Pass the Poetry, Please! Remembering Lee Bennett Hopkins

 

Lee Bennett Hopkins 1938-2019

This poem was written in honor of Lee Bennett Hopkins, a giant in the world of children’s poetry. Lee passed away on August 8th of this year. Today, the Poetry Friday community is sharing poetry honoring Lee. My contribution is a Golden Shovel using the title of Lee’s classic book, with phrases from some of Lee’s own poems woven in. Lee joyfully spread his love of poetry throughout the world, and his loss is immeasurable. How lucky we are that our lives were enriched by Lee, and that we have volumes and volumes of poetry to help keep his legacy alive.

Pass the Poetry, Please!

Italicized lines are from the following poems by Lee (in order of appearance):

“Under the Microscope” from Spectacular Science (Simon & Schuster, 1999)
“Librarian” from School People (Wordsong, 2018)
“Ruby” from Hoofbeats, Claws & Rippled Fins: Creature Poems (HarperCollins, 2002)
“Storyteller (For Augusta Baker)” from Jumping Off Library Shelves (Wordsong, 2015)
Introduction to I Am the Cat (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981)

And, of course, Pass the Poetry, Please!  a treasure trove of poetic love, containing “a wealth of ideas to encourage a child’s natural delight in poetry.” (from the back cover of my paperback of the revised edition, published by HarperTrophy in 1987.)

Please be sure to visit our gracious host, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, at The Poem Farm for more remembrances of Lee.

Poetry Friday: Bundles of Down

This year, our school has a single teacher for elementary science. He coordinates with classroom teachers, and has his own room where instruction takes place. For the past week or so, he has been incubating chicken eggs. The incubating process wasn’t too interesting, but all that changed when the eggs began to hatch. Everyone in the building has been visiting the newly hatched chicks. Of course I wrote a poem about them.

Bundles of damp down
Tumble into the world,
Cheeping and chirping.
Chicks rise, stumble
On brand new legs,
Spindly and pink.
They wobble back
And forth,
Unfold tiny wings
Then fall flat,
Worn out with effort.
They rest,
gather strength,
Then rise again,
Pause, find their
Footing.
Transformed into
Puffs of smoky down,
They scurry forward,
Ready to greet
the world.

© Catherine Flynn, 2019

Please be sure to visit Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Slice of Life: Fake It Till You Make It

Fake it till you make it. We’ve all heard it. We all know people who do it. We’ve all done it ourselves. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. I thought about this yesterday as I stood by the window in my classroom while my lunch was heating up. I looked out onto a playground filled with first and second graders reveling in the spring-like weather. Then I noticed three boys by the basketball hoop. Dribbling, passing the ball, taking shots. I thought about how much fun they were having, even though they didn’t come close to making a basket. They were practicing the moves they’d seen other, more seasoned players make.

As I watched, I thought about what else in life we approximate until we “make it.” Adulting, parenting, you name it, we fake it. Eventually we gain a certain level of competence and confidence. We don’t feel like we’re flying by the seat of our pants ALL the time! But what about our students? How much approximating do they do every day? It exhausts me to think about it.Which makes me wonder about our expectations. Perfect, polished writing is a challenge for us all. Why would we expect first graders to write flawlessly? We shouldn’t. What we should do is help them approximate being a writer, to copy the moves their favorite authors make. Sometimes their imperfections show us the most about their learning, about them as learners. So let’s make our classrooms places for taking risks that help us grow. That’s how we make it.

Thank you to everyone at Two Writing Teachers for this space where we can all take risks.


Poetry Friday: The Wondrous Wonderpus

Without intending to, I ended up taking a hiatus from blogging during October. I have missed all my poetry pals, though, so I’m determined to at least get pack to posting on Fridays.

In September, the lovely and generous Irene Latham invited her readers and friends to share “some octopus poems and art” to be featured on her blog during October, otherwise known as #NationalOctopusMonth. I’ve never been a huge fan of octopuses, but I am a HUGE fan of Irene and all her writing, so I dove into learning more about the fascinating creatures.

I soon discovered the wonderpus octopus (Wunderpus photogenicus)who lives in the coastal waters near Indonesia and Malaysia. This beautiful little octopus inspired this poem, “The Wondrous Wonderpus.”

 

 

By Jenny (JennyHuang) from Taipei (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Thank you again to Irene, for always being such an inspiration. Please be sure to visit Jama at Jama’s Alphabet Soup for the Poetry Friday Roundup!

Slice of Life: Summer Reading

Today is really only the second day of my summer break. (I don’t think the weekend should count.) I am working hard at looking busy and being productive. But honestly, I haven’t accomplished much and feel a little adrift.

One thing I have managed to do is read the first chunk of I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson for an online reading group organized by Sally Donnelly. This Printz Award winner and Stonewall Honor Book was on many Best-Book lists when it was published, deservedly so. At first, I was so caught up in the story that I missed the nuances of Nelson’s writing. I’m rereading now with ever-increasing awe at the power of this book.

                    

I have stacks of novels and professional books I want to read this summer. Sunny, the third installment in Jason Reynolds’s amazing Track series is next on my list, followed by Refugee, by Alan Gratz and The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo. Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle’s 180 Days: Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents is at the top of my professional stack. Ellin Keene’s Engaging Children: Igniting a Drive for Deeper Learning and Jeff Anderson’s Patterns of Power are also on my list. Wish me luck!

         

What are you reading this summer?

Thank you to StaceyBetsyBethKathleenDeb, KelseyMelanie, and Lanny for creating this community and providing this space for teachers and others to share their stories every Tuesday. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

Slice of Life: An Unobserved Slice

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Three hours are left before the last day of March, and I still don’t know what to write about today. Was there a slice hidden somewhere in my day? If there was, I didn’t notice it, maybe because I was preoccupied by something.

Was it that moment when a third grade student came up with the perfect metaphor for a poem she’s writing?

It could have been when a first grade student sat up a little straighter after figuring out a word he didn’t know.

Was it hiding in the emails I wrote?

Maybe it was when a kindergarten student hugged me in the hallway just because she felt like it.

Did I miss it while I was planning for tomorrow?

Or was it when I got home after a late meeting and my husband had dinner ready and waiting?

Whenever it happened, it went by unobserved. Some days are like this.

Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnnaBeth, Kathleen, and Deb for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday throughout the year and every day during the month of March. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.

Slice of Life: Broken Glasses

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Have you seen those videos of babies hearing their mother’s voice for the first time? Imagine what it must be like to have the mute button turned off and all of a sudden hearing the soothing sound of a human voice.

I experienced this in reverse after I broke my glasses yesterday. I wore them gingerly until my husband took them to try to fix them. It was astonishing to me how utterly dependent I am on them. I could navigate my house, and thanks to 40 years of typing, was able to write this and have it be relatively error free, but not much else. I could listen to a podcast because I knew the icon’s  color and general design. But I couldn’t stop typing in the middle of a sentence, because I couldn’t go back and reread. If I lost my train of thought, well, it’s lost. (It wouldn’t be the first time!) 

As I typed these words I realized what it must be like for students in our classrooms with learning differences that aren’t being addressed. When we don’t differentiate for these children, we’re essentially asking them to work without their glasses.

We insist that they read this book, do this math, write this story.

And, oh by the way, do it with one sense missing and hardly any experience to fall back on to help you.

Then we’re back in five minutes and wonder why they haven’t gotten more done.

Now we’re exasperated because they don’t know who the main character is because, well, it’s right there in front of them! How do they not see that?

My husband had my glasses for about fifteen minutes. I quickly became bored and frustrated. I was ready to go find something, anything, I could do without my glasses, even if it was only folding clothes.

I can’t imagine how I would feel after six hours of this. I also had a splitting headache, not because I was trying to read this, but because it was impossible not to look at the screen while I typed.

Learning to see by losing one’s sight is a literary device as old as literature itself. I’ve always thought I did my best to differentiate and make accommodations and modifications so students will be able to learn. After this experience, though, I wonder if I’m doing enough. From now on I’ll be much more aware of ensuring that every student can see (and hear!) exactly what they need to. I want to see that smile of joy and understanding spread across the faces of all my students.

 Thank you to StaceyTaraDanaBetsyAnnaBeth, Kathleen, and Deb for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday throughout the year and every day during the month of March. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.