WHAT IS A FRIEND? I am delighted to be a part of a new poetry book for middle graders that answers this question. It’s a collection of poems about all aspects of friendship– getting along, competing, trying out new ventures together. My poem, “Team,” is about a robotics team tinkering and figuring out together how to make things work. It’s dedicated to my friend Brian, who teaches Robotics in a high school on Cape Cod serving a very diverse and high-needs population. Here’s to all the robotics teachers, helping their students to “try, fail, adjust.”
WHAT IS A FRIEND? is edited by Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell of Pomelo Books; it was chosen as a Children’s Book Council “Hot Off the Press” Selection for October! It would be a great gift for a teacher you know, or a young reader in your life. You can order it from Amazon or Bookshop.org. Thank you, Sylvia and Janet, for the dynamic and thoughtful poetry books for young readers that you put out into the world.
I’ve learned so much about what it takes to put together a poetry anthology by taking classes from Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell. “Poetry PLUS” is one aspect of the art and craft of assembling an anthology that fascinates me as a poet and an educator.
We believe in “Poetry Plus”—poetry PLUS writing, poetry PLUS language arts mini-lessons, poetry PLUS curriculum connections for social studies and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), poetry PLUS mindfulness and movement, and poetry PLUS lots more fun!
Janet and Sylvia’s latest anthology, THINGS WE DO, is a beauty. I may be biased since I have a poem in this collection! THINGS WE DO is an alphabetic book of playful poems bursting with children in action– from Ask to Zoom! Each spread in this book features a vivid photo of a child doing something active, accompanied by a poem such as Invent, Dance, Fly, and Type.
But beyond those 26 poems, there’s more! This is where the PLUS comes in. There is a section for parents, caregivers, and educators called “Tips for Readers” that details “strategies for sharing poetry with children” such as using props and “echo reading.”
The “Fun Activities to Try” section features suggestions on extending the poetic experience with movement, learning letters, writing poetry, reading a poem at breakfast time, and sharing with special family members.
But there’s even more to the PLUS! So many gems are highlighted in the web resources, including Reading Rockets and We Need Diverse Books. And finally, there is an “About the Poets” section, with a tidbit of info about each of the poets.
I have a poetry collection out on submission now (fingers crossed!), and I included “Poetry PLUS” by featuring juicy facts, almost like side-bars, to add some nonfiction heft to each poem. That’s one way to add more “Plus” power to poetry. But THINGS WE DO has inspired me to consider other ways of adding to the poetry experience for readers.
What might you add to your poetry? Or what have you included? STEM connections, craft activities, maps, timelines, or something more? The possibilities are exciting! Thanks to Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell for the inspiration.
On Fridays, I love taking part in Poetry Friday when I can, where writers share resources about children’s poetry.
It’s publication day for a very special poetry anthology for young children. THINGS WE DO is an alphabetic book of playful poems bursting with children in action– from Ask to Zoom! Each spread in this book features a vivid photo of a child doing something active, accompanied by a poem such as Invent, Kick, Jump, and Clap. Published by Pomelo Books, THINGS WE DO is now available by ordering from QEP Books, and will soon be available on Amazon. It’s perfect for PreK through first grade.
Many poets contributed to this A-Z collection, including some very well-known poets! My poem, “Type,” is inspired by my work as a K-2 Literacy Coach. Each day I get to see children making letters, then their names, then words… it’s a magical process that made its way into my poem. I can’t wait to share it with the first graders I work with each morning!
THINGS WE DO is a beautiful and playful book of poems, perfect for the young child or teacher in your life. Be sure to add it to your holiday shopping list!
On Fridays, I love taking part in Poetry Friday when I can, where writers share resources about children’s poetry. This week, Jama Rattigan hosts the Poetry Friday Roundup today at her blogJama’s Alphabet Soup. Check out the celebration of poetry there today!
When you get to combine teaching with a topic you’re passionate about– that’s the sweet spot! I just finished teaching one of my favorite courses at the community college, “Poetry in the Early Childhood Classroom.”
In this class, we dove deep into poetry: how to infuse it throughout the curriculum, how it can foster social-emotional growth, how a poem can be a window, mirror, or sliding glass door for a child.
One of the assignments of the course is “Author Study of a Poet.” This summer, my students (who all teach in early childhood) focused on Nikki Giovanni, Janet Wong, and Douglas Florian, among others. They also completed Poetry Portfolios to use in their classrooms, and made big beautiful poetry charts for shared, choral reading.
It was a creative, fun class, and their final reflections show that! Here are some of their postings:
**My view on poetry in the preschool classroom has changed dramatically. Prior to this class I would have considered myself not a fan at all. I had no idea how helpful the addition of poetry could be to introducing and elevating the curriculum in the classroom. I love the idea of adding connections to the subject at hand by utilizing poetry to enhance the topics. I am also intrigued by the humor that can be added by selecting the right poem. I love to make the kids laugh.
**I never really took the time to read poetry, but now after taking this class, it has really opened my eyes to all the different ways poetry is useful. Especially tonight’s class and listening to Mary explain how poetry can be used, like as a dipstick to see what children know, or to preview a topic. I like how poetry can also be used as an emotional rehearsal. Things can always be related to poems or vice versa.
**The same way I sometimes underestimate the power of a walk through nature is the way I can “overlook” the power of poetry in the classroom.
**I will definitely take away from this class the idea of servicing through teaching in a new light. The idea of helping a child with transitions by utilizing poetry and books as windows hit me in a whole new way. I also will take away the positive impact that poetry can have on speech development and shyness.
I had that hit of “mission accomplished” as I read these comments, and I hope they inspire any teachers who read this to add more poetry to their teaching.