Category Archives: Poetry

Jumping on the POETRY bandwagon…

I’m not really one for jumping on the bandwagon of national-this-or-that days, weeks or months. I promise…  I don’t even do much celebrating of less-than-national days, such as my grown kids’ birthdays (I live in shame for this), my own anniversary national-poetry-month(I go to therapy for this), or  National Day of Prayer (I go to church for this). However, there is one month-long celebration that I’m all in favor of. I go to great lengths to celebrate this one: National Poetry Month. As a passionate proponent of “doing” poetry with children in order to convince them that words are their friends (and very playful ones, at that), and as a “Ralph Fletcher convert” to poetry writing that every child can do (love, LOVE his book, Poetry Matters: Writing a Poem From the Inside Out), poetry mattersI simply cannot resist building my own “bandwagon” and inviting my students, my family, my friends, and you, Dear Reader, to jump onboard!

Here are three elementary-teachers-should” truths that I know about …poetry cover1.   Elementary teachers should  have favorites – favorite poems and favorite poets.

2.     Elementary teachers should collect brief, clever, and delightful examples of poetry with which they can delight and entertain their students.

3.     Elementary teachers should nurture the natural poets children are, rather than assigning poetry.

Here are three elementary-teachers-shouldn’t” truths (I know these truths, thanks to Mike Tunnell & Jim Jacobs):

1.     Elementary teachers shouldn’t force and over-do poetry memorization & recitation.

2.     Elementary teachers shouldn’t force/assign all students to write poetry (particularly with rigid parameters, no matter how many lines or syllables called for).

3.     Elementary teachers shouldn’t force/assign heavy-duty analyzing of poems for their structures and meanings.

And finally, here are three elementary-teachers-can” truths that I know about poetry:

1.     Elementary teachers can  entice children with contemporary poems with humor and some sort of rhythm and rhyme.

2.     Elementary teachers can  empower children with writing poems when they demand fewer conventions and permit “poetic license.”

3.     Elementary teachers can inspire children as poets when they show them that (Ralph Fletcher’s idea here) writing a poem for someone is like giving blood.  It goes from the heart of the giver to the heart of the receiver. (I know, isn’t that brilliantly poignant?)

Are you ready to put your own poetic license“Poetic Teaching License” to work? Needing ideas for some fresh poetry to delight, entice and empower your students?  mooseThe scope of this blog post cannot include everything I wish teachers could know, understand, and do about poetry.  But I cannot resist an opportunity to unload a few things from my bandwagon, and leave them with you for yours:

Check out the Classroom Bookshelf Blog  and scroll through everything you will need, including book reviews, teaching ideas, and supporting resources.  Be sure to “search” the archives for the many new and wonderful poetry books they have included on their site!  Then…  well, in the words of Beatrice Schenk de Regniers,

“Keep a poem in your pocket and a picture in your head and you’ll never feel lonely…”PocketFULofPOEMS

Posted by Nancy Peterson, Ed.D., Professor of Elementary Education at Utah Valley University, and Co-Chair of “For the Love of Reading” conference. 

Every child deserves to find herself beautifully portrayed upon the pages of a book…

I’m changing subjects just a bit… away from Valentine’s Day, but not so far from love. This is because something else that I love a lot has been on my mind lately… that is, picture books on whose pages Children of Color find themselves portrayed, and see their beauty in realism and truth and self-respect – and where children with less variety of pigment to hair and skin and eyes, see children of color as subjects of the world’s finest art and prose and poetry.  Without time and space to share all of my favorites, I present my most recent discoveries, as well as my most long-held favorites, and only briefly share my journey of discovery of this world of appreciation.  

I had no understanding of this exchange between the 3-year-old little girl and her mother sitting across from me as I held my feverish 10-month-old in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. This was more than twenty years ago, when I could still claim the title of “young mother.”  The little girl brought an open magazine over to her mommy to show her the dolly she would like to have. Mommy ripped that magazine out of the little girl’s hands and threw it onto the pile of magazines on a table a few feet a way, yelling, “Don’t you come bringing no white baby over here! You know you not going to get no white trash baby!” I didn’t have any frame of reference or understanding for that exchange.  I was sad and afraid for the little girl because of the angry yelling, and the look of rage in the mother’s eyes.  But I didn’t know what to think of the “white trash” baby doll, as I held my own little baby.        

Years later I would read Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, and take my first step toward an epiphanal journey in coming to understand just a little bit, the heart and soul of that mother in the doctor’s office, that day.  I would also come to notice so many things that were unfair but unnoticed around me, such as calling that one particular color of nylon stockings “nude,” that one crayon “flesh; or the unfairness of my neighbor in West Virginia having to drive 60 miles to get hair product that would work for her hair.  So in order to surround my students, and my future grandchildren with beauty in realism and self-respect in a variety of color of skin and eyes, and texture of hair, and wonderful prose and poetry and truth, I will keep looking for brilliant authors and illustrators, and I will celebrate their work and their talents, and they way they show me the world. As I looked for just the right book to end this with, I found it…  well, I should say, I found the author.  It was Nikki Grimes.  I’ve been collecting her poetry books, her picture book biographies — pretty-much everything I can get my hands on that she writes. I thought I might try to find just one of her poems, perhaps from Thanks a Million, so I did a search on the internet.  What a found instead was her website, and even better — her blog. So here, at the end of my blog post, I introduce you to hers — Nikki Grimes. Please take the time to go to Nikki’s blog and read what she posted on December 21, 2012. Thanks to Nikki Grimes, I found myself, and the feelings of my heart, beautifully portrayed upon the pages of her blog.  I think you might find something of yourself there, too.  Don’t you just love how books and writers and illustrators can do that for us? Don’t you just want to share that with the young people in your life?