Monday, June 10, 2013

Baby Cereal and Fourth Grade Poets

by Amy LV

Click the arrow to hear me read this poem to you.

Students - Today's poem is an older one, and it's from a whole collection of baby poems that I have written.  Since Mark and I have three children, we have lots of baby stories, and for a time, I thought that I might join my baby poems together into a book.  Now I don't think so.  I am working on different projects, and so the baby poems are sitting and waiting for another day, another month, another year.

You may have noticed that every line of today's poem begins with the same word.  I got the idea to try this from a poem titled Good Books, Good Times!,  from a book by the same name, by Lee Bennett Hopkins.  There's another interesting technique to notice too, another idea I learned from Lee's poem.  Can you find it?

To write this little poem, I used Lee's great poem, "Good Books, Good Times!" as a mentor poem.  This is a great thing to do.  Find a poem you love, notice something you find interesting about the writing, and then try that interesting thing yourself!  Stand on that poet's shoulders to attempt something new.

Today I am happy to host fourth grade teacher Nathan Monaco and his students from the Arcade Elementary in the Pioneer Central School District.  I thank them for sharing their poetry unit journey.  Welcome, Nathan and students...

This year my 4th grade classroom had fun with an author study unit about poetry using Amy VanDerwater’s writing.  She was generous enough to allow me to use her poetry and her artwork from The Poem Farm as freely as I wanted.  The unit wound up being 3-4 weeks long, and I combined Amy’s poetry with other themes I had learned about through writer’s workshop.

Aiden's Notebook

At the beginning of the poetry unit, my students were less than enthused to say the least.  They shared their malcontent about poetry in general and basically summed it up as boring.  I let them know that they had not been taught poetry by me yet and that they were going to be learning about a poet who they had never heard of.  Each student received a bound copy of a book that my teaching assistant and I had made.  This book contained some of Amy’s poetry split up into sections according to the "technique" sections (line breaks, question poems, mask poems, personification, etc.) on The Poem Farm website.

Before delving into the different types of techniques, my class spent one week learning about the 5 Doors of poetry by Georgia Heard, using each door to think about poems by Amy.  If you have never heard of Georgia Heard, she has a book titled Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School where the idea of the 5 Doors comes from.  

I spent one day on each of Georgia Heard's doors:

The Heart Door – things that you love, things that are important to you
The Memory Door – memories from your life: happy, sad, funny, etc
The Wonder Door – things that you are wondering about, questions you have
The Observation Door – things that you observe in the world around you
The Concerns About the World Door – things that concern you, or things that you are thinking about for the world, issues in the world.

One could also invent/introduce all kinds of other doors such as a humor door, but I decided to leave that out as 4th graders can take that too far and ruin the whole mojo of taking poetry seriously.

Day 2 - The Wonder Door
by Evelyn

Day 2 - The Wonder Door
by Gabbie

After the week of comparing Amy’s poetry to the 5 Doors, we were ready to explore her techniques as described in her website.  We read her poetry aloud, discussed why her poems were organized in such a way, patterns the students saw, and of course we talked about the importance/unimportance of rhyming in poetry.  Only one technique was talked about each day, but we kept track of the different techniques on poster boards in the room.  If students were compelled to continue working with one technique, I allowed it, and as the unit went on there was always a technique that a student felt comfortable worked with.  The class spent one week on the different techniques as well.

Week 2 - Personification
by Cheyenne

Our  last week of this unit was spent publishing through a company called Studentreasures, a company that binds student work in hardcover for free.  The actual publishing process for the company is a little tedious, (it took a whole week to publish poetry), but it was completely worth it.

Published Book Cover
by Andrew

Published Inside Book Page
by Marissa

We completed our unit in late March/early April.  Now, in the beginning on June, I still have students choosing to create poetry during writer’s workshop time.  Some students have even created poetry journals, and I would be very confident saying that all students thoroughly enjoyed the poetry unit.

Thank you again to Nathan and his fourth graders for sharing their journey today.  I feel lucky to have had my poems included as part of their study.

All best to all of you for a beautiful week full of poetry and adventure!

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. What a beautiful idea to combine Georgia Heard's 'doors' with Amy's poems. Both are terrific to use to inspire and teach! imagine your students now enjoy poetry, and because of what you've taught them. Thanks!

    And-Amy-baby poems are such a cute idea, & this example is terrific.

  2. Great information, Amy. Just full of helpful information for teachers!

  3. Great poem and I love the doors idea, Amy.

  4. Catherine - Georgia's book, AWAKENING THE HEART, is simply a gem. Her explanation of those doors is perfect and so helpfully visual. It also emphasizes something I believe to be very important for young readers and writers: poetry reaches all parts of us, the funny parts but also the serious and awe-filled corners.