Friday, May 18, 2012

Tiny Tubas & A Classroom Peek!

Georgia Makes Music!
Photo by Amy LV

Click the arrow to hear me read this poem to you 
(and to hear Georgia play a blade of grass!)

Students - I had no idea what to write about for today's poem.  I was sitting outside at our picnic table, just looking around at the pretty day, when I saw some thick grass.  I picked a piece and tried to make some music the way I tried to do in the 1970s. I placed the fat grass between my two thumbs and blew into it. Georgia came out and said, "That's not how I do it."  And then she taught me her way.  It was much better, and I could make lots more noise. How to get a poem idea? Just look around!

Today's poem is a how-to poem, a poem that gently teaches someone else how to do something.  You'll see that especially the second stanza gives specific directions.  If you have never tried writing a procedural, or how-to, poem, you might like it.  Do you know what my favorite line is?  The last one!  I love saying these words - tiny tubas!

This is my third recent poem-with-quatrains (Hand Me Downs, A Place To Go). Sometimes it's easy to just fall into a particular rhythm of writing.  Do you know what I do when that happens?  I break it!  So right now I am telling you - none of the next week's poems will be written quatrains.  And you know what else?  Two of next week's poems will be free verse poems.  I just decided.

For this May Poetry Friday feast, I am very very happy to welcome  Stacey Buck, a speech-language pathologist from Chicago and her poet-student Tia. Stacey will tell us about how she uses poetry in her work with young people, and Tia will share a poem along with her draft and process notes.  A very warm welcome to Stacey and Tia!

As a speech-language pathologist, I work primarily with children who have language delays or disorders. Many have been diagnosed a learning disability as well - a language based learning disability. For review, the five areas of language are: semantics (vocabulary, figurative language), morphology (grammar at word level), syntax (grammar of sentence), phonology (sounds, closely related to literacy), and pragmatics (social skills, theory of mind).

I like that poetry is short enough to read and begin work in the course of 30 minutes. Students come to my office for an hour and we have typically other goals to address (think about those 5 areas of language), so I like the flexibility of poetry.

In 2010, when Amy was writing a poem a day, a 2nd grade student of mine loved the riddle poems, so she decided to write her own. This girl did not say complete sentences at age 5 when we met, and struggled to write even 1 sentence on a given topic in 30 minutes by the time she was leaving 1st grade. To see her so enthusiastic to write a riddle poem was amazing!

Since then, I have continued to look at The Poem Farm daily as it is my home page - a nice reminder to use with students and a more positive way to start the day than a news website.

This school year, I have used poems from the online books, Poetry Tag Time and P-Tag with students from 4th-8th grade.  To give some specific ideas of how I use poetry, the following are two examples using poems from The Poem Farm posted during National Poetry Month 2012.

1. Tia, a 3rd grader, wrote a story poem (included in this post) inspired by Amy LV's Draw. In my office, she has worked to include more details in her sentences (ex: using prepositions, complex sentence structure), and sequence her ideas for narratives (personal, expository, or fictional).  The structure of a story poem encouraged her to work on sequencing narratives in a different way, while reading Amy’s thoughts on the writing process encouraged her to use more details to share her own process for her poem.  It has been exciting to watch Tia be so motivated that even when she’s rubbing her eyes due to fatigue, she doesn’t give up.

2. A 5th grade girl worked with Amy LV’s Prescribe.  In my office, she has worked on not skipping over unknown vocabulary, ‘figuring out’ figurative language and using ‘thinking verbs‘ orally and in her writing.  I chose this poem for its multiple meanings - ‘guide’ and ‘tear.‘  Interestingly, this girl knew those meanings and was able to explain which meaning was used in the poem. However, the overall meaning of the poem still escaped her since ‘heart’ ended up being the tricky word.  She could only come up with one meaning - “the muscle that pumps blood in your body.” Once she realized that ‘heart’ had to do with “love” and “interests,” she was able to explain the overall meaning of the poem as well as share what it meant in her own life. What success!

Here are a couple of tips for parents, other SLPs, or teachers whose students may struggle with aspects of language:

* Use your problem solving skills. Some poems are fairly straightforward, and are easy to understand. You might choose this type of poem when you want to have a student’s work focus on writing (maybe it’s sequencing ideas or using temporal terms; maybe it’s a certain kind of sentence structure like relative or adjective clauses). Some poems have multiple meanings and/or figurative language. You might choose a poem containing these if you want to focus the work on vocabulary and comprehension. Of course, you can do writing, too, with this second example, but rarely do I ask children to synthesize all of these pieces if they are each areas of need for the student.

* Pay attention to the little pieces. When a student gets confused in a conversation, for example, think about why she did. Was it a word meaning? Was it the long sentence with passive voice and negation? Was it that she missed a plural marker you said? Similarly, when a student ‘gets’ something you weren’t expecting her to ‘get’, think about what was different this time. Has she had lots of personal experience with the topic? Does she love idioms? (I know a student like this. I was lumping all figurative language together until I realized this area was a strength for her.) These are then your keys to strengths to play to and areas of need to work on
with the children in your life.

And now I welcome Tia! Please enjoy learning about her process, reading her final story poem, and then studying her rough draft.


Tia's Process Notes

Tia's Final Poem

Tia's Rough Draft

Thank you very much to Stacey and to Tia for joining us today.  It is a privilege to have these peeks into the classrooms and conversations and thoughts of students and their teachers.

And this week is a joyful one indeed.  For this week I got to see the beautiful watercolors for my first book, FOREST HAS A SONG (Clarion, 2013). Artist Robbin Gourley made each poem sing with her whimsical and gorgeous paintings, and I feel like the luckiest-first-book-author-in-the-world!

Today's Poetry Friday roundup is over at Write. Sketch. Repeat. with Katya. Swing on by for a menu full of poetic treats.

Please share a comment below if you wish.
To find a poem by topic, click here. To find a poem by technique, click here.
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  1. My dyslexic son has always loved poetry -- I wonder if something about the musicality of the language of poetry especially appeals to kids with language-based learning disabilities?

  2. From the Tiny Tubas to the poetic adventure with Stacey and Tia, what a great post, Amy. I will pass this on to our primary teachers. I know they'll love it too. I like that part in Tia's poem where Montana yelled, "Hold my hand." It's an adventure that's shivery & takes some hand-holding! Thanks to you all.

  3. Cute. I'm going to have to try to write a how to poem.

  4. Tiny tubas...and Tia! Nice post!

  5. Today at the grocery store we had fun saying panko. Now I get tiny tubas. (I still love flaming poo poo platter!!)

    Words are so fun!!

  6. Amy, I loved the glimpse into the speech pathologist's world, and how she uses your writing, both the writing about the process and the poems. How gratifying to see the ripples of your work in the classroom and then in the writing of children. Congratulations!

    Nice poem too. (Though my grass-blade songs need some work. They sound more like the OOPS screeches of a clarinet reed than a tuba.)


  7. Love this slice of life. You captured it well.

  8. I remember making grass tubas. Love the how poems, Amy.
    It was interesting to read how a speech,pathologist uses poetry. Thanks for,sharing.

  9. Did you see how much this blog helps people Amy. You're doing a great service to many a teacher and student. FOREST HAS A SONG FOREVER!!!!!!!