Thursday, February 19, 2009

Way Down in the Music by Eloise Greenfield

I just love when it's time for a poetry break!

Blog posted for:
Poetry for Children and Young Adults
Texas Woman's University
Instructor: Dr. Sylvia Vardell

Module 2
POETRY BREAK: NCTE AWARD POET- A poem written by an NCTE Award winning poet

As I was weeding and assessing the 811 Dewey section of the junior high library a week ago, I ran across a small-sized anthology of black literature. When I opened it, I found the poem “Way Down in the Music” written by Eloise Greenfield; it was presented first (Strickland 1986, p. 3). Since I was looking for books to feature for Black History Month and a poetry break poem, I hit the jackpot. This little book, Listen Children, could serve double-duty! I could display the anthology and use the poem for a poetry break for the eighth grade classes.

The poem was perfect for our eighth graders whose excitement had been building all week in anticipation of the Valentine’s Dance on Friday, February 13! What sweetened the find is that Eloise Greenfield is an award winner; she won the NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children in 1997. The poem, “Way Down in the Music” is featured in her poetry book Honey, I Love and Other Love Poems, published in 1978.

By Eloise Greenfield

I get way down in the music
Down inside the music
I let it wake me
take me
Spin me around and make me
Uh-get down

Inside the sound of the Jackson Five
Into the tune of Earth, Wind and Fire
Down in the bass where the beat comes from
Down in the horn and down in the drum
I get down
I get down

I get way down in the music
Down inside the music
I let it wake me
take me
Spin me around and shake me
I get down, down
I get down

I read the poem to one of the eighth grade classes that had come to the library to read. I explained that I was dedicating the poem to them for the Valentine’s Dance. The poem prompted a discussion about Michael Jackson and his song, Smooth Criminal. This impromptu poetry break worked like a charm. After announcements, it’s hard for students to settle back down to read with only three minutes left of class. This was a perfect moment to read a poem!

For a formal poetry break using this poem, obtain a copy of Greenfield’s poetry book, Honey, I Love and Other Love Poems, which includes this poem. Bring maracas to class and shake them to get the students’ attention before reading the poem. Read the poem once, show the book of poetry, and explain that Greenfield is an award-winning poet. Tell the students that Greenfield has been writing poems for over thirty years, that she continues to write poetry, and the poem “Way Down in the Music, was written in 1978. Provide information from a brief biography about Greenfield from Eduplace -

For the second reading, instruct the students to shout “take me” after reading “I let it wake me.” Have the students chant the ending of each stanza together, “Uh-get down,” at the end of the first stanza, “I get down / I get down” at the end of the second stanza, and “I get down, down / I get down” at the end of the third stanza (with as much soul as they can muster!). Try this at least a couple of times. Have a student volunteer shake the maracas at the end of the poem where it reads, “Spin me around and shake me” and then have the students shout the last two lines. After the readings, ask the students if they know who Michael Jackson and Earth, Wind, and Fire are and discuss popular music of the 1970s and their music in the millennium. Which musicians would they immortalize in a poem?

For an extended lesson, pair the poem with the short story, “The Kid Nobody Could Handle” by Kurt Vonnegut:

"The main character of the story is George Helmholtz. He lives in a small town with his wife, is the head of the music department at the local high school and the director of the band. He is the most important person in the story because he is the only one, not psychiatrists, and foster parents, to make a difference in Jim’s life. Throughout the story, George is determined and hopeful, lonely, and fixated with the beauty of music" (
The poem would introduce a literature lesson. Before reading and studying the short story, explain that Kurt Vonnegut and Eloise Greenfield are from the same era or generation. Lead students to compare the tone of the poem and the short story. Do they believe Greenfield's poem and Vonnegut's short story is enhanced by music?

(“The Kid Nobody Could Handle” is found in the Glencoe Literature textbook. The short story is a selection on the 8th grade Scope and Sequence for Literature at Gainesville Junior High.)


Google Image: Maracas. The Kaye way. (accessed February 19, 2009).

Greenfield, Eloise. 1986. “Way down in the music.” An anthology of black literature. Dorothy S. Strickland, ed. NY: Bantum Books. 3.

Image: Cover of Honey, I love and other love poems. 2009. (accessed February 19, 2009).

"Kid nobody could handle". Planet papers.
(accessed February 19, 2009).

“Meet the author: Eloise Greenfield.” Houghton Mifflin Reading. Education Place. (accessed February 19, 2009).

1 comment:

  1. :( I cant find any Eloise Greenfield poems! Weird! But I looked it up and this was the only poem pretty much by her on the Internet! I love the Poem by the way!