Poetry Friday: Things To Do If You’re a Seed

This fall I’m teaching a six-week exploratory course on gardening to 4th and 5th graders. Six weeks isn’t much time, but we’ve already suspended an avocado pit in water, planted oregano, and brainstormed a list of questions we want to answer. Later today we’ll be planting potatoes and next week we’re starting herb gardens.

Planting oregano (Thank you, Keri Snowden, for the photo!)

 

In addition to all these seeds sprouting, I’d like some writing to blossom during our course. A “things to do” list poem is a form we can collaborate on, and lends itself nicely to a short time frame. Here is a poem I drafted  to use as a model.

Things to do if you’re a seed…

nestle into rich, warm soil
soak up plenty of water
swell like a sponge
split your coat
plunge thirsty roots deep into the earth
poke an eager stem into the air
sprout feathery leaves
drink up the sun’s shimmering rays

then grow…

and grow

and grow.

© Catherine Flynn, 2017

Please be sure to visit Kathryn Apel for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

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Poetry Friday: “School”

“In music, in poetry, and in life, the rest, the pause, the slow movements are essential to comprehending the whole.”
~ Maryanne Wolf ~

This past week, I attended a training institute on Structured Literacy Instruction. Although I may have grumbled a bit about the ninety minute drive, now that I’ve had time to rest and pause, I’ve realized the time spent learning with and from colleagues from across the state was both rewarding and enriching. I’ll be sifting through my notes and the presentation slides for weeks to come.

One of the requirements of the institute was to prepare a presentation on a chapter from Multisensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills, 3rd Edition, edited by Judith R. Birsh. At over 700 pages, this book is no light read, literally and figuratively! But, it is an important resource for all teachers. My group chose to present the chapter on vocabulary. We all know the impact of a deep vocabulary on reading comprehension, but some of the statistics shared were astounding. In 2006, Stahl & Nagy stated that “knowing individual word meanings is thought to account for as much as 50% of the variance in reading comprehension.” 

Semantic relationships was discussed at length. Again, this is a topic that I know about and use with my students, but it was helpful to read again about the importance of developing our students’ “word consciousness,” or their “interest and awareness of words.” (Birsh, 339).

Poetry, of course, is ideal for developing all of these skills and more. As I was looking for a poem to share in our presentation to model these ideas, I stumbled across “School,” by David J. Langton. In the end, we chose Thunder Cake, by Patricia Polacco, but Langton’s poem is rich with possibility.

“School”
by David J. Langton

I was sent home the first day
with a note: Danny needs a ruler.
My father nodded, nothing seemed so apt.
School is for rules, countries need rulers,
graphs need graphing, the world is straight ahead.
It had metrics one side, inches the other.
You could see where it started
and why it stopped, a foot along,
how it ruled the flighty pen,
which petered out sideways when you dreamt.
Read the rest of the poem here.
Friends (and cookies) make learning fun!

Please be sure to visit Jone at Check it Out for the Poetry Friday Roundup. Wishing you all a wonderful start of school!

Poetry Friday: Marilyn Nelson’s “1905”

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
~ Nelson Mandela ~

“1905”
by Marilyn Nelson

Looking out of the front page, a wild-haired,
gentle-eyed young German man stands
before a blackboard of incomprehensible equations.
Meanwhile, back in the quotidian,
Carver takes the school to the poor.

He outfits an open truck
with shelves for his jars
of canned fruit and compost,
bins for his croker sacks of seeds.
He travels roads barely discernible
on the county map,
teaching former field-slaves
how to weave ditch weeds
into pretty table place mats,
how to keep their sweet potatoes from rotting
before winter hunger sets in,
how to make preacher-pleasing
mock fried chicken
without slaughtering a laying hen.
He notes patches of wild chicory
the farmers could collect
to free themselves from their taste
for high-priced imported caffeine.

He and his student assistants bump along
shoulder to shoulder in the high cab,
a braided scale of laughter
trailing above their raised dust.

Read the rest of the poem here.

                              

This poem is from Marilyn Nelson’s outstanding Carver: A Life in Poems. George Washington Carver, this poem, and the entire collection are a much-needed reminder of the power of what is possible. Please be sure to visit Kay McGriff at A Journey Through the Pages for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: Song of the Tree Frogs

“Song of the Tree Frogs”
by David L. Harrison

At the edge of night
the sun pulls down
its soothing shade
and peepers creeping
from leafy covers
tune up to sing.

Who will start
this evening’s song
with fluted notes
that serenade the night?

Someone begins,
the same song
his ancestors sang,
and the forest fills
with an urgent chorus.

Read the rest here.

A recent visitor to my sister’s screen house.

Please be sure to visit my dear friend Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche for the Poetry Friday Roundup and to wish her a happy birthday!

#PB10for10: Celebrating Nature

“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of
the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”
~ Rachel Carson ~

Thank you to Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek for creating and curating this celebration of picture books. You can read all the lists contributed to this labor of love here. It is teachers like them, and others in this community, who will keep the gift of stories alive for years to come.

There was a story on NPR recently about how science teachers are dealing with push back from students because of fake news. I wasn’t surprised to hear that climate change was a controversial topic, but I was shocked when one teacher said that students were challenging him about the Earth being round. How is such a view even possible? The more I thought about this, the more I began to wonder if such skepticism for long-established scientific facts is related to the decrease in the amount of time kids spend outdoors. Much has been written about “nature deficit disorder,” a term coined in 2005 by Richard Louv in his 2005 book, Last Child in the Woods. I’m sure there are many skeptics about Louv’s theory, but too many students tell me they spend entire weekends inside for me to doubt his theory.

I know reading books is no substitute for spending time outside, but these 10 books should whet anyone’s appetite for sunshine (or moonshine) and fresh air. After all, as Henry David Thoreau once said “we can never have enough of nature.”

1. What Are You Waiting For? by Scott Menchin, illustrated by Matt Phelan (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, 2017)

                     

2. Round by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo (Houghton Mifflin Harcort, 2017)

3. Tidy, written and illustrated by Emily Gravett (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017; first published in Great Britain, 2016)

                 

4. Now, by Antoinette Portis (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, 2017)

5. And Then Comes Summer, by Tom Brenner, illustrated by Jaime Kim (Candlewick Press, 2017)

  

6. A River, written & illustrated by Marc Martin (Chronicle Books, 2017; first published in Australia in 2015)

7. This Beautiful Day, by Richard Jackson, illustrated by Suzy Lee (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017)

                         

8. A Perfect Day, by Lane Smith (Roaring Brook Press, 2017)

9. Another Way to Climb a Tree, by Liz Garton Scanlon (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, 2017)

                        

10. The Specific Ocean, by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Katty Maurey (Kids Can Press, 2015)

My previous Picture Book 10 for 10 lists:

2016: Feeding Our Imaginations
2015: Poetry Picture Books
2014: Friendship Favorites
2013: Jane Yolen Picture Books
2012: Wordless Picture Books

Slice of Life: Root Beer Floats

Yesterday was National Root Beer Float Day. I love that there is a National day for almost everything, and I was especially happy to have an excuse to make a root beer float. When we were little, my sister and I spent a lot of time with our grandmother, especially during the summer. Her house was surrounded by shady maple trees that kept us cool, but on sweltering afternoons, nothing beat the heat like a root beer float.

Grandma had tall pink plastic tumblers that were reserved for these warm-weather treats. Joanie and I got them from the cupboard while Grandma took the ice cream from the freezer and the cans of root beer from the fridge. She scooped two precise balls of Sealtest vanilla into each cup. Then she slowly poured in the root beer, trying to prevent streams of bubbly foam from erupting over the rim.

We sat together at the kitchen table and sipped as the icebergs of softening ice cream dissolved into crystal-coated blobs. We laughed at the foamy mustaches on our upper lips. Grandma never threw anything away, so we used long-handled, red plastic spoons from Carvel’s to scoop out the last remnants of the ice cream from the bottom of the cup, savoring the creamy blend of sweet and sharp flavors, the perfect antidote for a hot summer day.

Those plastic tumblers are long gone, and I don’t think Sealtest Ice Cream is even made anymore, but that didn’t stop me from savoring a root beer float yesterday. It was just as delicious as I remembered.

Thank you also to StaceyBetsyBeth, KathleenDeb, Melanie, and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

 

Poetry Friday: An Avian Tanka

My week has been filled with birds. (If you’re a frequent reader, you might be asking yourself, “What else is new?”) At the beginning of the week, I made may way to a new Audubon Center near my home for an early morning bird walk. Then I finished Mozart’s Starling (which I wrote about here). I really loved this book. Haupt ends by deftly weaving the threads of her starling Carmen, Mozart, and artists of every stripe into a reflection on the nature of creativity. “And what is this wild summons?” Haupt asks. “To listen with changed ears and sing back what we hear.”

Inspired by these words, here is a tanka filled with the sounds from my week.

As the last stars fade,
robins and cardinals sense
dawn’s approaching warmth.
Trills and cheeps float from treetops
chasing away night’s shadows.

© Catherine Flynn, 2017

by John James Audubon [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Please be sure to visit Donna Smith at Mainely Write for the Poetry Friday Roundup.