Monthly Archives: May 2018

The Pool Is the Capital of My Summer: Odes to Place

Buffy Silverman is hosting Poetry Friday this week. Stop by Buffy’s Blog for poetry links from around the kidlitosphere.

Happy Poetry Friday and welcome back to Northfield Elementary School. Today, the third grade poets are working on odes.

I’ve been doing an elementary school workshop on odes for many years. Usually, my model poem is “Ode to Pablo’s Tennis Shoes,” by Gary Soto. When it’s time to write, I have the kids take off a shoe, put it on their desks, and really examine it.

You’ll find my article about that lesson on my *Padlet page. Look for “Article: Kids Write Odes to Their Shoes.”

This year, I wanted to try something different and get kids writing odes to a favorite place. The model poem for this workshop is “Harlem Is the Capital of My World,” from Tony Medina’s wonderful picture book/verse biography of Langston Hughes, LOVE TO LANGSTON. It is spoken in the voice of Langston Hughes.

Harlem Is the Capital of My World
by Tony Medina

Harlem is the capital of my world
black and beautiful and bruised
like me

Harlem has soul — it’s where black people
care about black people and everybody’s
child belongs to the community

Where we be stylin’ and profilin’
with concrete streets stretched out
under our feet and boulevards broad
and spread like a red carpet for royalty

The King of Swing
The Duke of Ellington
The Empress of the Blues

Harlem is a bouquet of black roses
all packed together and protected
by blackness and pride

Harlem is where I reside
where I work and stride
my dark community
from the East River to
St. Nicholas Avenue with
nightclubs and cabarets
spilling over with jazz
and bluesy urban spirituals
(it’s not miracle we survive!)

Why I fell in love with Harlem
before I ever got here!

Yeah, Harlem is where I be —
where I could be

Me

Harlem is the capital of my world

From Love to Langston, by Tony Medina, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Lee & Low Books, 2002). Shared with permission of the author.

The third graders and I talked about three important elements in an ode:
*Imagery of the five senses.
*Similes (these can be developed from the sensory images).
*Hyperbole (similes can be used to create hyperbole).

The students are familiar with imagery and similes, but hyperbole was a new concept. They picked it up quickly. In each class, someone noticed the phrase “like a red carpet for royalty” in Tony’s poem. It’s a simile — there’s not literally a red carpet running down the street in New York City. But it’s also a hyperbole, an exaggeration to make the point that Langston Hughes believed the people of Harlem were as important as kings and queens.

I loved the way that the Northfield poets incorporated some of Tony’s poetic structure into their own odes.

Poet: Desmond

The Pool Is the Capital of My Summer

The pool is the capital of my summer,
blue and wet like water.

The pool smells like weird chlorine in the water.
The kids playing like crazy fish.

The pool has toys and water slides,
tasty sandwiches after and bumpy water.

The pool is splashing.
The kids are playing.
The whistle is blowing.

The pool is where I want to be
all summer long.
***

Poet: Delaney

Broadkill Beach Is the Capital of My Summer

Broadkill Beach is the capital
of my summer.

In Broadkill all I
can smell is the amazing
salty ocean water.
The smell is as nice
as the smell of chocolate.

In Broadkill all I feel
is the nice warm towel I
am laying on and when
I go swimming I feel
the nice cool water engulfing me.

In Broadkill all I can
see is the amazing ocean
view. The view is as beautiful
as a shiny diamond.

In Broadkill all I can taste
is the sweet juicy taste of
plums.

In Broadkill all I can hear
is the soft ocean breeze
of the beach.

Broadkill Beach is the capital
of my summer.
***

Poet: Elisa

Water Country Is the Capital of My Vacation

Water Country is the capital of my vacation,
fun and amazing like the  mystical world.

Water Country is like a rainstorm in a tunnel.

The splish and splash of water
dripping down the edge of the waterslide
and hitting the ground.
The sun is as hot as the oven.

Water Country was a forest of waterslides
and a field of yummy ice cream stands.

Water Country has trees that smell like honey.
Water Country is a relaxing, sunny fun
and yummy WONDERLAND.
***

Poet: Suswara

The Forest Is the Capital of My Life

The forest is life.
Many animals, bushes, bark, and trees
belong to the forest.

It is their home, where their vines
make a beautiful sight.
The dirt beneath the animals’ feet
like smooth dog fur.

The vine of greenness.
The specks of rain.
The flower of happiness.

The forest is like a bunch of natural life
tucked in together.

The forest is where I love to be.
It is beside me and behind me.

The forest became my favorite place
when I first took a look at it.

The forest isn’t where I get to go every day.
I only go sometimes.

But still,
the forest is where I love to be.
***

Poet: Tessa

Dance Is the Soul to My Life!

Dance is the soul to my life,
elaborate, bright, and inviting
like me.

Dance has a soul.
It’s where people feel the music
and create. Everyone
has a beat.

Where we are movin’ and groovin’
we skip and jump to the beat
with lava on our feet.

The Teacher of Jazz.
The Ruler of Chackety.
The Queen of the Studio.

Dance is a painting of colorful pictures
all put together and united
to make a gallery.

Dance is where I express,
where I show my expressions
with a world of colors
so bright it sticks with you
all day and all night.

From here to there to everywhere–
ballet, jazz, hip-hop, and modern—
everywhere over the world.

When dance came to me
I finally felt alive.

Dance came to me,
it’s where I get to be
me.

Dance is the soul of my life.
***

Thanks to the Northfield educators and families for allowing me to share the third graders’ wonderful poems.

Posts in the “Poems from the Northfield Third Grade” 2018 series:
Poetry Friday List Poem Lesson
A Garden of Words: 3rd Grade List Poems
The Pool Is the Capital of My Summer: Odes to Place
Third Grade Odes from Northfield E.S.
Fractured Fairy Tale Poems
Poetry Friday: Once Upon a Time
A Gallery of Poems

A Garden of Words: 3rd Grade List Poems

The Northfield Elementary poets have been working hard on their list poems. Today, our lists of juicy words take us inside a desk and a pencil box, explore a beautiful garden, and dig down into the earth.

The mentor text for my list poem workshop is Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Words in My Pillow” from the anthology Falling Down the Page. You can read my initial plan for this lesson at Today’s Little Ditty.

As I mentioned last week,  I encouraged the students to stick as close to Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem as they wanted to. We did this by writing a “cross-out” poem. Using a print-out of “Words in My Pillow,” the poets strike-through any words they want to replace with their own ideas. You can see what this looks like in last week’s post.

Poet: Diego

Words in My Desk

I hide words
in my desk.
I hide words
that help me grow.

NOTEBOOK
FOLDER
PENCIL

I have feelings
in my desk.
I can feel—

SMART
SATISFIED
HAPPY

I hide words
that like learning.

USEFUL
HELPFUL
SMARTER

When summer comes
I leave my desk,
but my words
stay put.
***

Poet: Austin

Words in My Pencil Box

I hide words inside my pencil box.
Words that feel good.

GLUE.
HELPFUL.
CUTTING.

People can see them,
and I find them waiting for me
like the creativity hiding inside my brain.
But I know what’s in there—

SCISSORS.
FUN.
SPACE.
CONSUMING.
PASTING.
CALMING.
CRAYONS.

PENCIL SHAVINGS are in there.
BROKEN PENCILS are in there.

The words play together
when I think about them.

STORAGE.
DRAWING.
ENERGETIC.
COLORED PENCILS are in my pencil box.

My friends the words
go to school before I do,
but they never let me down.
***

Poet: Kaylee

Words in the Earth

Words hide inside the Earth.
Words that seem nice.

GRASS.
TREES.
DIRT.

No one can see them.
But I find them waiting for me.
Like the gemstones hiding inside the earth.
No one can see them,
but I know they are there.

EMERALDS.
DIAMONDS.
SAPPHIRES.
TOPAZ.
AQUAMARINE.
RUBY.

WORMS are in there.
SEEDS are in there.

The words are playing together
when I am thinking or saying them.

CLIMBING.
FLOWERS.
SUN.
WIND is in the Earth.

My friends the words
explore before I do.
But they never
go away.
***

Poet: Sloane

Words in My Garden

I hide words in my garden.

Words that taste good—

FRESH.
MINT.
TOMATOES.

No one can see them
but I find them waiting for me.
Like the seeds inside the soil.
No one can see them
but I know what’s in there.

BASIL.
OREGANO.
THYME.
ROSEMARY.
STRAWBERRIES.
TULIPS.

COLORS are in there.
NATURE is in there.

The words are growing together
when I am saying or thinking them.

EDIBLES.
BEAUTIFUL.
FRUIT.
FLOWERS
are in my garden.

My friends the words
grow faster than I do,
but they never
go away.
***

Poet: George

Words in My Name

I hide words inside my name.
Words that fit my personality.

THRIFTY.
BRAVE.
FAIR.

No one can see them
but I find them waiting for me.
Like the silent letters hiding inside my name.
No one can see them
but I k now what they are.

CURIOUS.
KIND.
SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIOALIDOCIOUS.
CUB SCOUT.
CLEAN.
REVERENT.

LETTERS are in there.
The flowing sound of water is in there.

The words are playing together
when I am saying or thinking them.

COOL.
RIPE.
HELPFUL.
NICE
is in my name.
***

Be sure to check out my previous post about this poetry residency. It includes links, lesson tips, and more poems by Northfield Elementary’s third graders.

Posts in the “Poems from the Northfield Third Grade” 2018 series:
Poetry Friday List Poem Lesson
A Garden of Words: 3rd Grade List Poems
The Pool Is the Capital of My Summer: Odes to Place
Third Grade Odes from Northfield E.S.
Fractured Fairy Tale Poems
Poetry Friday: Once Upon a Time
A Gallery of Poems

Ellicott City Floods — Again

Our beloved historic downtown has been hit with its second catastrophic flash flood in less than two years. If you would like to help with recovery and restoration efforts, please consider donating to the Downtown Ellicott City Partnership.

In 2016, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater asked me to contribute a current events poem to her wonderful collection, POEMS ARE TEACHERS.

It was late summer, 2016. The first Ellicott City flood had just happened. Days after the area re-opened to the public, my daughter and I walked down Main Street. The damage was breathtaking. Sidewalk and pieces of the street torn open, so that you could see into the basements of the historic brownstones. Only a handful of businesses were open.

Water can be a terrifying force. Of course, I knew what I would write about for Amy’s assignment.

Here is that poem, “Flood: Ellicott City, Maryland.”

Flood
Ellicott City, Maryland

By Laura Shovan

The river left its bed tonight,
woken by heavy rain.
It stomped down Main Street,
passed shops, houses
in a swirling rage. It’s resting now.
We stare at empty spaces.

It whisked cars down the hill.
Their underwater headlights
gave the flood an eerie glow.
A chain of strangers clasped arms,
pulled a woman from her spinning car.
A hillside washed away,
its green grass torn by claws
we did not know the river had.

It’s resting now. We stare at empty spaces
where the river grabbed doors from hinges,
peeled away sidewalks, made off
with random things — bricks and jewels,
and two people for no reason
other than they were in its path.

The river is resting. Now we stare
at empty spaces.

The author’s note included with the poem reads: My town made national headlines when a flash flood tore apart our historic Main Street. Writing a poem helped me reflect on the frightening images of this event. I think this is one reason why people turn to poetry during difficult times. A poem is a safe place to write about emotions like shock and grief. It is also one way to share those feelings with others.

I am sickened that our beloved downtown Ellicott City is experiencing this catastrophe again. Thanks to Amy for giving me the space to write about this horrific flood, which tore apart our historic downtown. The area had made an amazing comeback in less than two years, once again thriving — with many businesses reopening and several new shops and restaurants. Again, if you’d like to make a flood relief donation, Ellicott City Partnership is the recommended non-profit.

My aunt (currently in Kosovo) heard news of the Ellicott City flood. She asked, “Why the extreme flooding?” Here is my answer, if you’re also curious. Keep in mind — I’m not an expert, just a long-time resident and keen observer.

We live about three miles from historic Ellicott City. The quaint old downtown is an important part of our lives here.

Ellicott City is a pre-revolutionary mill town. The area that was flooded was the first terminus of the B&O railroad out of Baltimore. The original station house still stands and is now a museum. The area is about five or six long blocks of brownstones and historic buildings, most with shops and restaurants on the ground floor. It runs down a steep hill to the railroad trestle, finally making a “T” with the Patapsco River — the low point of the hill.

The Patapsco has a history of floods, some catastrophic. But that’s not what happened in 2016 or yesterday. We have lived here for nearly 20 years. This flash flooding tearing down Main Street is new.

Main Street runs alongside several small tributaries to the Patapsco — especially its parallel river, the Tiber — which flow down the hill and into the larger river. These smaller rivers may have risen, but they did not break their banks until August 2016. There is no question in my mind that aggressive building in the hills above Main Street are at the root of the flooding. Trees were cleared and soil was stripped for dozens of new construction projects. The water has nowhere to go.

They say the damage is worse than 2016. It’s hard to imagine that. The water broke storefront windows and literally rushed through buildings front to back last time, destroying everything inside. It tore up sidewalks and pieces of the street. The rebuilding project has been massive and successful, but I can’t understand why they undertook rebuilding without doing serious flood abatement. This was bound to happen again.

We’re absolutely heart-broken. Our local government must take care of the environment in order to protect one of our best and most beloved resources.

Poetry Friday: List Poem Lesson

This week’s Poetry Friday host is Margaret Simon at Reflections on the Teche. Margaret has a new book of poems coming out, BAYOU SONG. I can’t wait!

Welcome back to Northfield Elementary School, Poetry Friday friends.

This is my twelfth year as Northfield’s poet-in-residence, working with the third grade team. The annual poetry residency is sponsored by the school PTA’s cultural arts committee, and by an Artist-in-Residence grant from the Maryland State Arts Council. Thank you!

This has been a great teaching partnership for me. I learn new things from Northfield’s educators every year.

You will find “Words in My Pillow,” by Naomi Shihab Nye, in this anthology: FALLING DOWN THE PAGE: A Book of List Poems, Edited by Georgia Heard.

Our first workshop was the list poem, which I haven’t done in a few years. Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Words in My Pillow” from the anthology Falling Down the Page was our model. You can read my initial plan for this lesson at Today’s Little Ditty.

A few years ago, I wrote my own “Words in My ___ Poem” to close out our National Poetry Month series on poems about clothes. It was titled “Words in My Closet.” You can read it at this post.

Because “Words in my Pillow” is about words and language, the third graders and I spent a lot of time talking about juicy words. A poem called “Words in My Dog” might include specific nouns (TREATS, WATER, TONGUE), descriptive adjectives and verbs (BARK, FLUFFY, FAST, LICK), but it might also have “states of being” — things we can’t really see (LOVE, COMFORT, KINDNESS).

Because this was our first lesson, I encouraged the students to stick as close to Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem as they wanted to. We did this by writing a “cross-out” poem. Using a print-out of “Words in My Pillow,” the poets strike-through any words they want to replace with their own ideas. It looks like this:

Words in My Piano
By Shanthi S.

I hide words inside my piano.
Words that sound good–

NOTES.
KEYBOARD.
NOISE.

No one can see them
but I find them waiting for me.
Like the strings hiding inside the keyboard.
No one can see it
but I know what’s in there —

MUSIC
ADVANCED
SONGS
PERCUSSION
PEDALS
SLIDE

RHYTHM is in there.
TUNING is in there.

The words are playing together
when I am saying or thinking them.

PIANO BOOKS.
HARMONY.
PITCH.
BEAT
is in my piano.

My friends the words
go to play music before I do.
But they never
go away.
***

 

Words in the Gym
By Bettina

I hide words inside the gym.
Words that worry me a lot—

BALLS.
FAVE.
BENCH.

No one can see them until it comes out of nowhere
and crashes right in you like a ball
but I find them waiting for me as I get my hopes up.
Like the unsure hiding inside my body.
No one can see it, they’re too tall to feel it
but I know what’s in there—and all the other shorties.

PUMPED.
NERVOUS.
TIRED.
EXHAUSTED.
DISAPPOINTED.
BORED.

CYCLES are in there.
HOPES are in there.

The words are bouncing together
When I am saying or thinking them.

YES!
UH OH!!
RUN.
WHOOSH!
is in the gym.

My friends the words
go to bed before I do.
But they never go away. And I’ll
just have to deal
with it.
***

Words in My Hideout
By Isabella

I hide words inside my hideout.
Words that feel cozy—

DARK.
COZY.
SECRETIVE.

No one can see my cave
but I find it waiting for me
like a fox hiding in the forest.
No one can see it
but I know it’s there—

QUIET.
FUN.
SOFT.
BLANKETS.
FILES.
COLORFUL.

STUFFIES are in there.
ART SUPPLIES are in there.

The words are sneaking around
when I am saying or thinking them.

RAINBOW.
PICTURE.
ANIMALS.
HAPPINESS is in my hideout.

My friends the words
go to play before I do.
But they never go away.
***

Words in My Pool
By Ashwin

I see words inside my pool.
Words that flow well—

WATER.
WARM.
CHLORINE.

Everyone can see them.
They are everywhere
like the person hiding behind the waterfall.
No one can see him
but I know who is in there.

PEOPLE.
GOGGLES.
LEAVES.
DIRT.
ALGAE.
GRASS.

BUGS are in there.
PLANTS are in there.

The words are bouncing together
When I am saying or thinking them.

SPLASH.
YEAH.
YUCK.
EW
is in my pool.

My friends the words
go to swim before I do.
But they never swim away.
***

Words in the River
Poet: Katherine

I hide words inside the water.
Words that flow good—

CLAM.
FISH.
WATER.

No one can see them
but I find them waiting for me.
Like the voice telling me to jump.
No one can see it
but I know what’s in there—

ROCKS.
SPLASHES.
HONK.
SAND.
FLOW.
ALGAE.
BORED.

The words are splashing together
When I am saying or thinking them.

FAST.
SLOW.
SHALLOW.
DEEP!
is in my river.

My friends the words
go to bed before I do.
But they never float away.

***

Words in My Video Games
By Ryan

There are words in my video games.
Here’s my words of VICTORY!–

YOU WIN!
NEW RECORD!
1ST PLACE!

But I have losing words too
like—

GAME OVER!
YOU DIED!
LAST PLACE!
YOU LOSE!

Video games have names (obviously).
Mine are–

MARIO KART!
MINECRAFT!
WII SPORTS U!
THE LEGO MOVE VIDEO GAME
are my video games.

My friends like video  games
and so do I.
But they never
Get old!
***

Words in My Name
By Ella

I have words inside my name.
You might not know it—

CRAZY.
LOVABLE
NECKLACE.

No one can see them
but I find them waiting for me.
Like the girl inside my body.
No one can see it,
but I know what’s in there—

HEART.
SUGAR.
LOLLIPOP.
FUNNY.
SHY.
HAPPY.

SECRETS are in there.
CRAZINESS is in there.

The words are bouncing together
When I am saying or thinking them.

EXCELLENT – E.
LOVELY – L.
LIGHT – L
AWESOME – A
is in my name.

My friends the letters
get written down on my paper.
But they never go away.
***

All poems shared with permission.

When I first ran this workshop in 2015, I blogged about what went well. Here’s what I wrote at that time, plus a few adjustments I made to the lesson.

  • This was a good choice for the first lesson of a residency. The children liked being able to focus on the basic element of a poem: words. Of course, we always focus on words in poetry. But Naomi Shihab Nye’s model poem is about the words we carry around in our heads. Starting with something so basic and important on Day 1 provided a strong foundation for future writing.
  • This is the first time I’ve encouraged students to plug into a model poem. Some of the third graders took the model poem “Words in My Pillow,” crossed out the lines and words they wanted to change, and wrote their own words into those spaces. They responded well to having this structure for our first day of writing together. (Update: This turned out to be a great strategy! This year, some students used the cross-out poem for their odes too.)
  • “Words in My Pillow” can adapt to any topic. Because what we’re really talking about is language — words — the poem could be called “Words in My Dinosaur,” “Words in My Garbage Can,” or “Words in My Suitcase.” We have the structure of the poem, but also the freedom to come up with a topic the poet cares about.

UPDATE: When we think about “juicy words,” many third graders focus on nouns — the literal things they might find in a garden, their desk at school, the refrigerator. I added a brainstorming activity to this lesson. Together, the class creates a “Words in My School” or “Words in My Teacher” poem. We break into small groups. Each group is assigned to brainstorm words for our poem.

One group comes up with 3 or more objects/nouns that would be in a school (desk, white board, cafeteria, playground). The next group thinks of adjectives to describe the school: fun, busy, loud. Another group has action words/verbs: learn, study, play. “Feeling words” was another group’s job — states of being like nervous, happy, bored. Last and most challenging — “idea words” — these are larger concepts such as community, friendship, perseverance.

Although this pre-writing activity added 10-15 minutes to the lesson, it helped the third graders stretch when they thought about which juicy words to add to the poem.

Posts in the “Poems from the Northfield Third Grade” 2018 series:
Poetry Friday List Poem Lesson
A Garden of Words: 3rd Grade List Poems
The Pool Is the Capital of My Summer: Odes to Place
Third Grade Odes from Northfield E.S.
Fractured Fairy Tale Poems
Poetry Friday: Once Upon a Time
A Gallery of Poems