Archives: Naomi Shihab Nye

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