Friday, June 14, 2013

Goodbyes and Kindergarten Poems

Hope's Eighth Grade Graduation
Photo by Amy LV

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

Students - While summertime is full of sweet goodness, sometimes goodbyes are a little teary.  When the ends of school years come, I always find myself thinking about the good memories that threaded through the months, the memories that our children, all children, teachers, and I will hold onto forever.  So this poem is a bit of a list, a list of school memories to cherish.

In writing this poem, I decided to write from a teacher's perspective because I am a teacher and a grown-up, and I think that I understand what teachers feel.  Also, when I wrote these words, I wanted students to know that their teachers always remember them.  Some of my former students are almost thirty years old now, and I have not forgotten.  I remember their boxes full of collections, the novels they wrote in spiral notebooks, and the way they shared their favorite books.  I remember our giggles, our tough times, and the way we grew up together.  All teachers do.  See that repeating line?  I won't forget. Children matter greatly to their teachers.

For today's Poetry Peek, I am so happy to introduce kindergarten teacher Erin Jarnot and her students from Elma Primary School in the Iroquois Central School District as they celebrate poetry on this summer Friday. Welcome, Erin and young poets!

Kindergarten Poets: Krysia, Breanna, Grace, William, and Nick
Photo by Erin Jarnot

Teaching poetry to kindergarteners might seem like a challenge, but I was up for it!  With the right resources, tools, and great authors/poets to use as models (thank you Regie Routman and Amy VanDerwater), anything is possible!

Before beginning any formal writing of poetry, I exposed my students to TONS of poems – some that rhymed, some that didn’t, some that you could sing as songs, some that you couldn’t, some that were long, some that were short, some that had repeating lines, some that didn’t.  This was helpful when teaching how to write poetry because I could easily refer back to something we had previously read, and the kids would remember it.

Another step I took with my class before writing poetry was getting their brains “thinking like poets”.  I used many objects from nature (sticks, rocks, shells, leaves, tree bark, etc.) and did a lot of comparing with these objects.  I told my students that poets describe what things are like and we would use the nature objects to get our brains “thinking like poets”.  My favorite object was a plain old stick from a tree.  It was about 2 feet long, thin, smooth with a slight bend in it.  Some comparisons the students came up with were:

It’s a wizard wand.
It is smooth like a snake.
It is like a walking cane.
It is like a light saber for fighting.
It is a wand for a band conductor.
It is like your pointer for teaching.

Each object had its own set of comparisons.  I emphasized using the words “like” or “as” when the boys and girls were comparing different things.

by Nick

by Grace

Then came a few lessons right from Kids’ Poems – Teaching Kindergartners to Love Writing Poetry (Regie Routman).  

The Getting Started and Sharing Kids’ Poems sections are must reads.  They are short and really inspiring.  If you have the mindset that a poem can be about anything at all, and that just about anything can be written as a poem, it will make teaching poetry a lot of fun!  I used the student samples right from this book to show my students.  They thought it was neat to see the unedited versions of student poems.  They could relate to them because the sample writing looked just like their own writing.  My students also loved hearing the names of the students who wrote each poem in the Regie Routman book.  They belonged to real kids, just like them.

We did a lot of modeled and shared writing before the students worked independently.  On those days, we’d write poems together.  Sometimes I’d write one of my own, sometimes I’d mimic a poem that was from the book.  I thought it was important for the students to know that sometimes poets think of a poem in their head and say what it would sound like out loud before going back to write it.  That seemed to help some of the students organize their thoughts a bit.

by Krysia

I gave the boys and girls a choice at this point.  They could try a poem if they thought they were ready, or they could do some familiar journal writing.  A few students tried the poems right away, and surprisingly, a few of them got the hang of it.  After about a week of modeled and shared writing of poems, I gave all students special “poetry paper” which was 8 ½ x 14 paper with writing lines on it (because you write a poem down the page instead of across the page) – this gave the students a different perspective since they usually write on 8 ½ x 11 pieces of paper.  Now it was time to get to work.

by Breanna

We worked for about two weeks or so just writing poems.  Each day for my mini lesson, I would add new things the kids could try in their poems (repeating line, topic ideas, more comparing strategies, punctuation, lack of punctuation, etc).  The boys and girls thought it was neat that when writing poetry they could kind of “break the rules”!  One girl even wrote her entire poem in capital letters just because she could – she didn’t have to follow a sentence structure format.

After many days of writing and writing, I collected all the poems and typed them up.  Students then illustrated pictures to match their poems.  I kept the student copies and bound a small poetry collection for each student including all of his or her poems.  I mimicked Regie Routman’s set up of the student poems in her book.  Overall, they turned out really well, and everyone was very proud of their work – me included!

Star Wars
by William

Thank you so much to Erin and her young poets for their generous sharing of both poems and process today.  I hope that they will continue to find and write poems all through the summer, perhaps taking some of that big long paper home with them!

Margaret is hosting today's Poetry Friday roundup over at Reflections on the Teche where you can find the poetic goodies for this week and learn about Margaret's students' writing marathon too.  Happy Poetry Friday!

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  1. I worked on poetry with first graders this year, so enjoyed all this poetry from the younger kindergarteners so much, and the process that happened with their writing. They are very nice, and I love the one titled Summer! Beautiful illustrations, too! And-I do love goodbye poems, Amy. After all our goodbyes at the end of the day this year, we finally did need to say, "It's time to go." Ah-h, the bittersweet of it all! Thank you!

  2. It is sad to say goodbye to my students at the end of every year, but I have to admit that the euphoria of being done usually takes over in May. When I really feel sad about them being gone is when I get back to school in August and they aren't in my room any more. But sometimes they come visit me, since our high school is upstairs!

  3. I worked with second and third graders last week. They were so creative and delighted by the fact they could break the rules! Teaching poetry is such fun.

  4. The end of the school year is bittersweet for both teachers AND students. Your poem captured the teacher's POV exactly! Thanks for sharing! =)

  5. I love not knowing who's speaking in your poem. It is a teacher saying goodbye to the children, or a child saying goodbye to her teacher? Either is spot-on!

  6. I was thinking the same thing as Mary Lee - we don't know who the speaker is, which makes the poem that much better!