A Visit to the Bayou

Welcome, readers. We’re going on a field trip today!

Don’t worry, there are no planes, trains, or automobiles involved in this trip. To join me on Louisiana’s Bayou Teche, all you need to do is open the pages of a book.

Bayou Song was published in June by University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press. You can find it on Indiebound.

We have two tour guides to the plant and animal life, the sights and sounds of the bayou. Poet and educator Margaret Gibson Simon and illustrator Anna Amelia Cantrell. The book also includes photography by Henry Cancienne. (Note: The photographs were not available in my review copy of Bayou Song.)

From the opening poem and images of our Bayou Song experience, Margaret and Anna invite us to read, explore, write our own poems, sketch, and learn about the natural world of this unique landscape.

Although I have traveled to many states and a few countries, I have never been to Louisiana. As a lifelong resident of the Mid-Atlantic states (New Jersey and Maryland, specifically), I found this poetic field guide to the bayou fascinating. For each animal, plant, and tree featured in the book, the reader is treated to brief informative text and photos, a poem and accompanying illustration, and a “you try” spread with prompts — and extra space — for writing and drawing.

Let’s take a peek at one stop on the tour: Bald Cypress Trees.

From Bayou Song: Creative Explorations of the South Louisiana Landscape. Click on the picture for a better view.

You’ll find photographs of Bald Cypress trees at the National Forest Foundation’s Sentinels of the Swamp page. Now let’s look at the poem and illustration.

Click on the image to get a closer look.

Cypress Zeno
by Margaret Gibson Simon

They stick up like a woody weed
grounding cypress
roots that
sculpted figures
Not really knees
so I’m

Do you ask questions when you’re on a tour? I usually do. Here are a few things I wanted to ask Margaret:

You have not always lived near the bayou. What were your first impressions of it?

I grew up in Jackson, Mississippi.  Purple Creek ran behind my childhood home. It was a small body of water, but I remember taking walks in the woods over the “waterfall” which was actually a group of concrete scraps.  The sounds of nature and the animals that lived near water have always attracted me.  My parents currently live on a lake.  The herons, ducks, and Canada geese on their lake have all made their way into my poems. Waterways have always been a part of my life.

My first impressions of the bayou were more cautious and fearful than they are now.  After spending time out canoeing with my husband, I am not so worried about the creatures there.  I once watched a snake back away from our canoe as it tried to ingest a large fish.  It was actually more fascinating than frightening.

How has this setting influenced your writing?

I don’t think I have yet exhausted the ways I can write about the bayou.  As I answer your questions, I am looking out at the setting sun beaming a light on a cypress tree and listening to the loud cicadas.  Poetry allows me to capture this amazing setting over and over.

If you were playing tour guide for a friend who had never been to the bayou, where would you take them? What would you want them to see? 

We have taken visitors on canoe trips on the bayou.  I would not take them in any other kind of boat.  A canoe makes you one with the water.  You become part of the bayou.  The experience is slow and peaceful.  I would show them grandmother oak in our backyard, a live oak that is one of the oldest in New Iberia, 250+ years. I would also show them the fields of sugarcane and the old mill down the bayou.  I’d take them to a boardwalk off Main Street or on a walk in City Park.  We have a plantation home, The Shadows on the Teche, where I’ve taken students on a writing marathon.  The grounds are beautiful and make you feel like you are walking in a different time. I hope you will come someday, Laura.

I would love that, Margaret. “A canoe makes you one with the water” is tugging at my heart already.

Margaret Simon is a Mississippi native who married into a Louisiana life.  She lives on the Bayou Teche in New Iberia, Louisiana with her husband, Jeff.  Their now empty nest once housed three daughters, Maggie, Katherine, and Martha.  Margaret has been an elementary school teacher for 31 years, most recently teaching gifted students in Iberia Parish.  She has published poems in the journal The Aurorean, anthologies for Today’s Little Ditty, in Poetry Friday Power Book Here We Go, and in National Geographic’s the Poetry of US.  Border Press published her collection of poems with her father’s Christmas card art, Illuminate in fall of 2013.  Blessen, a novel for young readers, was published in April 2012, also by Border Press. In her teaching profession, she has a Masters degree in Gifted Education and certification by the National Boards for Professional Teaching Standards.  Margaret writes a blog regularly at http://reflectionsontheteche.com.

Would you like to know more about Bayou Song? Continue your tour at these blogs, where you’ll find more poems and illustrations from the book, interviews with Margaret Gibson Simon, and other surprises.

Friday, June 22: Michelle Kogan
Tuesday, June 26: Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
Friday, July 6: Kimberly Hutmacher at Kimberly Hutmacher Writes
Friday, July 13: Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise
Tuesday, July 17: Laura Shovan 
Tuesday, July 24 Amanda Potts at Persistence and Pedagogy
Friday, July 27: Carol Varsalona at Beyond LiteracyLink
Monday, July 30 Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
Friday, Aug. 3 Dani Burtsfield at Doing the Work that Matters

Poetry Friday Giveaway: Nita’s First Signs

It’s Poetry Friday! Hooray for Sylvia Vardell, who is hosting this week’s blog roll at Poetry for Children. Thanks, Sylvia!

Hi, friends and poets. Happy Poetry Friday!

A few weeks ago I went to a friend’s book launch. I’ve blogged about YA author Kathy MacMillan before, when her debut novel SWORD AND VERSE published. (Read my post about SWORD AND VERSE here.)

Kathy’s latest book is something completely different: A board book story that teaches children and families how to use basic American Sign Language (ASL) together. In addition to being a fun read with great illustrations, NITA’S FIRST SIGNS has the *coolest* design. Hidden sliding pages reveal illustrations of how to make signs like “ball,” “love,” “more,” and “milk.”

NITA’S FIRST SIGNS is published by Familius Press.

Be sure to leave a comment if you’d like to be entered into a giveaway: A signed copy of NITA’S FIRST SIGNS, plus some other fun ASL-related treats.

Kathy and I have talked a few times about posting an ASL poem for Poetry Friday. I’m so glad to welcome her to the blog today. We’ll be taking a look at the poem “Dandelion” by Clayton Valli. As Kathy, who is an ASL interpreter and trainer,  pointed out, “This will be a new way of experiencing poetry for most of your readers.” It certainly was for me.

Welcome, Kathy!

When Laura asked me to select a poem to go with her post about my book, Nita’s First Signs, I was so excited to share some American Sign Language (ASL) poetry with her readers.

ASL poetry does not have a written form; it is composed and performed entirely in American Sign Language.  While I could give you a rough transcript of what the poem means, that would not do justice to the cleverness and beauty or the interplay of form and meaning that an ASL poet shapes. ASL poetry simply must be experienced in a visual medium. For that reason, I will give you a description of the events and meanings in the poem, and then let you experience watching it for yourself.

Meter, alliteration, rhythm, and rhyme are used in an entirely different way in a visual language. For example, a rhyme in ASL may consist of using two signs with similar handshapes to create a pleasing association, or adjusting the movement of the signs to lend visual harmony to the poem.

The poem I have chosen is a classic of ASL literature: “Dandelion” by Dr. Clayton Valli. Dr. Valli was a pioneer in ASL poetry and linguistics, and was one of the first people to analyze the characteristics of ASL poetry.

The poem, which is a little over a minute long, addresses the centuries-long oppression of Deaf people by the hearing world, which has long tried to eradicate deafness. Valli uses the image of dandelions to represent Deaf people and sign language itself.  The man who pulls up and mows down the dandelions represents the hearing world trying to destroy Deaf culture. Valli uses various linguistic tools called classifiers to show the shape and movement of the dandelions as they grow and change. In the end, just like dandelions, the Deaf community has demonstrated a will to survive.

I chose this poem because it emphasizes the intrinsic value and beauty of ASL and the Deaf community. While Nita’s First Signs can be enjoyed by any families — hearing, Deaf, or hard-of-hearing — it is, at its heart, a story about the value of communication. Some readers have told me they think that Nita is Deaf, and some say hearing.  The truth is, it doesn’t matter — because the most important gift any parent can give their child is the gift of communication.  Giving a child the tools to communicate sends the message that we truly value what they have to say.


Thanks for visiting, Kathy, and for sharing Dr. Valli’s poem.

Kathy MacMillan is a writer, American Sign Language interpreter, librarian, signing storyteller, and avowed Hufflepuff.  Nita’s First Signs, the first book in the Little Hands Signing board book series from Familius Press, was praised as “a wonderful introduction to the world of American Sign Language…for ALL infants, toddlers children AND adults” by Marlee Matlin. She is also the author of eight resource books for educators, librarians, and parents, including Little Hands and Big Hands: Children and Adults Signing Together (Huron Street Press, 2013). Her debut young adult novel, Sword and Verse (2016) was a finalist for the Compton Crook Award, and its companion novel, Dagger and Coin (2018) has been called a “complex feminist fantasy” by author Heidi Heilig. Kathy serves as the co-Regional Advisor for the Maryland/Delaware/West Virginia Region of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.  She lives near Baltimore, MD. Find her online atwww.kathymacmillan.com or on social media @kathys_quill.

Check out some of my favorite photos from the NITA’S FIRST SIGNS book launch at Baltimore’s Ivy Bookshop. Remember to leave a comment for a chance to win a signed book and goodies. I will draw a name on Thursday 7/19 and will announce the winner next Poetry Friday, 7/20.

Kathy signs alongside Renee Bertaux, an ASL interpreting intern.

Kathy signs “eat” with a young reader.

Find out more about Kathy’s Stories by Hand workshops here.

NerdCampJR: Choreographing an Action Scene

I’m on the road today, heading back to Maryland from NerdCampMI. One of the best parts of NerdCamp happens on Day 2 in the afternoon, nErDCampJr. That’s when the kids arrive and have mini-sessions with authors.

Because my new book, TAKEDOWN, is about a boy and a girl on a competitive wrestling team, it is full of action. Unlike my first middle grade novel, THE LAST FIFTH GRADE OF EMERSON ELEMENTARY, I had to create believable action scenes.

What a challenge that was! I had to relearn the lingo of the sport, study moves a middle school athlete would know, watch wrestlers in competition, and think about how the characters’ bodies move in space and interact with each other. In other words, I had to choreograph action scenes!

This year, the focus of my session with 6th grade NerdCampers was how to create an action scene with words.

The materials for this mini writing workshop are: A pair of Nerf swords, two willing volunteer actors, writing notebooks, and our imaginations.

One important rule we followed as we tried out these scenes comes from the sport of fencing: All practice blows with the sword had to fall between the shoulders and the hips. No swiping at people’s heads or below the belt — not even for play.

Before we got started composing our scene, the kids and I talked about how an author helps a reader picture action in their imagination.

We agreed on: action verbs, descriptive adjectives and adverbs, naming specific body parts as they move, and using the five senses. Oh, and dialogue was a key element in each group’s scene.

Each set of kids was about 20 people. We broke into groups for the initial writing — about six kids in charge of the scene’s beginning, six in charge of the middle, and six writing the end. The actors and one or two additional 6th graders wrote the dialogue. If they needed information, groups were allowed to send “spies” (really, emissaries) to ask what the other groups were coming up with.

This group exercise was a lot of fun. A surprise to me — it turned out to be a good lesson in revision! First, we wrote down ideas. Next, we tested those ideas out on our sword-wielding actors. Then we realized we had to make a few changes, use more specific language, or move a line of dialogue. We rewrote and ran through the scene with two new actors, to see how well it was working.

Here are the fight scenes that my three groups of sixth graders choreographed, wrote, and enthusiastically acted out in just 20 minutes!

Group 1: MM (5:30-5:55 pm)

Felicia:  “You may be rich but you cannot buy skill!  You will never defeat me!”

Skylar lunges at Felicia with her sword, but it’s a fake out. When Felicia goes to block the sword, Skylar punches her in the shoulder.  Felicia falls to the ground.

Skylar:  “I may not have skill, but I am much smarter!”

Skylar lunges at Felicia, but as she does so, Felicia does a roundhouse-kick to Skylar’s sword. The sword goes flying.

“What am I supposed to do?  Fight with my feet?” yells Skylar as she kicks Felicia in the stomach.

Felicia stabs Skylar in the stomach. Skylar falls over and dies.


Group 2: LL (6:00-6:25 pm)

There  is a brother and sister on the roof of Knight School.

Brother: “Why are we up here?”

Sister: “I’m through with all this nonsense of boys are better than girls.”

Brother: “That still doesn’t answer my question why are we on the roof.”

Sister: “Enough talking. En garde!”

The girl lunges, slips, and falls to the ground. The sword falls.

Sister: “Oh no! My sword.”

Brother: “Not all boys may be better than girls. But I know I am better than you!”

The brother stabs her in her foot and she dies.


Group 3: KK (7:30-8 pm)

There is a fencing tournament at Medieval Times. When Brent steals Macy’s lucky cape, she challenges him to a duel.

Macy: “You stole my cape, give it back!”

Brent (holding the lucky cape behind his back): “You’re not getting it back!”

Macy tries to bribe Brent with a fake cape.  She holds it out and as he goes to get it from her, she reaches around to grab her cape.  She holds it up in the air, then lunges and stabs Brent in the shoulder.

Brent fake lunges at Macy. She tries to block the blow and he punches her in the belly.

Macy falls. Brent stands over her with an evil laugh but she pops up in surprise and stabs him in the collarbone.

He falls to the ground and breaks his back.

Brent: “You cannot hurt me, I’m a god!”


Thanks to volunteers Pernille Ripp and Brittney Bones for helping everything run smoothly with my groups. Couldn’t have done it without you!

nErDCampMI 2018

It’s my second year at nErDCampMI and I’ve been having a blast! My favorite thing about this event is that authors and educators are learning together — sharing our best practices, concerns, and experiences with connecting students and books.

As promised, I am posting the slide presentations for both Day 1 panels I participated in.


Nine of the 12 members of #BookExpedition led the panel. Top row left to right: Mike Grosso, Brooks Benjamin, Katie Reilly, Amy Wiggins, Cara Newman, Cheryl Mizerny. Bottom row: Laura Shovan, Lorie Barber, Erin Varley. Members not pictured: Susan Sullivan, Patrick Andrus, Alexa McKenrick.

NerdCamp DAY 1: July 9, 2018

Coast to Coast Reading with #BookExpedition

In this session, author/educators Brooks Benjamin (MY SEVENTH-GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS), Mike Grosso (I AM DRUMS), and I — along with several other members of our ARC reading group — talked about how to start up your own reading circle and how reading together has positively impacted our teaching. The title of the panel recognizes the fact that our group stretches from New York to Tennessee on the East Coast, has several Midwest representatives, and one member from California. This gives us all a broader view of what’s going on in education across the country.

Breaking Down Stereotypes and Stigmas 1 Day at a Time

Stereotypes silence and shame our most vulnerable population—children. As authors, librarians, and educators, how can we create an inclusive environment where every student’s voice is valued? Children’s authors, Elly Swartz (FINDING PERFECT, SMART COOKIE), Laura Shovan, and Karina Glaser (THE VANDERBEEKERS OF 141st STREET, THE VANDERBEEKERS AND THE HIDDEN GARDEN) discuss using books to breakdown stereotypes, battle stigmas, celebrate differences, build compassionate communities, and create change. You’ll find the recommended reading list session attendees generated at the end of the slides. Huge thanks to educator Lorie Barber for taking notes when we were sharing all of these great book titles.

NerdCamp DAY 2: July 10, 2018

Fractured Fairy Tales with Bridget Hodder (THE RAT PRINCE) and Laura Shovan.

Find the session notes and handouts here!

Poetry Friday: Takedown Launch

Michelle Kogan is hosting Poetry Friday this week. Stop by Michelle’s blog to join the poetry party.

Greetings and salutations, friends. Happy Poetry Friday!

This week, I’m celebrating the launch of my second book for children, TAKEDOWN. (Read a review at the Nerdy Book Club.)

I think of this novel as a friendship story set in the world of youth wrestling.It’s told by two sixth graders: Mikayla, who wants to be a wrestler like her older brothers — until their coach says a girl won’t cut it on his team; and Lev, who is determined to beat his nemesis and make it to the state wrestling championship. Neither one of them is happy when they end up on the same team … as training partners.

The book covers the story of their season, how Mickey and Lev learn to work together.

Though this book is written in prose, its genesis began with poetic sketches.

Wrestling sketches from 2010!

I used to sit with my notebook at my son’s wrestling practices and tournaments, writing down what I observed. I couldn’t *not* include some poetry, so I gave my wrestling notebook to Lev. When he needs some downtime between matches, you’ll find him sitting at the top of the bleachers with a notebook in his lap and a pen in his hand, writing.

Lev has a handful of poems in the book. Here is one that came out of those early poetic sketches. Wrestling season is in the winter. Athletes often spend one or both days of their weekend at tournaments, arriving for weigh-ins before first light, and leaving (if they wrestle well) as the sun sets. This is Lev’s draft of a poem he’s working on for school.

Wrestlers Are Vampires
By Laura Shovan, from TAKEDOWN

Wrestlers are vampires.
Gyms are their caves.
They shut the doors,
stay locked inside,
and don’t come out
until day submits to night.
Wrestlers are vampires.
They never see the sun.
They push your face
into the mat until
your nose oozes blood.
They crush you flat,
break you down, bury you.

If you’re local to the Baltimore/DC area, I hope to see you at the book launch event this Sunday, 12 pm. The Ivy Bookshop is hosting.  Launch details and the address are here. We’ve got something really special planned.

10% off both books if you buy one, donate one.

Don’t know anything about wrestling? We’ve got you covered! Young athletes from Beat the Streets Baltimore will be on-hand to give a wrestling demonstration. We’re running a “Buy a Book/Donate a Book to Beat the Streets” program, so kids at Beat the Streets summer camps will receive a copy of the book.

Because food is very important to wrestlers, we’re going to have Lev and Mickey’s favorite tournament day treats: Twizzlers and donuts. ASL interpretation will be provided.

Thanks for all of your support during this book’s progress, Poetry Friday friends. It’s been two years since I first shared a poem from TAKEDOWN, which was not even a complete draft! You can read “Tournament Rap” here.

A Gallery of Poems

It’s time to say goodbye to Northfield Elementary, friends. Last week was our poetry celebration and tomorrow is the last day of school.

Our third grade poets wrote list poems based on a model from Naomi Shihab Nye, odes to their favorite places, and retold fairy tales. At the celebration, I get to see the polished, revised poems for the first time. Some of them have such wonderful accompanying artwork that I had to share. So the final post from this year’s residency will be a poetry art gallery!

Click each image to read the poem.

Words in My Room — List poem by Ashley

Ode to a Water Drop — by Michael

Words in My Violin Case — List poem by Yuval

Ode to Watercolor — by A. J.

I hope your summer is filled with poetry and fun! Look for a new post soon with details about the launch event for my new book, TAKEDOWN.

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


Poetry Friday: Once Upon a Time

Karen Edminsten is hosting the Poetry Friday round-up this week. Stop by her blog for poetry news, reviews, and original poems from around the kidlitosphere.

Hi, Poetry Friday friends. Welcome back to my series of posts from Northfield Elementary’s third grade poetry residency.

It’s day two of our fractured fairy tale poems. In the last post, I described the beginning of our workshop. Today’s I’m sharing the brainstorming worksheet I use for this lesson. The key to this poem is really digging into secondary character’s point of view. If the prince could tell his version of “Cinderella” — how might the story be different? How does he feel about the events of the fairy tale?

The third grade poets had a lot of fun thinking about which fairy tale characters were itching to tell their side of things. Much like a persona poem, this exercise taps into many children’s sense of empathy — understanding and resonating with someone else’s situation and emotions.

As you will see, the students really got into the voices of these characters!

Poet: Christopher

The Wrong Beans

One upon a time, in a far, far land
there was a wizard who was the fox
in most fairy tales.

He was a trickster.
He finds someone, someone special,
and pranks them with his plan.
“I’m the real villain everyone should fear.”

Then this, “Jack was in front of me
and I gave him the beans of death.

I walked home, proud
until I realized, I gave the boy
the wrong beans, the beans that the boy
would just plant.

Then, Jack got famous
for the mistake I made. I’m so mad!

I hate Jack! I hate him so much.
If I ever see him, I’ll curse him,
curse him better than I did before.”

Poet: Mouniksai 

Brick House

Ha! Those little pigs!
They thought they could stay safe just by building with twigs.

They built as fast as they do in Fortnite.
Then the straw house got destroyed during the night.

Then came the sticks.
Oh, those poor little pigs.

Then came me,
as strong as could be.

Because of my owner and I.

Those pigs came begging to let them in.
So, of course, we let them in.

The wolf came.
His breath also came.

It smelled
horrible and terrible.

I can see why those houses died, but I am stronger
because of my owner and I. And I’m boss.

Poet: Sophia 

I Never Liked Cinderella

I never liked Cinderella.
My dad wanted me to marry her, not me!
It was NOT my decision!
In my mind, I actually thought her stepsister
was quite pretty.
I didn’t get the glass slipper.
My dad pushed me to and down the stairs.
And I hurt myself even MORE
when I tripped over the glass shoe thingy.
I said I would arrest
whoever the shoe belonged to, but noooo!
The news got it all wrong!
I didn’t want to marry her!
But when my dad said he was proud
of what he thought was my decision
I didn’t want to let my father down.

Poet: Grayson 

One Fine Day 

One fine day
my first day on the job
I’m feeling stressed.

Someone was calling my name.
“Hunter! Hunter!

My grandma is
being eaten by a wolf.”

Okay. Um…
um… um.

I did not
bring my gun.

Ugh. This is
the worst day of my life!

Actually, do I ever bring
my fun? Never mind that!

I’d never had
someone eaten by

a wolf.

Let me run
back to the office!

Poet: William

Jack and the Beanstalk Poem
from Jack’s Mom’s Point of View

He gave someone our cow.
Planted beans in our yard.
I wonder how this day
could get any worse.
I wish I could ground him
and make him get rid
of that ugly beanstalk mess.
I won’t let him play
or have any fun.
I’ll make him do the dishes
and all of my chores.

Poet: Justin

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time there was a mom
who sent her son out to sell a cow for money.
After a long time, she got mad.
“Fifty days later, Jack still isn’t back!” she screamed.
She was mad. She went out to find him.
Later, she found him in a fight with a giant.
“What the heck did he do?” she thought.
She screamed up the huge beanstalk,
“Jack, get down here!”
Then Jack came with a ton of gold.
“Okay, let’s go,” said Jack.
“We’re rich!” the mom screamed.
Jack was grounded for a month,
but they were rich.

Poet: Carter 

“The Story of Hansel and Gretel” by The Candy House

One day in the forest,
I was just sitting there
minding my own business.
And then out of nowhere,
two kids walked out of the forest
and their names were Hansel and Gretel.
They see me and I see them.
Then they ran up and started to eat me.
I was as in pain as a person dying
from getting his skin ripped off.
I was in pain so bad, I rang the doorbell.
And the witch that owned me
came out and told them to come in.
So they came in, but I did not know
what happened. But when Hansel
and Gretel came out, they were fat
and the which died in my cook burner.

Thanks to the Northfield teachers and families for permission to share the third graders’ poems online.

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

Fractured Fairy Tale Poems

Hello, poetry friends! Welcome back to Northfield Elementary School.

Today, the third graders are sharing some of their fractured fairy tale poems. This is an exercise in point of view.

We started the workshop by gathering in groups, each assigned to a classic fairy tale. The students brainstormed a list of characters in, for example, Jack and the Beanstalk — characters who never get to tell their side of the story.

Marilyn Singer’s MIRROR MIRROR is a must-have for your children’s poetry shelf. More info here.

Our model poem for this workshop was “Bears in the News,” from Marilyn Singer’s wonderful book of reverso poems, Mirror Mirror. The students were awed by this form! You can read Marilyn’s description of the form here.

From there, our imaginations were off and running. As you can see, the poets had a lot of fun getting into their retellings and the voices of their characters.

Poet: Ben

The Three Little Pigs

The wolf is looking for building supplies
to build his house. He is happy
that he will be able to build his house
and guilty that he destroyed the pigs houses.
He will help rebuild them a house.
The pigs become his friends and neighbors.


Poet: Nico


A long, long climb
by a guy named Jack.
He weighs a ton
like an anvil in a pack.
If I could,
I would make him fall down.
He would go far
but hit the ground.
Unfortunately, I can’t.
I’m just a beanstalk.
I’m frozen still.
I can’t even talk.
So he got off me.
Wait. He’s got an ax.
He’s chopping me.
Get off. I’m not a tree.


Poet: Ethan

The Wizard

Once upon a time
I’m not a real wizard.
They think I am.
I don’t want to lie
about who I am.
I’m not scientific.
They think I am terrific.
Just why do I lie.
Yes, I will confess.
It makes so much sense.


Everyone in Ms. Zimmer’s class was *wowed* when Julia stood up and sang her retelling of Mary Had a Little Lamb.

Poet: Julia

Revenge of the Little Lamb

Please get your hands off me
hands off me
hands off me.
Please get your hands off me
or else I will bite you.

I will follow you to school
you to school
you to school.
I will follow you to school
to trash your classroom.

I am trashing your classroom
your classroom
your classroom.
I am trashing your classroom
then going to the cafeteria.

I am in the cafeteria
the cafeteria
the cafeteria.
I am in the cafeteria
and eating all your food.

Revenge is sweet. It really is.


Poet: Ellis

A Tiny Human Boy

I was sleeping when my wife
let in a tiny human boy.
He was about three feet tall
and I out-matched him 50 to 1.
He found the family vault
and started looting it.
My wife was nowhere near
enough to stop them.
But when he was getting coins out,
he dropped one to the floor
and if anything can wake me up
it’s money. I chased him
across my yard and he climbed down
a small beanstalk.
But when I was halfway down
he cut it and I fell all the way down
and I died. But then in giant heaven
I launched missiles
and killed all the humans.

Thanks once again to the Northfield community for allowing me to publish the third graders’ 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

Third Grade Odes from Northfield E.S.

Tomorrow is the poetry celebration at Northfield Elementary School. The student poets are welcoming family and friends for a reading and poetry tour of the five third grade classrooms.

I’ve been doing an elementary school workshop on odes for many years. This time around, I swapped out my usual model poem and got these poets writing odes to a favorite place. The mentor 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. You can find the poem and links related to this lesson at my last post.

The first two poems I’m sharing today use the mentor text as a scaffold, keeping some of the rhythm and structure, but focusing on a topic of the poets’ choosing.

Poet: Amelia 

My Room

My room is the center of my heart.
When I get home I hear
the hummingbirds outside my window
flying as fast as a cheetah runs.
And I touch my stuffed animals
then I remember how dreadful
I would be without them,
and I smell their lavender scent.
And smells like the forest,
right outside my house.
When I lay on my bed, I see my desk.
Without it, I would not get my homework done
and I would get suspended from school
and I would live alone on the street.
And when I get home from school,
I get out my hidden gummi bears.
Without them, I would starve to death.

The King of Beds.
The Duke of Stuffytown.
The Empress of Color.

My room is the center of my heart.


Poet: Joyce

My Favorite Place to Visit Is Italy

Wonderful scents wafting through the air.
Pizza and pasta smells delicious!

Busy city streets, cars’ horns honking.

Refreshing gelato on a warm sunny day,
chocolate, mint, and pistachio.
Gelato bursting with flavors.

Amazing ancient places, the Coliseum
and the statues of Michelangelo.

I feel the smooth marble
of the Bridge of Sighs. So shiny and nice.


In the next two poems, you’ll see some of the techniques we practiced with these odes: imagery of the five senses, using similes to create the feeling of celebration and praise typical of this poetic form, and some great hyperbole!

Poet: Advaith

Ode to a Tree

Oh, Tree, you give me shade,
you give me shelter, food,
a place to live.
You are a hero to fellow animals
and soon to become a book of fame
to us fellow humans.
Oh, Tree, you can truly
be anything, but in an origami form.
Whoosh! One of your leaves
flies away and becomes the first meal
of a newborn caterpillar.


Poet: Ryan

Ode to the Kitchen

The kitchen is my mouth’s heaven.
I taste an apple as sour and sweet
as a jumbo lollipop.
I hear chewing as loud as a lion’s roar.
I see a pan as big as an elephant.
I smell a lot of yummy things.
My kitchen smells
like a cotton candy dimension.
When I touch the glorious food in my kitchen,
my starving stomach feels relieved
that I’m about to take a bite
of my food (from the kitchen).

Poet: Dayna

The Creek Is the Vacation in My Dreams

The creek is the vacation in my dreams,
calm and fresh and sweet
like me.
The creek has soul.
It’s where friends explore
and everybody’s friendly to the community.
Where we be chillin’ and playin’
with algae gripping our legs
and rocks as big as boulders block our path.
The King of all Rivers.
The Duke of Fun.
The Empress of Adventures.
The creek is a batch of fun times
all packed together and protected
by friendship and pride.
The creek is where I relax,
where I splash and run.
My kind community
from the creek to Izzy’s house.
With swings and bridges,
spilling over with nature
and little fish.
Why, I fell in love with the creek
before I even got there.
Yeah, the creek is where I be–
where I could be me.
The creek is the vacation in my dreams.
Poet: Wendy

NYC Is the Vacation of My Life

NYC is the vacation of my life
cool and crowded and loud
like me

NYC has soul.
Where we be eating and meeting
with noisy streets stretched out
under our feet and streets braod
and spread like a red carpet for royalty.

NYC is a bowl of people
all packed together and protected
by New York citizens.

NYC is where I visit and stride
my best vacation
from the Statue of Liberty to
the Empire State Building with
cars and people
spilling over with pollution
and trash.

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

Yeah, NYC is where I be —
where I could be excited.

NYC is the vacation of my life.

Poet: Soham

Mt. Olympus Is the Capital of Greek Mythology

Mt. Olympus is the capital of Greek mythology
smell the smoke of fire, hotter than the sun.

In Mt. Olympus, the clanging of swords sound like
drums booming.

There it tastes like blood as tangy as lemons.

I can always feel Zeus’
everlasting thunderbolt.

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

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


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

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

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