Sunday, April 19, 2009

Missing the Desert

Time for a Poetry Break!
POETRY CHOICE: POETRY BY CHILDREN—Post a Poetry BREAK with a poem of your choice written by a child OR a Poetry BOOK REVIEW on a poetry book of poems written by children of your choice.

Ramon, Angel. 1999. “Things I would miss about the desert.” When the rain sings: Poems by young native Americans. Lee Francis, ed. National Museum of the American Indian. Smithsonian Institution. 43.

Poetry Break: Use this poem as an introduction for a science or social studies lesson. When the students study biomes, this poem would introduce deserts. When the students study the American Indian, this poem could be an introduction since it was written by a young Native American.

First give the students an Anticipation Guide (AG). The statements on the AG should reflect the poem, whether using it as a science or social studies lesson. This AG should contain only a couple of True/False statements. A more lengthy AG would be used when the lesson and textbook reading begins.


_____ True _____ False There are a variety of birds and animals that live in the desert.
_____ True _____ False Animals and birds survive well in the desert.

Social Studies

_____ True _____ False American Indians lived in the desert.
_____ True _____ False American Indians survived well in the desert.
_____ True _____ False Reservations are located in the desert.

Information about Anticipation Guides:

Purpose for Using Anticipation Guides
Anticipation guides serve two primary purposes:
· Elicit students’ prior knowledge of the topic of the text.
· Set a purpose for reading. (Students read to gather evidence that will either confirm their initial beliefs or cause them to rethink those beliefs.)

How to Use Anticipation Guides

1. Choose a text. (This strategy works well with most expository texts. It works particularly well with texts that present ideas that are somewhat controversial to the readers.)

2. Write several statements that focus on the topic of the text. Next to each statement, provide a place for students to indicate whether they agree or disagree with the statements.
Tips for writing statements:
· Write statements that focus on the information in the text that you want your students to think about.
· Write statements that students can react to without having read the text.
· Write statements for which information can be identified in the text that supports and/or opposes each statement.
· Write statements that challenge students’ beliefs (Duffelmeyer, 1994).
· Write statements that are general rather than specific (Duffelmeyer, 1994).

The focus for critical thinking in the poem is for science and the fact that all the animals mentioned are found in the desert. For social studies, it is a question of whether Native Americans lived in the desert. The appeal of the poem for students is its emotion and the fact that is was written by an eighth grade girl from the Tohono O’odham tribe.

After the students complete the anticipation guide, show the poetry book, When the Rain Sings: Poems by Young Native Americans. Tell the students the poems were written by young people from different American Indian tribes. Read the poem once. Discuss the students’ ideas on the AG. Explain to the students that the young person was writing her poem from personal experience.

Things I Would Miss About the Desert

The good things that I would miss
are the birds,
the owls, the hawks,
the eagles, the wolves, the cactus,
the chollas
the desert tortoise, the cool breeze,
the desert storms
when the ground is all wet.
I like to hear the coyotes at night
or to go out and sit in the desert
when these is a full moon.

by Angel Ramon (Tohono O’odham)

Extension: Follow with a required textbook lesson in science or social studies using an Anticipation Guide.

Science: Have students work in pairs to research deserts and develop a PowerPoint presentation about their findings.

Social Studies: Have students work in pairs to research several Native American tribes. Next, instruct them to choose one of the tribes and design a Native American dress or costume in any fashion they choose: sewing with cloth, drawing, painting, using various kinds of paper, etc.
Ramon, Angel. 1999. “Things I would miss about the desert”. When the rain sings: Poems by young native Americans. National Museum of the American Indian. Smithsonian Institution. 43.
P. S. All of this is geared towards a TEKS-based lesson. What I would really want to do is have the students read these Native American young people's original poems and then have my students use their imaginations to write poems based on their own personal cultures!

Time for a Poetry Break!

POETRY BOOK REVIEW: JANECZKO-- A poetry collection compiled by Paul Janeczko

Janeczko, Paul B. 2001. Dirty laundry pile: Poems in different voices. Melissa Sweet, illus. U.S.: HarperCollinsPublishers.

Dirty Laundry Pile: Poems in Different Voices is a collection of twenty-seven mask poems written by a wide variety of poets who write for children. The poems were selected by Paul B. Janeczko. In his introduction he states, “I collected the poems in this book because I love reading poems written in the voice of an object or an animal, as if that thing or creature were speaking to me” (Janeczko 2001, Introduction). The voices in the collection stand out; they appeal to children. Each poem is a personified object: scarecrow, snowflake, washing machine, broom, a crayon and more. The idea that an object feels or has emotions might very well be fascinating to children.
On a side note, I checked out this book of poetry from the junior high library where I am the librarian. As I was reading the poems in the book, I found a sticky note attached to a page that presents the poem, ”The Vacuum Cleaner’s Revenge” by Patricia Hubbell (p.14). I was pleasantly surprised, because the student whose name was written on the note was a former student of mine, and reminded me of the poetry project we did in class. She had chosen this particular poem for her project.

The Vacuum Cleaner’s Revenge
By Patricia Hubbell

I munch, I crunch.
I zoom. I roar.

I clatter-clack
Across the floor.

I swallow twigs.
I slurp dead bugs.

I suck the cat hair
From the rugs.

My stomach full
Of dirt and dust

I gulp another
Pizza crust.

A tiresome life—
All work, no play—

I think I’ll swallow you today! (p. 14)

The idea that a vacuum cleaner can think is a very whimsical notion. The imagination breeds kids’ imaginations, which is a step to enhancing their thinking process. Needless to say, I am leaving the sticky note in the book!
A nice aspect is that some of these poems allude to kids’ actions and how they treat the things in their lives. For example, “The Red Gloves” speaks of gloves that have been left behind in the playground by a child. It begins with “Hey, you forgot us!” (p.17). Leaving items behind is a typical occurrence in a young person’s life. The poems allow kids to make connections.
Most of the poems are written in free verse, but there are a couple of poems that contain rhyming lines. One is “Grandpa Bear’s Lullaby” by Jane Yolen; the first stanza is written as: “The night is long/ But fur is deep/ You will be warm/ In winter sleep (p. 30). Another rhyming poem is “The Cow’s Complaint” by Alice Scheril, containing end rhyme and a bit of internal rhyme.

The Cow’s Complaint

How unkind to keep me here
When, over there, the grass is greener.
Tender blades-so far, so near-
How unkind to keep me here!
Through this fence they make me peer
At sweeter stems; what could be meaner?
How unkind to keep me here
When, over there, the grass is greener. (p. 33)

A shape poem, “The Mosquito’s Song,” by Peggy B Leavitt (p. 24), is included in the collection. The words are actually in the shape of a mosquito and at the end, they narrow down into its needle-shaped proboscis. However, the poem is not scientific, but humorous, as are all the poems. Lighthearted and fun, the poems make me wonder how a poet generates a poem about something such as bacteria! But John Collis did in his poem, “Job Satisfaction,” a poem about a bacterium who lurks and lies in wait in food to make a person sick: “I snuggle into people’s food/ I lie in wait—I lurk” (p. 23).
The illustrations, by Melissa Sweet, assist the poem’s speaker. They are bright and colorful, and concretely representative of each poem. If the poem is about a broom, she paints a broom, as in “Broom” by Tony Johnston (p. 11); if the poem is about crayons, she paints a box of crayons (“Crayon Dance” by April Halprin Wayland, p.15), and so on.
The mix of topics is well blended. Janeczko chooses from all areas of life: nature, as in “Winter Wind” by Judith Pachl (p. 2); household items, as in “Washing Machine” by Bobby Katz (p. 9); wild animals, such as “Hippopotamus” by Ronald Wallace (p. 35); and domestic animals, such as “The Prayer of the Cat” by Carmen Bernos e Gasziold (p. 27). Children recognize and are familiar with these subject matters; they encounter some of the items everyday.
I believe this poetry would enhance any children’s collection. As the poems are read aloud, I foresee smiling and giggling, and a rolling of the eyes in some instances. What I also envision is children begging, “Read it again!”

Janeczko, Paul B. 2001. Dirty laundry pile: Poems in different voices. Melissa Sweet, illus. U.S.: HarperCollinsPublishers. Introduction, 2, 9, 11, 14, 15, 23-24, 27, 30, 33, 35.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


POETRY BREAK: SERIOUS--- A serious poem about a difficult or sensitive subject in children’s or teens’ lives

Livingston, Myra Cohn. 1982. “Poor.” Knock at a star: A child’s introduction to poetry. X. J. and Dorothy M. Kennedy, eds. Karen Ann Weinhaus, illus. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. 23.

In the deep cold of winter nights, when I go to bed, I think about all the homeless people who do not have a warm place to sleep, especially the children. Or I think about families who are living in their cars. Where do they bathe? How do they brush their teeth? I was told during education courses not to eat in front of students in the classroom because you never know if a child has eaten or not. Sometimes, as teachers, we don’t realize the serious situations our students are experiencing. The following poem, “Poor,” written by Myra Cohn Livingston is possibly told from the perspective of a child who is poor. Some children do not know any other way of life, but when a child from a financially poor family becomes a teen, he becomes aware of what others around him have and begins to feel outcast. Teens should be aware of the poor conditions in and outside of their communities. This poem could be an introduction to a current event study in social studies or health.

by Myra Cohn Livingston

I heard of poor.
It means hungry, no food,
No shoes, no place to live.
Nothing good.

It means winter nights
And being cold.
It is lonely, alone,
Feeling old.

Poor is a tired face.
Poor is thin.
Poor is standing outside
Looking in.

Poetry Break: Before reading the poem, pass out a graphic map that contains the title, “Poverty,” and the last line of each stanza of the poem. Pair the students and ask them to associate the phrases nothing good, feeling old, and looking in with the word "poverty," and to write their responses. Ask for volunteers to share their responses. Then introduce the poetry book, the author, and the poem. As usual, give students time to respond. See if any of them thought of the things mentioned in the poem. Ask for a volunteer to read the poem a second time as the idea of poverty soaks in.

Extension Activity: Have the students plan a library day to locate books about poverty to read more about the problem. (Be sure to scope these out in advance). Back in the classroom, create boxes of items to give to the poor. Find a local community organization that distributes goods to the poor. For example, in our community, VISTO provides a program called Backpack Buddies. The members fill up backpacks with nutritious snacks for children to take home over the weekend. Have the children bring one snack item and one item such as a bar of soap to class. Either create a food box, or fill a backpack (obtained in advance from the organization or donated by the teacher).

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Dog

POETRY BOOK REVIEW: NEW BOOK-- A new, favorite book of poetry for children or teens published since 2005

Gottfried, Maya. 2005. Good dog. Robert Rahway Zakanitch, painter. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Good Dog by Maya Gottfried is a dog lover’s book. Sixteen poems characterize some of the world’s most popular dogs people own as pets. In fact, the dogs represented in Good Dog are the dogs one sees most often that look like their owners! Each poem is written in the voice of a particular dog. The voice of the dog is true to its character. Accompanying the poems are paintings of dogs. Whimsical, but true to life, Robert Rahway Zakanitch captures the essence of each dog. In the paintings, each dog is set against a very dark, blackish background. The dogs look directly at the reader as they sit, roll, or pant; each with a doleful look on their faces. My best analysis of these paintings is that the dogs are just downright cute!

The humor and sweetness depicted in the poems and the paintings are appealing to children. The first poem is filled with commands to a white, good-natured Westie, sitting attentively on the adjacent page: “Sit / Stay / Fetch / Heel “(Gottfried 2005, p. 1). Turn the page and a stout-bodied chow is the one giving commands, “Listen up! / It’s time to go. / Get the leash. / Let’s hit the road” (p. 2). In the chow’s poem, he tells us that he has a bone to pick with a Chihuahua. That same Chihuahua appears a few pages later talking about chasing that big dog! (p. 7). Featured after the chow is a Pekingese whose poem is a memo to his owner saying how sorry he is about the accident on the piano, the hair on the suit, and the chewed up shoes (p. 5). The nice touch in the paintings is that the breed of the dog is identified within the painting; for example, below the portrait of the Pekingese, the word, “Pekingese” is painted.

The poems match the paintings. In fact, if the poems and paintings were mixed topsy-turvy, I believe they could be matched back up. None of the poems have an “official” title; the title (the breed of the dog) is written in the painting.

There is rhyme in some of the poems, (the “chow” poem), but the poems are written mainly in free verse. There are instances of onomatopoeia in the Pomeranian poem; dog sounds that children love, “A dog must GRRR! And ARF! And WOOF!” (p.11). Alliteration appears in the same poem – “powder puff” (p. 11) – the Pomeranian is certainly a powder puff. In his painted portrait, the little, round dog is exaggeratedly fat; a circle of orange fluff.
My favorite poem is the Maltese’s “wedding vow” poem.

Do you take this dog to be your friend?
Will you see her through tangles and mats?
Through dog days and kennel stays?
Do you promise to put down your book
when she sits upon your lap?
And be faithful to her, and her alone?
As long as you both shall live?

I do. (p. 15)

It’s an excellent commentary on the commitment required between dog owner and pet, and simply imaginative in its composition.

Children will laugh as they read the poems, or if someone reads the poems to them; more so if they have a dog that is the same breed as the ones in the book. Overall, the poems speak of all things dog: tricks, dog-walking and leashes, chasing sticks, chewing, chasing cats. I like the allusion to James Herriot, or James Alfred Wight, who wrote All Things Great and Small in the tribute by Zakanitch to his daughter, Amelia. He writes, “I’d like to thank my daughter, Amelia, whose love and compassion for dogs (and all creatures great and small) were a real inspiration during the making of this book” (p. dedication). This poetry book would be a great poetry break for a lesson to introduce James Herriot and his works.


Gottfried, Maya. 2005. Good dog. Robert Rahway Zakanitch, painter. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. Dedication, 1,2, 5, 7, 11, 15.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Time for a Poetry Break!

POETRY CHOICE: NEWER BOOK—Post a Poetry BREAK with a poem of your choice published in 2008/2009 OR a Poetry BOOK REVIEW on a poetry book of your choice published in 2008/2009

Yolen, Jane. 2009. A mirror to nature: Poems about reflection. Jason Stemple, photographs. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong. 14.

Students must study the cycle of animals according to the science TEKS:
(5.6)Science concepts. The student knows that some change occurs in cycles. The student is expected to:
(C) describe and compare life cycles of plants and animals.

This TEK is for fifth grade, but the same TEK is found in grades three to four as well. The poem, Jaws X 2 X 80, published in 2009 by Jane Yolen in A Mirror to Nature: Poems about Reflection, would fit nicely with a study of alligators, or an animal unit that includes alligators.

Jaws X 2 X 80

of jaws,
I stay out
of the river.

One pair’s
a scare,
the other --
full shiver.

One pair
is real
and one
a reflection.

But I’ll never
give either
a closer

by Jane Yolen

Poetry Break: Show the poetry book and the photograph of the alligator. Read the poem aloud twice. Since the premise of the poem is reflection, ask for four volunteers and have those students stand facing each other. Have a student in one pair read the first stanza, (while facing the other student), then the second student read the second stanza. The second pair should read the third and fourth stanzas in the same fashion.
Try this a couple of times and then ask for another group of four volunteers and repeat. By the time the students all possibly volunteer and read the poem aloud, most of them will know the poem! Be sure to read the footnote aloud to the students about the alligator’s teeth: “The American alligator has between seventy and eighty teeth. When one falls out, another grows in its place” (14).

Extension activity: take the students to the computer lab to view a video about alligators on the Animal Planet website, for example, The Pet Psychic: Chester the Gator, and The Pet Psychic: Pop the Alligator, On the same site, there are other videos of various animals presented in Jane Yolen’s poetry book. The lesson could continue by pairing the poems with the videos. Swimming with Raccoons, (p. 10), might be paired with the Animal Planet video, The Orphan Racoon,


"Chester the gator." Animal planet videos: The pet psychic. (accessed April 4, 2009.

"Orphan raccoon." Animal planet videos: The pet psychic. (accessed April 4, 2009.

"Pop the alligator." Animal planet videos: Pop the alligator. (accessed April 4, 2009).

Yolen, Jane. 2009. A mirror to nature: Poems about reflection. Jason Stemple, photographs. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong. 10, 14.

A fri ca, A fri ca, A fri ca

Time for a Poetry Break!

POETRY BREAK: REFRAIN-- A poem with a refrain or chorus (and indicate refrain)

Jacinto, Antonio. 1992. “The rhythm of the tomtom.” Don Burness, trans. This same sky: A collection of poems from around the world. Naomi Shihab Nye, selector. New York: Four Winds
Press. 163.

I believe young adults in junior high can understand the underlying emotion in this poem of loyalty and love for country, "The Rhythm of the TomTom" by Antonio Jacinto. The poem sets a serious tone when read aloud. It is a translation into English from Angola, which is located in Southern Africa, bordering the South Atlantic Ocean, between Namibia and Democratic Republic of the Congo (CIA Factbook). The poem creates a solemn mood as each refrain is read. The refrains vary: “nor in my skin” “in my heart” “in the way that I think” “within you, for you, Africa” and “Africa.”

The Rhythm of the TomTom

The rhythm of the tomtom does not beat in my blood
Nor in my skin
Nor in my skin
The rhythm of the tomtom beats in my heart
In my heart
In my heart
The rhythm of the tomtom does not beat in my blood
Nor in my skin
Nor in my skin
The rhythm of the tomtom beats especially
In the way that I think
In the way that I think
I think Africa, I feel Africa, I proclaim Africa
I hate in Africa
I love in Africa
And I am Africa
The rhythm of the tomtom beats especially
In the way that I think
In the way that I think
I think Africa, I feel Africa, I proclaim Africa
And I become silent
Within you, for you, Africa
Within you, for you, Africa
A fri ca
A fri ca
A fri ca
by Antonio Jacinto

Poetry Break: Beforehand, solicit enough large plastic coffee containers for each student. Have each student make his own tomtom drum according to the following instructions or simply use the plastic coffee container with the lid intact.

Balloon Tom-Tommaterials:
Juice can, oatmeal box, potato chip can, or other such container 2 large balloons. 2 heavy rubber bands, 2 pencils with erasers.
1. open both ends of the container for the drum body
2. cut small end off the balloons, this is the drum skin
3. stretch the closed end of the balloon over the drum body
4. hold balloon in place with the rubber band, smoothing out the wrinkles
5. repeat 1-4 for the other end
6. use the pencil as the drum stick

The Mudcat Café.

Beforehand, print the refrains in large letters on poster board or construction paper, and provide copies of the poem for the students. Introduce the poem and describe the poetry book, This Same Sky: a Collection of Poems from around the World, poems collected by Naomi Shihab Nye. Talk about the author of the poem, Antonio Jacinto, and explain that the poem, a cry of loyalty to his country, is a translation. Read the poem once. Pause. Read the poem a second time, more slowly. Emphasize the last three lines and read them slowly, with a beat.

Divide the students into two groups. When reading the poem again, instruct one group of students to read the refrains while the other group of students provides a matching beat on their makeshift tomtom drums. The refrain “Nor in my skin” is four slow beats; the refrain, “In my heart” is three slower beats, and refrain, “In the way that I think” is six fast beats. Have all students recite the last three lines with voices loud in unision. The students may have to practice a few times. Have the student groups switch roles and repeat the process.

Extended Activity: Pair with the book Over a Thousand Hills I Walk With You, by Hanna Jansen and Elizabeth D. Crawford. Obtain an audio reading of the book, and play it for the students. This is about a young girl’s family and their murders during the Rwandan genocide. (The book is also a translation from German into English). Have the students watch the PBS video about Rwanda in April 1994 and follow the activities provided.
"Ghosts of Rwanda." Frontline. (accessed April 4, 2009).
Jacinto, Antonio. 1992. "The rhythm of the tomtom." Don Burness, trans. This same sky: A collection of poems from around the world. Naomi Shihab Nye, selector. New York: Four Winds Press. 163.
"Make your own drums." The mudcat cafe. (accessed April 4, 2009).
"The world factbook: Angola." CIA Factbook. (accessed April 4, 2009).
Tom Tom Drum Charm Vintage. Google Images.