Monthly Archives: May 2016

Poetry Friday: Shoe Odes

PF tag

It’s Poetry Friday. Visit Julie Larios at The Drift Record for the best in this week’s kidlit poetry.

Today was the poetry open house at Northfield Elementary School.

It was an emotional day. I’ve been poet-in-residence at this school for ten years. The third grade teachers’ stories about how our poetry workshops have impacted their students, and their own teaching throughout the year, were so moving. There were lots of tears and hugs.

I have a few more odes from the third grade poets to share, then we’ll have a fun photo gallery from the residency. You can read more about our workshop on odes at this post.

Roscoe took the idea of hyperbole and ran with it in this ode.

Dear Shoe
By Roscoe G.

Dear Shoe, you look like an old green
and black gorilla, but you are the wisest
of all. You smell like a nine billion
year old dump that survived
the Great Depression. You sound like
a beating wing of a horned owl.
You feel like a scratchy bed of silk.
I have gone to England with you,
Six Flags, Disney World, and Disney Land
with you. I can’t live without you
because you protect my feet like armor.


I love the visual simile that Jacob uses for his first line.

My Shoe
By Jacob Z.

My shoes looks like the scales
on a raging crocodile.
My shoes smells like dirty socks,
so I can make my older brother
not take my money by
putting my money in there.
My shoe feels like walking on water
when I walk.
My shoe sounds like a galloping horse.
I’ve been to the Great Wall of China
with you.
If you weren’t here, my feet would
step on the long, pointy grass.


I could tell that Zenia took special care in writing her ode, reordering the similes that she brainstormed so that her poem ends with a powerful  image.

Dear Shoe
By Zenia H.

Oh shoe, oh how I couldn’t live without you. I wouldn’t go as fast. The foamy insides are as soft and comfy as my blanket waiting for me on my bed. Oh, the one thing that is my absolute favorite is your smell that is as stinky as a skunk. You, my favorite, beautiful shoe, you are like a rainbow bursting out of the sky. Oh, how I couldn’t live without you.


Great finale in this poem — can you hear these shoes stomping?

Dear Shoes
By Rishik R.

You are like a red laser going past a black wall, fast as turbo. You smell like a wonderful wet breeze. You feel as rough as an entire continent, and most of all you both sound like thunder booming through the sky, loud as Zeus.


This is another poem that opens with a powerful simile.

My Shoes
By Jordan T.

You look like a black train
zooming across the track.
Shoes, you smell like a stink
bug when it dies. You could even knock
out a skunk. You are so soft, like
a smooth cloth. You sound
like someone scratching on a
gymnastics bar. There have been
so many places. It’s like I’ve
been all around the world with
them. I’ve run and splashed in the
water at the beach with them. I
can’t live without you, shoes. I will
get wet and blistery without you.



I love the illustrations for this list poem, “Words in My Gymnastics Class.”


The “Graffiti Wall” in Ms. Walles’ room is “A safe place for authors and poets to keep powerful words and phrases.”


Not your typical shopping list. This is a list poem with a twist!


Ms. Scavo’s class is working on their own binder filled with original poetry.


Spotted in Ms. Gauert’s third grade.


Words of wisdom!

Third Grade Odes

We’re wrapping things up at Northfield Elementary. Our third and final poetry workshop focused on odes.

Tone is a difficult literary concept. The website Literary Devices defines it this way: “Tone, in written composition, is an attitude of a writer toward a subject or an audience. Tone is generally conveyed through the choice of words or the viewpoint of a writer on a particular subject.” The interesting thing about odes is this: they are so focused, even over-the-top, in praising their subject that their use of tone is obvious. For this reason, the ode is a great poetic form for teaching young writers about tone.

I recently guest-posted at Woven Tale Press online literary magazine about using odes in the classroom. You can read the article here.

Our mentor text for this workshop was Gary Soto’s poem, “Ode to Pablo’s Tennis Shoes.” (Read the poem at Scholastic.) The Northfield third grade poets took off their own shoes, so they’d have something tactile to praise and celebrate in their odes. Having an object to work with helped the students build on the sensory imagery we used in our previous workshop.

One of the things we worked on in our odes was hyperbole. See if you can spot at least one hyperbole in each of today’s poems.

Ode to Greta’s Shoes
By Greta S.

Thank you, athletic shoes. You make
me feel like I am walking on a cloud.
When I am on a secret mission, you keep
me quiet, so no one can hear me. Sometimes
I don’t appreciate the smell you have — a rotten
egg sitting in my lunch box for two years.
Thank you for the look of a
gray and pink sunrise on a school day
morning. Thank you for being my
favorite shoes.


Ode to Shoes
By Ariyana M.

As old and worn as they are,
I can’t live without them.
They still aren’t even at their first birthday!
Oh, the shine! Too bright!
Now dull brown, they carry me silently
and plead squeakily for baths occasionally.
Why, oh why, can’t shoes grow with you?
Why does my mom grow roses?
Life isn’t fair,
but you are about as fair as it gets!


Ode to My Shoes
By Cate J.

Shoes! Oh, shoes. How I love you so.
You look like the shimmering waves
crashing onto the beach.
You smell of sweat
from the hot summer days we have played together.
You fee so supporting, always there for me.
You  helped me trudge
up the rockiest of Montana’s mountains,
carried me over theme parks,
and helped me run faster than a cheetah.
Without you, my speed would be
as slow as a snail.
Why, oh why, is there not
Shoe Day.


Oh, Shoes
By Sami J.

Oh, Shoes
I couldn’t
live without
you. You look
like a black
cat snooping
into the
moonlight. You
smell like
soil with
a plant in
you. You
feel like
on a
cloudy day.
You sound
like the
All the places
I have been
with you like
New Jersey.
Oh, Shoes
what would
I do without
you? I would
be lost trying
to find you.
I would not
have fun
without you.
Oh, Shoes, what
would I do
without you?


Untitled Ode
By Griffin R.

My shoes looks like the eye
of the tiger. My shoe smells like
they’re old school, but wise
and respected. My shoe feels like
a thick butterfly net. My shoes sounds like
it’s playing Tic Tac Toe. Without
my shoe, my feet can’t be clean.


Thanks to the Northfield community for allowing me to share the students’ writing. I’ll post more shoe odes from third grade tomorrow.

Imagine that! Imagery poems

Greetings, poets and friends. The Northfield third graders are working on imagery today, by focusing on our five senses. The five senses are an important tool in communication, whether you are telling a story to friends at the lunch table, or writing a poem. Appealing to your audience’s senses creates that “you are there” feeling.

Using their teacher’s chalkboard eraser as an example, we discussed the difference between using our five senses in this way:

The eraser looks black. It feels fuzzy. It smells of chalk. It makes a swishing sound on the board. If I could taste it, it would be chewy.

and using similes and figurative language to create vivid imagery:

The eraser looks as black as a cat prowling at midnight. It feels soft as a panther’s fur. It smells as dry as the desert. It sounds like the wind blowing on a dark night. It tastes like eating cotton balls.

Although we defined simile (a figure of speech in which two unlike things are explicitly compared, often using “like” or “as”), some third graders need reinforcement with the “unlike things” part of the concept. Giving several examples of what is (the flowers were as red as Mars) and is not (the air outside tasted like fresh air) a simile helps.

Wrestling the BeastToday, we used our five senses similes to create action poems. Our mentor text was “Wrestling the Beast” by Arnold Adoff, from his wonderful book of sports poems, SPORTS PAGES.


Each poet chose a favorite activity to write about. I love seeing what topics the students come up with. Again, these are initial drafts. In most cases, we haven’t worked on line breaks or developing our ideas further yet. We’ll save that for our last workshop.

I’ve never been to a Go Kart Race, but Brian’s poem gave me a great sense of what it’s like.

Go Kart Racing
By Brian K.

Finally, I’m off to the races.
Blah, smells as bad as burnt rubber.

The racers come and meet together, saying,
“Good luck.” I finish my refreshing ride
and away I am!

Squeaking like gears on a roller coaster.
Whoa! Here someone comes.
I’m as fast as Speedy Gonzales.

I feel like I’m racing as one of the bulls
in the Running of the Bulls.

Here I come. I see the checkered flag…



The funny hyperbole in Zach’s poem describes a basketball opponent who can’t catch our speaker.

By Zach K.

As I run down the court
it’s like I’m in a stampede,
with enemies and teammates
and the smell of stinky socks
around me, as I run to
the hoop, someone blocks me
as fast as lightning but
he’s an  hour late, the ball
has already gone through
the hoop, the buzzer
sounds like a bee in my ear,
I love basketball.


You know that creepy-crawly feeling you get when you’re sweaty and dirty? Aneesh has a great simile to describe it.

By Aneesh P.

It is the final point. 3-3.
I feel as strong as a bull.
I hear the crowd going wild
like a bunch of cackling hyenas.
I smell a stench like sweaty socks.
I see my team cheering
like a roaring lion.
I feel the dirt
tickling my body like ants.
Then, one two three
BAM. I hit the ball
and get a home run.


The rhythm in Akira’s action poem is fast, recreating the action of a tennis match.

By Akira N.

I run down to get the ball. When I’m playing,
an opponent is like rushing to go to work.
The ball is like a monster charging
toward me. I smell as sweaty as dirty water.
The ball touches fuzzy as dog’s fur.
The ball is roaring with cool wind.


I especially like the extended description in the final image of Achilles’ poem about martial arts class.

By Achilles F.

When my master call me up to spar
I see a sweaty tiger right in front
of me, nervously. When the instructor
counts down to ___, I feel the
wind hitting me like a freight train.
At the end, we smell like a football
player’s gear after his game. I
taste salt water going down my
face and my hair. We sounds
like an 18 wheeler horn going down
a tunnel.


Last for today, you’ll notice the form of London’s poem, which bounces around the page. She is borrowing here from our model poem, “Wrestling the Beast,” which also uses the look of the poem on the page to build drama. See the handwritten and typed pictures for an idea of London’s use of white space on the page.



By London

The pool is deep as a ship,
sinking deep down like a whale,
heavy as a net. A fish?
No, not a deep side but a
place for kids to hang out.

A chair. Comfy. Soaking wet.
A diver. His choice:
Hotness around my neck.
A flipper? Goggles?
A big snorkel
giving air?

A towel?

A towel? A snake? A big jumping
start from the end of the

This is a deep pool. A gentle
Wave from
by me.


Thanks, Northfield staff and families for giving me permission to share the students’ fine poems today. I can’t wait to see what they come up with when we revise together!

If you’d like to read more about Arnold Adoff, check out his website. His latest books is ROOTS AND BLUES, which you can hear Arnold reading on Youtube! 

roots and blues

Laura’s Bookshelf: Sword and Verse

Every once in a while, I read a book and — the moment I’ve finish the last page — I know the novel’s perfect poem. That’s what happened with my good friend Kathy MacMillan’s YA fantasy SWORD AND VERSE.


From left: Kathy, Janet, Ava, and Laura

Kathy and I, along with debut authors Ava Jae and Janet Sumner Johnson, did a mini book-tour together in March, covering several bookstores and libraries in Maryland and Virginia. For fun, each one of us brought a talisman to events — a small object that represented something about our books.

My object was a little plushie hamster. It is named for Refried Beans, the hamster that belongs to one of the characters in THE LAST FIFTH GRADE. Kathy talisman was a clay bird made by her son. She used the bird to explain an important setting in her novel.

SWORD AND VERSE is the story of Raisa, who was forced into slavery as a child and taken to the kingdom of Qilara. Qilarite religious traditions dictate that only those in power may read and write. There is one exception: a slave girl, who is trained in the complicated Qilarite language alongside the crown prince so that she may one day be tutor to his heir. As a teen, Raisa is selected to replace Prince Mati’s tutor, who has been executed for treason. Raisa finds herself falling in love with Mati, but she also begins to wonder whether her new role as Tutor in Training gives her the power to help other slaves.

Birds are part of a crucial setting in the novel. Raisa and Mati learn to read and write in a walled courtyard. There are special birds in the courtyard whose tail feathers are used as writing quills. Raisa notes that the birds are caged as babies, but their cages are gradually removed. By the time the birds are adults, their training is so ingrained that no cage is necessary. The birds don’t realize that they are free.

SWORD AND VERSE published in January. Here is the blurb from Goodreads:

Raisa was only a child when she was kidnapped and enslaved in Qilara. Forced to serve in the palace of the King, she’s endured hunger, abuse, and the harrowing fear of discovery. Everyone knows that Raisa is Arnath, but not that she is a Learned One, a part of an Arnath group educated in higher order symbols. In Qilara, this language is so fiercely protected that only the King, the Prince, and Tutors are allowed to know it. So when the current Tutor-in-training is executed for sharing the guarded language with slaves and Raisa is chosen to replace her, Raisa knows that, although she may have a privileged position among slaves, any slipup could mean death.

That would be challenging enough, but training alongside Prince Mati could be her real undoing. And when a romance blossoms between them, she’s suddenly filled with a dangerous hope for something she never before thought possible: more. Then she’s approached by the Resistance—an underground army of slaves—to help liberate the Arnath people. Joining the Resistance could mean freeing her people…but she’d also be aiding in the war against her beloved, an honorable man she knows wants to help the slaves.

Working against the one she loves—and a palace full of deadly political renegades—has some heady consequences. As Raisa struggles with what’s right, she unwittingly uncovers a secret that the Qilarites have long since buried…one that, unlocked, could bring the current world order to its knees.

And Raisa is the one holding the key.

kathy macmillan

Recommended for eighth grade and up.

Who will like it?

  • Readers who love epic fantasy novels.
  • Fans of libraries, reading, and writing.
  • Die-hard romantics.

What will readers learn about?

  • How a person who is accustomed to being controlled by others can begin making his or her own decisions.
  • The ways that language and power intersect to define a culture.
  • The effects of living in a controlled society.

With all I’ve said about caged birds, I hope you have figured out which poem I’m pairing with SWORD AND VERSE.

Caged Bird
By Maya  Angelou

A free bird leaps

on the back of the wind

and floats downstream

till the current ends

and dips his wing

in the orange sun rays

and dares to claim the sky.


But a bird that stalks

down his narrow cage

can seldom see through

his bars of rage

his wings are clipped and

his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.


The caged bird sings

with a fearful trill

of things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

for the caged bird

sings of freedom.

Read the rest of the poem at the Poetry Foundation.

What else is on Laura’s Bookshelf?

GENESIS GIRL, by Jennifer Bardsley (4/13/16)

TREASURE AT LURE LAKE, by Shari Schwarz (3/31/16)

THE LAST GREAT ADVENTURE OF THE PB&J SOCIETY, by Janet Sumner Johnson (3/25/16)

THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE, by Heidi Heilig (3/10/16)

THE DISTANCE FROM A TO Z, by Natalie Blitt (1/19/16)

COUNTING THYME, by Melanie Conklin (12/31/15)

FENWAY AND HATTIE, by Victoria J. Coe (12/24/15)


PAPER WISHES, by Lois Sepahban (11/19/15)

THE GIRL WHO FELL, by S. M. Parker (11/5/15)

SYMPTOMS OF BEING HUMAN, by Jeff Garvin (10/29/15)

SHALLOW GRAVES, by Kali Wallace (10/1/15)

MY SEVENTH GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS, by Brooks Benjamin (7/22/15)

More List Poems from Northfield 3rd Grade

Welcome back to the Northfield Third Grade! Our poets are continuing to work on list poems, using Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Words in My Pillow” as a mentor text.

You can read more about the model poem and  how the students are using it to create their own list poems at yesterday’s post.

Mackenzie is a great observer. Check out the details that appear in this list poem.

Words in My School Box
By Mackenzie M.

I hide words inside my school box.
Words that are crazy.

Paper clips
Eraser bits

No one can see them
but I find them waiting for me.
Like the school box hiding inside my desk.
No one can see it
but I know what’s in there–

Glue stick
A hair clip
Tiny pieces of paper

Two markers are in there.
A bag is in there.

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

tiny snowmen
broken rubber bands
lip balm
are in my school box.

My friends the words
stay at school when I leave.
But they never
go away.


I like the way that Jacqueline used the list poem to think deeply about patriotism and how it is connected to a sense of home.

Words in My Country
By Jacqueline P.

Words in my country.
Words are good–


People can see it
but I find my home waiting for me.
Like the friends around me.
People can see it,
but I know that’s where I live.


Bad guys are in there.
Good guys are there.

People play together
when I am saying this.

is in my country.

My friends
are here
and my family
are here and they will
never go.


Reading Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem makes us stop and think about things we can’t see, but know are there. “Like the TUMMY hiding inside my body,” one line reads. Hailey used the idea of things we know without seeing in a musical list poem.

I Know Music Is Everywhere
By Hailey K.

I know music is everywhere.
Music that sounds good-


Like music notes that are hiding
behind my music piece.
No one can imagine how beautiful
music can be
but I can feel the beat rising
inside my body–


FEELINGS are in there.
NOTES are in there.

The cymbals are dancing to the beat
when I’m playing them.


My own son, now 19, has cars on the brain. He’d appreciate all of the detailed information and specific words that Amitav includes in this list poem.

Words in My Car
By Amitav K.

I hide words inside my car.
Words that are fast.


No one can see them
but I f ind them waiting for me.
Like the brain hiding inside my body.
No one can see it
but I know what’s in there.

Flat 4
Exhaust system
Brake liquid
Engine oil

Gas is in there.
Engine is in there.

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



When students have trouble coming up with a topic for this poem, I encourage them to write about something familiar. Haylee chose to write a school-related list.

Words in My P.E. Class
By Haylee S.

I hide words inside my P.E. class.
Words that smell bad.


No one can see them
but I find them waiting for me.
Like the sweaty place it is,
hiding inside my gym.
No one can see it
but I know what’s in there–

Jump rope
Having fun

Sweat is n there.
Kids are in there.

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

Oops, I dropped the ball.


Thanks again to the Northfield staff and families for allowing me to share the students’ poems. Tomorrow, we are going to build on the idea of juicy, specific words when we create similes.

List Poems from Northfield ES

Hello, Readers! After my new middle grade novel launched in mid-April, I took a month off from blogging.

In that month, I’ve visited schools and bookstores in Albuquerque, New Mexico, New York City, and Baltimore. Now I’m back in my own neighborhood, teaching at Northfield Elementary. I’ve been poet in residence with the Northfield third grade for ten years.

The first time I meet the poets, we work on a structured form, such as a list poem. This year, our first model poem was Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Words in My Pillow.” It’s from the list poem anthology, FALLING DOWN THE PAGE.


Read more about this book, edited by Georgia Heard, at the MacMillan website.

In the model poem, the speaker describes tucking words into her pillow before she goes to sleep. The third graders and I brainstormed our own list of juicy words, and figured out how we might change the topic of the poem, but keep some of its structure.

For instance, “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).

I am excited to share the third graders’ poems. Please be aware that these are first drafts. We will work on line breaks together on Revision Day.

Thanks to the educators and families at Northfield for allowing me to post the children’s original work.

Words in my Piano

By Michelle Z.

I hide words in my piano.
Words that sound good.


No one can see them but I
find them waiting for me
whenever I hit a key. No one can see it
but I know it’s in there.


The words are talking together
whenever I’m thinking them.

is in my poem.

The words never leave but
sometimes I do.


Here is Christina’s poem. Christina opted to do her first draft as a cross-out. Here is what it looks like on the page, and typed up.

IMG_20160516_181148Words in My Heart
By Christina F.

I hide words inside my heart.
Words that feel good —


No one can see them
but I find them waiting for me.
No one can see it
but I know what’s in there —


Blood is in there.
A story is in there.

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

is in my heart.

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


There’s a lot of action in Marcel’s poem.

Words in My Shoes!
By Marcel C-G

My shoes are
bored when I’m in class.

The pair wants to run like

Whoosh! Colorful! Rubber wants to run!
Phew! Come on! Juicy wind is so windy!
Whee! Ahhhh, I’m too bored!

But if you run
they feel too
They also feel
At recess, they’re so excited
they’re going to die for it!

When I am in the cafeteria
they’re starving, but I can’t give
them food.

Rubber goes to sleep.

I’m sorry shoes!!!


Andy came up with some very inventive imagery for the opening of this list poem.

Words in My Dog
By  Andy T.

There are words inside my dog.
Words that slide down her tongue
and come out of her mouth.


You can’t see them but they
are there. Like the feelings deep
down in my dog.


Feelings are in my dog.
Sad is there. Tired is there.
Some words are adjectives.
Some are good, some bad.


My dog’s friends the words
go to bed before her,
but will be waiting for her
in the morning.


I loved the way that Riley worked a recipe into this list poem.

Words in My Cake Mix
By Riley H.

I store words in my cake mix,
words that taste delicious.


No one can touch them,
but I find them waiting for my return,
like the measurements in my brain.

2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

Smarts are in there.
Patience is in there.

The words are forming a bond
before we sample or munch them.

are in my cake mix.

My ingredients the words
go away before I do,
baked in their pan.
After, I add sprinkles,

Then, we taste:


Last, Eve captures many of the reasons children enjoy playing sports together.

Words in My Soccer Ball
By Eve B.

I hide words inside my soccer ball.
Words that help me win the game:


No one can see them
but I find them rooting for me on the bleachers.
Like the KICK in my foot.
No one can see it
but I know what it’s like:

TEAMWORK is in there.

The words are passing to each other
when I am saying or thinking them.

are all in my soccer ball.

My friends the words,
I can’t kick them away.
But I would never try it,
not any day.


I’ll post more Northfield list poems tomorrow. If you have a question about this lesson or feedback for the Northfield poets, please leave it in the comments.