School is closed,
The trains have stopped,
Over two feet of snow cover the
Today’s poem comes from Steven Schnur’s Winter: An Alphabet Acrostic. (Clarion, 2002) This lovely, deceptively simple book examines winter from all angles. Indoors, outdoors, living or not, everything is affected by this harshest time of year. The poems chronicle the unfolding season, from the first hints of ice at the edges of a pond, to the height of the holiday season, until finally, subtle signs of spring begin to appear. Leslie Evans created linoleum-cut illustrations that capture the tone of each poem. Schnur and Evans have a book devoted to each season and each one is worth a look.
I love acrostics because they can free students from being intimidated by poetry. They can be as simple as a list, and they don’t have to rhyme. I have shared this book with first and third graders, and both age groups loved the poems. Use the book as a mentor text so students become familiar with the acrostic form and the idea of focused description. Schnur’s poems never feel forced, although you might have to look up “xyst.” (I did!) They are also fine examples of “how specific word choices shape meaning or tone” (http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/CCRA/R), which, according to the CCSS, students should be able to analyze and interpret.
Vocabulary and word choice show up again in CCSS Language Anchor standard five. Again, reading Schnur’s acrostics, as well as those by other poets, are a natural way to develop vocabulary and help students be conscious of word choice. The standard calls for students to “Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.” (http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/CCRA/L) First graders are expected to “distinguish shades of meaning among verbs differing in manner…and adjectives differing in intensity.” (L.1.5.d) Writing their own acrostic poems and creating a class book is a natural extension of reading this book. This is an authentic way to introduce the idea of precision of word choice and allows for exactly the kind of work expected by CCSS. In addition, composing their own poems and searching for just the right word is a much more natural way to develop vocabulary than with mindless worksheets or computer games. Students can choose everyday objects or events that they associate with the season, or any other topic, really. Giving students the opportunity to choose their own subject ensures they’ll be engaged in work that’s meaningful to them.
Be sure to stop in over at A Teaching Life for other Poetry Friday posts. Thanks, Tara, for hosting! Hope you all stay safe and warm over the next few days. Happy reading!