Blog
Monday, 16 May 2016

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.

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.

Music
Keys
88

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.

Sound
High
Low
Strings

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

Metal
Wood
Bang!
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 —

Love
Family
Caring

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

Strong
Brave
Red
Cry
Beat
Shyness

Blood is in there.
A story is in there.

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

Mine
Keep
Have
Stars
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
lightning.

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
tired.
They also feel
sleepy.
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.

WOOF!
Bark!
Grrr!
Yawn

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

Hungry
Desperate
Sleepy
Bored
Energetic.

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

Stinky
Fluffy
Small
Cute
Sick

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.

Candy
Treat
Dessert

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.

Cookies
Donuts
Muffins
Crunch
are in my cake mix.

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

Then, we taste:
ALL GONE!

***

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:

TRY
CHAMPION
ENERGY

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:

STRONG
POWERFUL
HARD
BOOM!
WHOOSH
TEAMWORK is in there.

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

TOGETHER
LEADERSHIP
HAPPINESS
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.

5 responses to “List Poems from Northfield ES”

  1. Such imagination, these poets have. And your residencies are the catalyst, Laura.

    Must get FALLING DOWN THE PAGE.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      It’s a great book, Jan. Many poems there that would make good mentor texts for the classroom.

  2. […] 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. […]

  3. I love how the individual poets’ voices come through in these! And they are full of energy. Well done, everyone! Thanks for sharing.

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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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