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Thursday, 24 May 2018

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

19 responses to “Poetry Friday: List Poem Lesson”

  1. Laura, I am impressed with the 3rd graders’ poetry and with your lesson. I copied down some ideas to inspire teachers I work with. What a surprise I found when I went to read your “Words in My Closet” poem-a link to my poem about pantaloons. By the way I loved your Words in My Closet poem. I will share your ideas with the teachers who are interested in my writing PD sessions.

  2. Laura, as a list poem lover, I was most intrested in your approach to this poetry from. You provided these inexperienced poets with scaffolding that allowed them to improvise on the original texts to the extent they felt most comfortable- an important consideration. The results were most interesting to read. I have used the poetry of Douglas Florian (among others) extensively in the past, but the poem you used by Naomi Shihab certainly possesses a most adaptable title and form. Thank you for this most informative post.

  3. Irene Latham says:

    Laura, I love this lesson! And what varied responses from the students… wonderful! I am loving the river especially, and now I am thinking about the words in my name (also great to think about for identity poems, which I’ve been teaching a lot this year!). Thank you. xo

  4. Linda Baie says:

    It is a marvelous lesson, one that I will share with other colleagues, Laura and wish I was still in the classroom. The poems are fabulous to read and each one seems to be a topic important to the poet. Thanks for sharing this.

  5. The success of your plan comes out in these vividly woven poems–having structure but also allowing them to take it out and reorganize with their own words seems to empower the writer and strengthen the poem. BTW I love your “Words in My Closet” poem and that,
    “This BLOUSE and that SKIRT
    like hanging around together.”
    ” Falling Down the Page” is a favorite of mine. Thanks Laura, and happy Memorial Day Weekend!

  6. Linda M. says:

    Gosh, what an amazing workshop and such stunning results. These students were definitely using higher level thinking skills with creativity. No vocabulary list needed here….they get to develop their own. I wish, wish, wish we could teach a poetry centered curriculum all the time. Fabulous lesson. And, the poems are just wonderful. I can imagine how proud each of these students feels knowing that they are a writer. Thank you so much for sharing the joy of this with us.

  7. I love this lesson and how even within the constraints of the model poem, it allows freedom of expression. I can imagine the glow of success these students felt. I think that sometimes I am not patient enough to go through all the front loading that leads to this true success. Now these poems can be models for more poems!

  8. Creating list poems are so fun. I love what the third graders did with Nye’s poem.

  9. Molly Hogan says:

    What a wonderful lesson and how generous of you to share it with us! I love how there’s a structure for students in Nye’s poem, but also so much flexibility. The variety of poems you shared says it all! I also love the “juicy” word building activity you did this year. I’m sure that primed the pump for these rich responses.

  10. You KNOW how I love your classroom workshops, Laura! These students came up with some wonderful poems—all of them unique, despite working from the same mentor text. I loved reading about your add-on brainstorming activity too!

  11. Wow! Those third grade poets wrote some awesome poems. Thanks for sharing them and your thoughts behind the lesson.

  12. Mary Lee says:

    Fabulous lesson that resulted in fabulous poems! (I saved this post in my poetry-teaching toolkit!!)

  13. Lucky students – lucky you! Love thinking about the impact you’ve had on so many students all these years, and you’re just getting started. ;0) Congrats to these creative young poets for their wonderful spins on such a terrific mentor poem.

  14. […] 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. […]

  15. […] 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 […]

  16. […] 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 […]

  17. […] 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 […]

  18. […] 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 […]

  19. […] 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 […]

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Laura Shovan

Laura Shovan is the author of the award-winning middle grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. Her second book, Takedown, is a Junior Library Guild and PJ Our Way selection. Look for A Place at the Table, co-written with Saadia Faruqi, in 2020. Laura is a poet-in-the-schools Maryland.

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