

Merry Christmas to you and yours.  May your whole day be full of light and love.

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Poetry Friday & Poem #269 - Poem on Ice

 Skating a Poem
by Amy LV

This is poem #30 in my 2010 Friday series of poems about poems.  Our family thought about going ice skating yesterday, but then we decided to go later in the week.  Still and all, I got thinking about ice skating and how ponds and rinks full of skaters always look like scribbles upon scribbles.  Surely there are hidden messages and secret poems engraved in the cold.

Students - once again, I found it most helpful to listen to my children read my work.  The last line of this poem originally read, "I'll let my ice skates write today" but when Georgia read it, she read it as it now stands.  Sometimes just hearing someone else read your words can help you hear them more clearly.

Here is a sweet little I CAN READ book, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins.  My first published poem, "Christmas Night," appears in this book, and my husband surprised me with the original artwork by Melanie Hall shortly after it was published.  My poem is all about reading on Christmas because my sister and I always spent Christmas afternoon and evening reading underneath our tree.

Mary Lee is graciously hosting Poetry Friday on this Christmas Eve.  Follow the trail of gingerbread to A Year of Reading , and delight in poetry on this special day.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Cowry Shell Speaks in Poem #268

Listening to Sea Voices
Photo by Mark LV

Cowry Shell
Photo by Amy LV

This is another one of my favorite-kind-of-poem-to-write-poems.  I love poems where inanimate objects talk.  It is such fun to imagine what they might think and say.

Students - one of my favorite parts of daily writing is the mystery of not knowing what poem will be born each day.  Last evening, I thought to myself, "I have no idea what to write!"  Then, somehow, I began thinking about rocks and shells and how they often take long journeys in people's pockets, journeys that lead them far far away from their places of origin. 

The tiger cowry shell in these photos has such a story, though I don't know all of it.  This big shell came into my hands through an auction.  Near our home, Gentner's Commission Market, in Springville, NY, opens up on Wednesdays during much of the year.  Last spring, Mark and I went to the auction and just as a whole table was about to be sold as a whole, I decided to bid $3.00 on a wooden plate holding three large shells.  With the exchange of 300 cents, this shell, once alive, came into my possession.  Last night, I picked it up from my messy desk and felt its cool breathing in my ear.

It is good to hold something when you write, to feel edges, textures, sides, shapes and rough spots.  Try it.  Find an object you wish to write about, and as you write, take little breaks to simply hold it and understand it deeply.

When I was a little girl, I had a shell collection.  In particular, I remember one little yellow cowry shell.  It reminded me of a mouth.  Did you know that cowry shells were once used as money?  Here's a drum rhyme about a cowry shell used as money, from OFF TO THE SWEET SHORES OF AFRICA, by Uzoamaka Chinyelu Unobagha.

If you seek a book full of ocean critter poems, seek no longer.

Mary Lee will host Poetry Friday tomorrow over at A Year of Reading.  

ps - If you were wondering, this type of shell may be spelled cowry or cowrie.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Birthday to My Friend - Poem #267

Georgia, Henry, Mark, & Hope 
Summer 2010
Photo by Amy LV

Happy birthday to Mark, my dearest friend and husband!  Today we will make his favorite pineapple cake and celebrate his very giving life.

Students - once again, I remind you...the holidays are coming, and writing gifts are some of the best gifts of all.  Go for it!

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Lovely Lunar Eclipse with Poem #266

by Amy LV

Last night was a total lunar eclipse, coinciding with the solstice this year.  According to the NASA Eclipse Website, "The entire event is/was visible from North America and Western South America." writes, "Is this rare?  It is indeed, according to Geoff Chester of the US Naval Observatory, who inspected a list of eclipses going back 2000 years.  'Since year 1, I can only find one previous instance of an eclipse matching the same calendar date as the solstice, and that is December 21, 1638, says Chester. 'Fortunately, we won't have to wait 372 years for the next one...that will be on December 21, 2094.'"

To better understand this phenomenon, I asked my patient science teacher husband to demonstrate a lunar eclipse with common household objects.  With a green yarn ball (Earth), a white sock (moon) and a floor lamp (sun), he showed me how it works.  The combination of this with Fred Espenak's article, "Lunar Eclipses for Beginners" helped me to understand how lunar eclipses differ from solar eclipses.  I printed this out, underlining passages and jotting notes to help me remember and make sense of these movements.  To see some wonderful animations of sky-happenings, check out Shadow & Substance.

Students - on the draft above, you will see a few things which helped me write this poem.  The alphabet in the upper right hand corner always helps me find rhyming words which make sense together.  You can see some of those in the lower left hand corner.  This time I needed a little drawing too, to help me remember the positions of each player in this night sky drama.

Of course my revisions included my husband Mark.  I asked him, "Would you please read this to see if I got the science right?"

I hope that some of you got to see the eclipse last night.  (It was too cloudy here to see much.)  If you missed it this time, take a peek at the NASA Eclipse Website and mark down the date for the next eclipse where you live.  

For a beautiful 2010 poetry book about the sky, don't miss SKY MAGIC, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins and illustrated by Mariusz Stawarski.

Shop Indie Bookstores

Happy eclipse!  Happy solstice!

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Advent Doors & Windows Glow - #265!

Advent Calendar & House
Photo by Amy LV

At this time of year, our home is spilling ingredients and materials for making all kinds of Christmas goodies.  It's messy and sweet-smelling and beautiful.  Naturally, my poems are springing from some of our own family's joy in this season.

Today marks Day #265 of poems.  This means that there are only 100 poems left in my MyPoWriYe (My Poem Writing Year) challenge to write and post a new daily poem.

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Kunimasu Speak Through Poem #264

Students - yesterday's poem was about kunimasu too, but from a human perspective.  Today (with some prompting  from yesterday's commenters) I decided to write another.  This poem is from the fishes' perspective.

Georgia Heard's book CREATURES OF THE AIR, SEA, AND SKY, includes a wonderful poem for two voices called "Fishes."

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Long Live the Kunimasu with Poem #263

A couple of days ago, I turned on my phone to see that Yahoo had an article up about the kunimasu, a Japanese salmon believed extinct for the past 70 years.  But lo and behold!  A team of researchers has just found many of them in Lake Saiko, near Mount Fuji.  These fish are not extinct at all, and they kept their secret for seven decades.  I am very happy for the kunimasu and for us.

I began drafting this poem on Thursday, in front of a group of third and fourth grade students at Country Parkway Elementary in Williamsville, NY.  These students were writing free verse poems, and after we talked about and read free verse for a bit, I modeled thinking and drafting on this chart.

Chart from December 16, 2010 
by Amy LV

It's clear to see that today's poem did not end up in free verse after all.  Maybe I shall try another kunimasu poem, a free verse one.  If I do, I think it will be from the fishes' perspective.

It was exciting to see the variety of poetry students wrote last Thursday, on all topics from authors to new ice cream flavors to the importance of wearing hats.  One girl wrote from the point of view of a whale, referring to us as "humans."  I may have an opportunity to share some of these students' poems here, and some of them may be turned into dance and song by high school students.  Some interpretations may be performed on an evening in April with former Poet Laureate Ted Kooser!

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Friday, December 17, 2010

It's a Poetry Friday Birthday Party!

Photo by Amy LV

Poem #262

Happy Poetry Friday!  Today's poem (#29 in a Friday series of poems about poems) is for Melissa Wiley of Here in the Bonny Glen.  Happy birthday, new friend!  Melissa didn't know there would be a party here (it's a surprise), but she's giving us a present - an archive of all of her Poetry Friday Posts.  Feel free to throw some confetti around the Bonny Glen.

Students - today's poem has the same rhythm pattern as the poems of the last two days...something strange is going on.  Thank you to Charles Ghigna who found the title for today's poem in the title of the mitten photo.  While this poem was originally titled "A Birthday Wish," his comment helped me discover that "Poemittens" is better!  Thank goodness for friends.

Words are warming gifts for everyone, every holiday.  Why not celebrate 2011 birthdays with some zany Seuss-birthday-love?  Or better yet, consider writing your own poems as presents for those you love in this new year.

Because our children have a holiday assembly and because my mom will be visiting from out of town today, I have invited the mysterious Mister Linky to join us.  Please leave your link with him (along with a very short post description), and hike your way through forests of poem snow!

19.  Diane Mayr ("Long in the Tooth")

20.  Jama's Alphabet Soup ("Man Gave Names to All the Animals" by Bob Dylan)

21.  Jeannine Atkins ("How to Paint the Portrait of a Bird" by Jacques Prevert)

22.  Karen Edmisten ("A Christmas Card" by Thomas Merton)

23.  Dori Reads (A Christmas song from THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS by Kenneth Grahame)

24.  Ruth ("Ode to the Present" by Pablo Neruda)

25.  Melissa Wiley (a  trip through Melissa's Poetry Friday archive)

26.  Picture Books & Pirouettes (book share of NUTCRACKER TWINKLE TOES) 

27.  Blythe Woolston ("Scissors")

28.  Tabatha (Dorothy Parker & Charles Dickens)

29.  Wild Rose Reader ("Christmas Eve")

30.  Sheri Doyle ("Snow Music")

31.  Shelley (Poems about our Grandparents' Generation)

32.  Blue Rose Girls (Christmas Acrostics)

33.  Jennie ("Snow Day" by Billy Collins)

34.  Tara ("Song for Sarajevo" lyrics by Judy Collins)

35.  Carlie ("Machinery Maintenance")

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