Thursday, 23 March 2023

It’s Poetry Friday! Tomorrow, March 25, begins the one-month countdown to Welcome to Monsterville. My fourth book for kids will be celebrating its book birthday on April 25.

Before we get to today’s post: Remember to sign up for the #ClimatePoemProject that I’m running for Authors Take Action. Want more information? Read this post.

Rose is hosting Poetry Friday this week at Imagine the Possibilities. What’s Poetry Friday? Blogger Renee LaTulippe has the answer.

In preparation for the release of Welcome to Monsterville, I have been doing a lot of writing, thinking, and teaching at the intersection of poetry and social emotional learning.

CASEL, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, defines SEL as “the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.”

As I near my 30th year as an educator, I am passionate about how creative play–and poetry in particular–supports these areas of growth in children and teens. I hope that teachers will use Welcome to Monsterville as a springboard for classroom conversations about sitting with strong emotions.

Signed book plates and monster stickers are available if you pre-order Welcome to Monsterville.

Today, I am featuring poems from another book that puts the spotlight on children’s emotions. Things We Feel, edited by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, explores feelings from A to Z.

The first poem I’d like to share is “Grateful,” by Juli Mayer. Try pairing this pet-adoption narrative poem with “Monsterflies” from Welcome to Monsterville—in which a child imagines what their dog is dreaming about. (You can read and listen to “Monsterflies” here.)

by Juli Mayer

We came to the shelter to pick out a pet—
an older dog to love.
It’s all I’ve been dreaming of.

I knew you were the one when we arrived.
You jumped on me and licked my chin.
My heart opened up and let you in.

As  my family walks out, I feel grateful
that I chose you, but now I see—
you chose me!

From Things We Feel, edited by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong. Shared with permission of poet Juli Mayer.

Poetry Friday regulars know that I have a special place in my heart for older dogs and anyone who adopts them. I’m grateful to Juli for centering her poem on a family choosing an older dog.

Next up (and next in the Things We Feel alphabet!) is “Happy,” by Fernanda Valentino. Read this poem alongside the friendship narrative in “Birthdays” from Welcome to Monsterville. (You can read “Birthdays” here.)

By Fernanda Valentino

I wriggle and giggle.
You spin me around.
I love riding piggyback
high off the ground.

I’m happy our friendship
is real  and true—
I’m happy I have
a good friend like you.

From Things We Feel, edited by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong. Shared with permission of poet Fernanda Valentino.

Thank you to Juli and Fernanda!

Juli Mayer is a children’s poet whose work has been published in Highlights High Five, Highlights, School Magazine and anthologies such as Hop to It: Poems to Get You Moving, and Things We Feel.

Fernanda Valentino received her B.A., Dip.Ed. at the University of Western Australia and majored in English, French and Italian. She did her post graduate degree in Secondary Education. Her  poems and action rhymes have appeared (or are forthcoming) in Highlights, High Five and Hello! magazines. She has poems in several Pomelo Anthologies including Things We Feel, (2022), Things We Wear, (2022) and What is a Friend? (2022) and has a poem in What is a Family? (due in March 2023).  Fernanda has also written multimedia and interactive scripts. She translated a multilingual educational art book an poetry from the original French into English (2019). Fernanda has worked in education, advertising, and film and TV production, and is currently involved in customer service for a virtual, 3-D immersive and interactive event platform.

31 responses to “Poetry and SEL”

  1. Denise Krebs says:

    Laura, thanks for sharing the poem pairs. I enjoyed reading them all, especially the birthday party planned by the monsters with the tiara and flag necklace. Congratulations on Monsterville coming out in just about a month!

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Hi, Denise! Thank you. I am excited to celebrate this book’s release. The launch event coincides with Independent Bookstore Day, April 29!

  2. Rose Cappelli says:

    Congratulations on Monsterville, Laura! I enjoyed the sneek peek on Jama’s post this morning. It’s so important for kids to talk about feelings. I’m happy to report that Things We Feel has been chosen for the 2023-24 Keystone to Reading Preschool Book Award list. It’s the first time a poetry book has been on the preschool list!

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Wow! That’s incredible news about the Keystone Book Award List. It hardly seems possible that there’s never been a poetry book for pre-schoolers on that list, but Things We Feel is a perfect choice.

    • Janet Wong says:

      Thank you, Laura, for this fabulous post! And thank you, Rose, for sharing the great news about THINGS WE FEEL! We are thrilled to know that THINGS WE FEEL is on the 2023-24 Keystone to Reading Preschool Book Award list. Pennsylvania teachers: Sylvia Vardell and I have lots of ideas for how we (and the 26 poets in our book) can help you share this book with your kids. Stay tuned!!

  3. All that we can do to center social emotional experiences for our young ones is work well done! The monsters play very nicely with the kids in THINGS WE FEEL, and it’s great to get a glimpse of work by poets unfamiliar to me.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Hi, Heidi. I’ve been hearing from classroom educators how much their students need social emotional support and learning right now. Although the federal government is disbanding its Covid team, we are still seeing the effects of the pandemic in young people.

  4. Sylvia Vardell says:

    Thank you, Laura for featuring THINGS WE FEEL and we love how you e connected it with WELCOME TO MONSTERVILLE! We love Juli’s and Fernanda’s poems too! Can’t wait for the release of YOUR new book next month! ❤️

    • Laura Shovan says:

      It’s such a natural connection between the two books, Sylvia. I also see a pairing between Matthew Winter’s poem (“Mad”?) and my poem “Bubblegum Head.”

  5. How exciting! These were really fun to read Laura– and congrats on your upcoming book release!

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Thank you, Sarah Grace! I’m so glad you enjoyed the poems. I’ve been having fun sharing them with students.

  6. jama says:

    Wonderful pairings! Enjoyed seeing Juli’s and Fernanda’s poems now that I’ve recently read Monsterville. Thanks for your SEL work too!

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Thanks, Jama. I’m hearing from educators that students need extra support with their social emotional growth right now.

  7. Linda Baie says:

    It ‘feels’ like your book is going to fit so many needs, Laura. There is a lot going on with mental health for children and teens, this week especially in Denver with another school shooting. Your inclusion of many kinds of feelings seems really great. I love the pairings you’ve shared! Certainly, I’ll get my own copy for the grandgirls!

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Hi, Linda. Oh, I heard about the latest shooting. Thought of you and of my family nearby in Louisville. How can we — as a nation — possibly value gun culture over school? Over children?

  8. I love how you are handing me some wonderful prompts for my students to enjoy. I am convinced that writing poetry with my students helps their social and emotional learning. Gifted kids have many feelings. And they don’t know what to do with them. Thanks for your gift and talent for teaching.

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Ha! Margaret, you know I’m all about the writing prompts! I agree with you about poetry writing and social emotional skills. The poem is a way out of confusion or hurt and into deeper understanding. (I’m putting your name on the Climate Poetry Project list.)

  9. Mary Lee says:

    Poem Pairs are the best! They are like the seeds for a mini-collection, an invitation for poets to add their own!

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Hi, Mary Lee. Part of what makes THINGS WE FEEL such a good pairing with WELCOME TO MONSTERVILLE is that some children are ready to talk about feelings in a direct way. Looking at photos of and reading poems about children just like them feels comfortable. Others need the distance or veil that fantasy provides. Talking about monsters isn’t real, so it’s a safe way to talk about our very real emotions.

  10. Nothing com-pairs to great poetry connections to help kids (and adults!) navigate their roller coaster emotions. 🙂

  11. Paired books AND paired poems, what a WONDERFUL idea, Laura! (I’d love to share your new book on my #kidlit Book of the Day blog: Can you ask the publicist to send me a copy?)

  12. I’m heartened to see educators working hard to highlight the importance of SEL curriculum. There is some scary stuff happening in AZ, CA, and other states to disassemble and remove SEL from classrooms. Ugh! Thank you for all that you do!

    And I’m delighted to be a part of the THINGS WE FEEL poets. I’ll have to look for a monster to pair with “Jealous.” 🙂

    • Laura Shovan says:

      Hi, Patricia. I feel the same way. SEL is an important part of children’s growth, at home and at school.

  13. Linda M. says:

    I’m convinced that poetry is some of the very strongest text for our kiddos right now. There is a lot of healing left to do. Poetry has a place in that. Thank you for highlighting this book1

  14. Perfect pairings!

    I pre-ordered WELCOME TO MONSTERVILLE and apparently, your book birthday will fall on my birthday. 😀 Happy early birthday to me, and to your new book!

  15. What fun pairing with your own poems, Laura. Sitting with strong emotion–instead of denying it or immediately acting out on it–such a hard thing to learn! I’m looking forward to Monsterville!

  16. Love all these emotions floating around that offer us unknowns via poetry, such a great way to share them, thanks Laura!

  17. Gail Aldous says:

    Laura, I love your pairing of poems from Things We Feel with poems from Michael’s and your new Monsterville! Monsterflies is fun to read and sounds like a song with your rhyme, rhythm, alliteration, consonance, and repetition. All your imagery will have children picturing Monsterflies in their heads; they’ll want to sing the poem to their own dogs! I especially love your description in these lines “Bone-bugs are friendly. They zip through the skies with leathery wings and round insect eyes.”

    In your poem Birthdays, you hooked me with your first line “Monsters don’t have birthdays.” You kept reeling me in to your last lines, which I especially loved “Monster wasn’t scared. He laughed and hugged each friend and said, “I never knew you cared.” I love the voice in this poem!

    Being a former special education teacher of students diagnosed with emotional and behavioral disabilities, I am happy and excited about your new book Monsterville coming out. It will be a welcome addition to many teachers’ libraries, school libraries, other libraries, and to parents and grandparents. Thank you for sharing and for your inspiration.

    PS I looked for a way to sign up for your blog, but I didn’t find a way to.

  18. Gail Aldous says:

    Hi again Laura,

    I am leaving another comment because I’m not sure if my email and name came through in my last comment.

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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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