Over the summer, all our students in grades five through eight read Restart, by Gordon Korman. The kids loved the book, and have had some amazing discussions about its characters and themes. Earlier this week, as a culminating event, we had a Skype visit with Mr. Korman, who entertained us with stories and writing advice. Before our visit, the kids came up with many insightful questions. Their thoughtful wonderings inspired this poem. (Which was also inspired by Naomi Shihab Nye‘s ditty challenge for September on Michelle Heidenrich Barnes’s blog, Today’s Little Ditty.)
To the Author Of My Favorite Book:
What made you write this story? What gave you this idea? How did you find the just-right words to show the way I feel? Did you peek inside my diary, or spy on me each day?
Were you ever lonely? Were you ever blue? Did someone ever write a book that felt like a friend to you?
Do you think I can be happy like the girl inside your book? You made her come alive, you gave me a new friend. Please write more of her story so our friendship never ends.
Every teacher knows the week before school starts is one of the busiest of the year; a week that leaves little time for reflective, thoughtful writing. I’ve decided that working through some of the mentor texts in Linda Rief’s The Quickwrite Handbook is a realistic option to keep me writing during these first few weeks of school.
This week, Linda’s suggestion to borrow the phrase “Life is short…” from Maggie Smith’s poem “Good Bones,” appealed to me. Here is my response:
Life is short, so on the last Sunday of August, the day before school started, when I still had piles of books I wanted to read and at least one poem I wanted to write, I drove for half an hour to meet my friend.
Life is short, so we met at a place where we could walk in the sunshine of a late summer morning through a field still wet with dew and bedecked with the lacy offerings of a thousand spiders and talk about our busy week, our busy children, our busy lives.
Life is short, so even though there was laundry to sort and rooms to vacuum, we drove to a diner where we drank hot coffee and ate fluffy eggs and ignored the hustle and bustle around us and talked some more and worked on the crossword puzzle, just like we used to when she lived down the street, enjoying the easy comfort of our long friendship, a friendship that makes this life beautiful.
As summer winds down, I’ve been thinking not only about what I accomplished (closets cleaned, books read, poems written), but what I didn’t do. For many years, my in-laws had a very rustic cabin on a lake in “down east” Maine.We spent many weeks there over the years. Going to camp was right up there with Christmas and birthdays for my boys. The cabin was sold long ago, but for some reason, I missed it more than usual this summer.
When I was young at the lake, I woke to the sun shining through the trees, making puddles on the floor of the cabin’s loft. I skipped stones across the glassy water and paddled a canoe to the island near our cove. My brother and I ran wild through the forest and built a fort to defend our territory. We swam in the cold water and searched for unusual rocks on the beach.
When I was young at the lake, the air smelled of pine trees and we picked wild blueberries that grandma baked into a pie. On rainy afternoons, as raindrops pinged on the roof, we sat on the porch and put puzzles together. On clear nights, we watched meteor showers from the beach that were better than any fireworks we’d ever seen.
I fished for trout with my grandfather from our rowboat. Grandma always clapped when we presented her with our catch. Then she breaded each fish in cornmeal and fried them in her big cast iron skillet. Once a year, we drove to Machias for lobsters and corn on the cob. On those nights, we felt like kings as pulled tender meat from bright red claws and licked our buttery fingers clean.
When I was young at the lake, we fell into bed, exhausted from the day’s adventures, and drifted to sleep to the lullaby of loons.
Linda explains that “these quickwrites are seeds of ideas, the beginning of a piece to be worked on right away or, at the very least, captured for later use.” I can easily imagine revisiting “When I Was Young at the Lake.” I can imagine a poem emerging from these lines, or maybe a picture book. Even if these memories never get farther than this post, my memories of the lake are always in my “deep heart’s core.” (“The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” by W.B. Yeats)
A quick scroll through the photos on my phone would let you know that I am fairly obsessed with birds. So when Christie Wyman, a true kindred spirit and fellow bird devotee, issued a “bird-related poem challenge…to anyone willing to fly along,” I knew I was in.
My contribution to Christie’s feather-filled roundup was inspired by a chance encounter earlier this summer.
All at once, a heron is standing in the middle of the road. Maybe she thought flecks of mica in the pavement were fish darting back and forth in a creek.
But no quicksilver fish swim in this endless stream of asphalt.
Bewildered, she extends her graceful neck like a periscope, searching.
Suddenly, an alarm only she can hear buzzes and the moment is over.
Without a sound, her wings lift, beat the air, and she is aloft, her beak a compass needle pointing toward true north.
“Habit is a cable; we weave a thread of it each day, and at last we cannot break it.” ~ Horace Mann ~
One of the professional books I’m reading this summer is Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind, by Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick. Published in 2008, this book outlines “a set of behaviors that discipline intellectual processes” and provides teachers with strategies to integrate them into “instruction in every school subject.” (p. 12-13) These habits “are dispositions that empower creative and critical thinking.” Costa and Kallick’s work begins with the same premise behind Carol Dweck’s work with growth mindset. That is, “intelligence is a set of teachable, learnable behaviors that all human beings can continue to develop and improve throughout their lifetimes.” (p. 12) During the coming school year, my colleagues and I will be working to incorporate these habits into our daily work with children. This, of course, will include modeling.
This tweet from Jane Yolen last week instantly provided a modeling strategy for three of the sixteen habits of mind:
* Gathering Data Through All the Senses
* Creating, Imagining, Innovating
* Responding with Wonderment and Awe
Writers won’t get far without these three habits, but we all know we have plenty of students who tell us “I don’t know what to write about.” Kids are so distracted by the world available to them through the myriad of devices to choose from, they can’t concentrate on any one topic for long. By modeling these habits in particular I think we can help our students focus on the world right in front of them. When they do that, they will find plenty to write about.
All of this was swirling around in my head when I went for a walk this morning. As usual, I had my phone with me because, for me, taking pictures is a form of prewriting. It didn’t take long to find five new ideas for writing.
How could you not respond to this view with wonderment and awe? I was reminded of the way the sun streams through the trees at the cabin in Maine where my family spent many summers. My boys canoed to an island in the middle of the lake and spent entire days being wild in the woods. I could write a story about their adventures.
2. Again, a scene of wonderment and awe. This could inspire a poem or be woven into a scene in a middle grade story idea I’ve been playing with.
3. I was truly shocked to see this heron land on the road right in front of me! This is destined to be a poem, I think. It could also inspire a nonfiction piece about herons or birds of the neighborhood.
4. This is my cat Noodles. He likes to be included and often follows me to the end of the driveway when I leave the yard. Doesn’t he look sad at being left behind? This could inspire a small moment story or a series of adventures Noodles might have throughout the day.
5. This swallowtail butterfly was trying desperately to fly, but appeared to be injured and couldn’t get off the ground. I gently moved him into the grass. When I went back to check on him, he was gone. I hope he was able to fly away after resting.
After sharing these images with my students, I will take them outside so they can respond with wonderment and awe as they gather their images that will inspire them to create, imagine and innovate. I’ve used similar strategies with students in the past with mixed success. Part of the reason for this may have been because we didn’t do this kind of activity often enough. Consistent trips outside to gather ideas will help students develop these behaviors into unbreakable habits. I’ll let you know how it goes.
“Poetry is a lovely gift we give to children that appreciates in value
and lasts throughout their lifetimes.”
~ Maria Brountas ~
Welcome to the Poetry Friday Roundup! I am thrilled to be hosting today because I’m celebrating the book birthday of Great Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud, the newest member of Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong‘s Poetry Friday Anthology® Series. What kind of celebration would this be without gifts? Thanks to Sylvia and Janet’s generosity, three lucky readers will receive a copy of Great Morning! just in time for the beginning of the new school year! Everyone who leaves a comment before midnight, July 31st will be entered in the drawing.
For many years, the assistant principal and I have read poems during morning announcements. Usually we’d read poems to celebrate the arrival of a new season, or a fun “National (fill in the blank) Day.” I have dozens (and dozens) of poetry books that are full of wonderful poems that we’ve read over the years, including all of Sylvia and Janet’s previous Poetry Friday® books. And, like all of the Poetry Friday books, Great Morning! is full of poems perfect for sharing.
What makes this book so special is that these poems are tailor-made for every imaginable school occasion. Did you just have a fire drill? Read Janet Wong’s “We’ll Keep Safe” to reassure kids that everything is okay. Starting a recycling campaign? Sharing Susan Blackaby’s “Recycling” is the perfect way to kick off this effort. There’s even a poem, “Testing Blues” by Xelena Gonzalez, to lift everyone’s spirit during those dreaded assessment weeks. There are also poems to celebrate all the people who work so hard to keep schools running smoothly: secretaries, nurses, custodial staff, even volunteers.
Great Morning! is divided into two main sections. The first section includes 39 poems organized by topic. Each poem in this section includes a brief “Did You Know” paragraph that can be read to introduce the poem, as well as a “Follow Up” that encourages teachers and children to think more deeply about the poem and topic. There is also a “Poetry Plus” tip that offers suggestions of appropriate times to share each poem.
The second section of Great Morning! includes a second poem that is linked thematically to each poem in the first section. Also included in this section is a “Poetry Bonus” for every poem. This provides links to many additional resources, including audio versions of some poems, digital postcards, and more.
Finally, as if all this weren’t enough, there are almost 30 pages of ideas and tips for using poetry throughout the day, as well as information to share with parents. There are also lists with a plethora of additional resources.
This book, like all of the Poetry Friday® books, is a treasure. Great Morning! is unique because it’s aimed directly at school leaders. In the introduction, Sylvia and Janet write “our goal is to provide support for those who might be unfamiliar with today’s poetry for young people and might need guidance in how to begin.” By supporting school leaders in this way, this book will help send the message to students that they are valued so much we want to share the gift of poetry with them each and every day.
I love this book for all these reasons, but I am also extremely honored that a poem of mine is included. “Walking For a Cause” is especially meaningful for me because our school has held several 5Ks to raise money for a foundation started in memory of a beloved student who lost her battle with aplastic anemia.
“Walking For A Cause”
Hey, kids! Have you heard?
We are walking for a cause.
Ask your parents, neighbors, too,
if they would like to share.
Dollars, quarters, nickels, dimes,
every penny shows we care.
We’re spreading hope with every step,
supporting friends in need.
So lace your sneakers, tie them tight.
Come and help our walk succeed!
I am excited to read these poems throughout the year with my enthusiastic Assistant Principal, Andy Schoefer, during our morning announcements. Here is the poem we’ve chosen for the first day of school, “How to Make a Friend,” by Jane Heitman Healy:
“How to Make a Friend”
You start by saying Hi there,
Hello, Aloha, Ciao– If someone answers back to you,
Smile and nod and bow.
You might try saying Hola,
Salut, Goddag, Shalom. If someone answers back to you,
They might be far from home.
A friend begins by greeting
Those they meet along the way
To make them feel welcome
At home, at school, at play.
Thank you, Jane, for allowing me to share your poem today. I think it is perfect for letting all students know they are welcomed and valued in our school. Poet Elizabeth Alexander calls poems “handbooks for human decency and understanding.” Thank you, Janet and Sylvia, for creating Great Morning! and all the Poetry Friday Anthology® anthologies and filling our schools with volumes and volumes of “decency and understanding.”
Want to know more? Read this post about Great Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud at Sylvia’s website, Poetry for Children.
Thank you for stopping by to help celebrate Great Morning! Please leave your link below. Don’t forget to comment if you’d like to be entered in the giveaway.