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Finding Poetry

I discovered poetry in the fourth grade when a student teacher, fresh from college, bravely undertook the task of leading nine year olds through the poems that are always included in the anthologies of best loved poems. At that time, it was hard to imagine anyone loving them. I don’t remember the teacher’s name, but, she had long brown hair, silver hoop earrings, and a patchwork skirt. She smiled… a lot. Our class teacher, Mrs. Stern, whose name tells you all you need to know about her, had admonished us to listen, behave, and learn something. Then, she excused herself and left the student teacher to her fate. I would like to say that it was at that moment I learned to love poetry, but like many love affairs, poetry and I did not hit it off at first. I came away from that experience with an understanding that not all poems need to rhyme and with a wish that I had a pair of silver hoop earrings and a patchwork skirt.

However, some of that experience must have made a significant impression, because in the 5th grade it was such a feeling of revelation when I discovered the humorous poems of Shel Silverstein. I was completely enamored by “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and began to write my own poems. I remember particularly enjoying pairing words and names. For example, Wyatt Earp and burp. Much can be written on the subject of a burping gunslinger. By middle school, I expressed my teen angst in a journal filled with poems that owed much of their inspiration to song lyrics and boys I liked. My poetry may not have been great, it may not have been original, but it made me feel both great and original to compose it. Once all of my teen moodiness had found a home on the page, I was a gentler and kinder daughter, sister, and friend.

Today, I enjoy reading, discussing, and, sharing poems with my students, and still occasionally writing them. I love to tell my students that poetry is everywhere. It can be found in a drop of rain that falls from the eaves, or in the song of a cricket. It certainly can’t be contained in a single form, or follow one particular set of rules. Even the Bible is full of poetry, in particular, the books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. Poetry can also be found in the New Testament. Mary and Zechariah’s songs of praise from the book of Luke come to mind, and the Beatitudes are as beautifully worded as any poem. We talk about the power of poetry to paint a picture with words, to capture a moment, or to give expression to pain and joy.

One of the pleasures of our after school poetry club has been watching students develop their own love for poetry while experimenting with its different forms. I also relish those opportunities to share poems that I think they will connect with and love as much as I do, or listening as they read aloud a special favorite of their own.
Poetry club resumes during the 2nd session. I hope your 3rd, 4th or 5th grader will join us!

Melissa McDaniel, 3rd Grade

We Are Authors

For the last two weeks we have been working very hard at writing books on what we know about. We culminated the process by having a “We Are Authors Day”.   Each child’s parents were invited to come and listen to their child read their book. My students were so very proud of their hard work and could not wait to read to their parents and friends!

To begin the process, I conferenced with each student and asked them what they knew a lot about. We talked about the topics they could potentially write about and what they knew about their idea. The topics ranged from cats to ninjas, and plants to video games; it really was so much fun listening to the kids talking about things they are “experts” on. Once every student had their topic chosen, we got started on the project.

Each day, my students would write and illustrate one page of their book, putting in as much detail as they could. I met with small groups of children every day throughout the process to talk about what they would like their sentence to be on each page, and what the illustration could look like. I then worked with the students to help them sound out each word in the sentence. Once their sentence was complete, they went and drew their illustration.

What I really loved was listening to my students while they talked to one other about what they were doing. I often heard “Hey, that looks really cool!” or “I love that cat, it’s so cute!” The kids were really enjoying the wonderful praise, and loved looking at what their friends were doing as well.

The day before our “We Are Authors” day, I had my students work on their covers. They had to decide on a title and what they could draw that would tell a reader what their story was about. We, of course, added to their cover “Written and Illustrated by….” They were so proud that they were real authors! I laminated their cover, hole punched each page, and tied the books together with string. The kids all did such a wonderful job, the books looked amazing!

On the day of the event, my students came dressed in their “Sunday best.” They were so excited to read their books to their parents and friends.

The kiddos and I set up our classroom with chairs for the parents and students, and set up a table where we could put all of our yummy treats that were coming in.

After each child finished reading their book, we celebrated our hard work by enjoying fruit, mini muffins, yogurt, and orange juice.

I was so very proud of each of my students for working so hard, and I think they may have been even prouder of themselves! They had so much fun with this whole process that they asked me when we were going to start our next books. I love how much they enjoyed themselves, and I can’t wait to read their next books!

Christina Simonetti, Kindergarten

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