Last weekend, I kept pinching myself to make sure I was awake and not in a blissful poetry dream. I was indeed awake and sitting at a table with Georgia Heard, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Janet Wong, and several other amazing poets. Oh, did I mention this table was at Poet’s House in New York City? And that there was a stunning view of the Hudson River right outside the window? It’s all true, but I still have to keep pinching myself.
I can’t begin to share all the wisdom and advice that Rebecca, Georgia, and Janet shared, but here are a few pointers I found helpful and inspiring:
Let the image be your guide
Your memory is a poet-in-residence in your mind
Find wonder in everything you look at
Write about what takes your breath away
We drafted many poems. Most of mine aren’t ready to share, but this almost-haiku, inspired by the empty playground in Rockefeller Park, makes me happy.
on a rain-splashed day
puddles tromp through the playground
for their turn on the slide
“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.
“Poetry is about loving the world and showing that love through words.”
I’m still basking in the glow of NCTE. Many of the sessions I attended were about integrating poetry into the curriculum. I feel fortunate that I’ve gotten to know many of the poets and teachers who presented during these sessions through blogging on Poetry Friday. Meeting them face-to-face was a highlight of my weekend at the Gaylord. Their wisdom, humor and generosity have made me a better writer and a better teacher. I use their books with students every day.
During her portion of the CLA Master Class, Poetry Across the Curriculum, Heidi Mordhorst described her vision of integrating the curriculum as synergy. The definition she provided, “the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects” not only characterizes what happens when we share poetry with our students. It embodies the spirit of the Poetry Friday community, a community I am so thankful for.
So many wonderful poems were shared during these sessions (thank you, Janet & Sylvia, for all the postcards!), I couldn’tchoose just one to share today. I also wanted to express how grateful I am to these women. So I’ve stitched together a thank you of sorts using their own words.
What is beauty?
Whatever you believe it to be. (1)
To listen, to look,
to think, and to learn. (2)
Opening your heart and sharing your feelings, (3)
with plenty of space to dream. (4)
I’m glad you are my secret friend. (5)
We’re just a link away. (6)
You fold the memory
into your hearts, (7)
turn outside to inside
stranger to friend, (8)
and look inside yourself to find
the good I see in you. (9)
I’m a piece of the sky
in a circle of sun, (10)
But none of it would matter much
without the likes of you. (11)
Thank you to all the poets whose work inspired this poem!
1: Tricia Stohr-Hunt, whose blog, The Miss Rumphius Effect, was one of the first I ever read, continues to be an incredible resource for poetry. These lines are from Tricia’s poem, “Beauty”.
5. Heidi Mordhorst is a teacher, poet, and blogger whose work I have only recently become familiar with, but I’m looking forward to reading and sharing more of Heidi’s poetry. This line can be found in Heidi’s poem, “Funday, Imaginary 1st”.
6. The poetry of Laura Purdie Salas is a staple of my classroom. I’ve been sharing her poetry with students for years and was thrilled to meet her at NCTE! This line is from Laura’s poem, “Just Like That”.
7. Georgia Heard is another rock star of poetry I was excited to meet. Georgia’s books about Awakening the Heart and For the Good of the Sun and the Earth have had a profound influence on my teaching. This line is from her poem “Ars Poetica”, which can be found in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School.
10. I met Rebecca Kai Dotlich at NCTE almost by accident. We were each waiting for a friend, and, without having any idea who she was, I introduced myself. She was very friendly and introduced herself as Rebecca. We chatted, and through the course of the conversation I realized that I was casually talking with the author of some of my favorite poems for children. These lines are from an all-time favorite, “A Circle of Sun”.
“Poetry is a language in which man explores his own amazement.”
~ Christopher Fry ~
Every month, I lead our school’s Language Arts Committee meeting. The purpose of this committee is to promote the language arts and ensure that our teaching is based on the latest research. I usually begin the meetings sharing news from our state Department of Education, upcoming conferences and workshops, and information gathered at conferences I’ve attended. Teachers share lessons they’ve had success with and examples of student work. We always have snacks and these meetings are a nice way for teachers to learn about what’s happening at other grade levels.
I spent much of my afternoon planning tomorrow’s meeting. Since National Poetry Month is just a few days away, I will be sharing poetry resources and have a poetry activity planned. Here’s a preview of what’s on the agenda.
Poem in Your Pocket Day is on Thursday, April 24th this year. We’ll actually be in school on this day. For several years, this day has been during our April break.
Poet-to-Poet Project is “a multimedia educational project that invites young people in grades 3-12 to write poems in response to those shared by some of the award-winning poets who serve on the Academy of American Poets Board of Chancellors.” The resources for this project are incredible: videos of the poets reading their poems, lesson plans, and more. Students can submit their original poems to poets.org for possible publication on the website in May.
Book spine poems are a form of found poetry and are a fun way to ease into poetry. You can read about the basic steps at Kenn Nesbitt’s, our current Children’s Poet Laureate, website, Poetry4kids.com.
Poetry Tag Time is an e-book of 30 original poems for children compiled in 2011 by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong. A veritable who’s who in children’s poets contributed a poem after being “tagged” by the previous poet. Each poem is connected in some way. I participated in an activity very similar to this several years ago during an online Children’s Literature class, but it was called a poetry “merry-go-round.” The professor posted the first poem, then a student had to post a poem that linked to the original, and so on. I really enjoyed reading the different ways people connected to the poems, and read many wonderful poems I might never have seen. I asked everyone to bring a poem tomorrow so we can play Poetry Tag.
Thinking about Poetry Tag reminded me of a incredible project Linda Rief shared at NCTE last November. At the beginning of the year, Rief’s students created Heart Maps, an idea from Georgia Heard’s amazing book, Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School. Rief’s students then read volumes of poetry, gathering poems that spoke to them and exemplified an area of their heart map. Students copied these poems out by hand, and gathered them into a “Heart Book.” Vicki Vinton shared a description of this project on her blog, To Make a Prairie.
This seems like a lot to cover in the 40 minutes or so we have for our meeting! My hope is that everyone leaves the meeting with a collection of poems and at least one new idea to try during National Poetry Month. What are your plans for National Poetry Month?