Friday, April 29, 2011

Happy Royal Wedding Day!

I don't really know if that's even good grammar but that's what I feel like shouting at everyone.  Because I'm such a nerd.

Please understand -- Kate Middleton can have him!  I don't mean that in a rude way though.  But I like my husband just a little bit and I really don't think I would want to be married to a future world leader.  I already get annoyed by my hubby's very frequent scout trips.  And I have informed him that he is not ever to run for President.  But she seems more than capable and they seem to love each other (the television can only tell you so much) so congratulations!

Oh, but I covet that dress.

And I love the commoner to princess, happily-ever-after, fairy-tale story that just took place.  Every girls does.

So in honor of William and Catherine, I will be enjoying some other great princess romances so that I don't become a stalker of their wedding footage . . . 

And I will start with The Princess Diaries movies because Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews are marvelous and of course Mia is something of a commoner to princess.  Plus, I really love her wedding dress too.  And her coronation gown.  And they are fun, clean movies.

That will be followed up with The Princess Bride.
Classic story of "twu wuv" and the fact that "mawidge is what bwings us togever today".  How many times have I seen this movie?  Not enough to stop laughing at it's humor and pining over it's romance.

After those three the popcorn should be all gone and I'll be exhausted from being up at 4:30 a.m. so I'll probably go to bed.  But it will have been a great day for me AND the royal couple.  And that is the great thing about celebrations.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Another poetry book for (young) teens

I found this book in my arsenal and realized that I have never read it.
Locomtion by Jacqueline Woodson turned out to be really good!  Another novel told in poetry, the protagonist is a young, African-American boy who has lost both of his parents and is trying to find his sense of family among those people he has -- both blood and not.  And he uses poetry to express himself believe it or not.

The novel has a clear young voice (Lonnie is 11) but some fantastic insight that struck me.  I really identified with his teacher, Ms. Marcus because she was written so well also but it made me think about all those kids in public school and how so many are "typecast" so to speak in their roles.  How many of them can go above and beyond what society expects of them?

And I loved the focus on family and what it meant to this young man.  And even though the book ends before you know what happens to him, you really get the sense that he'll be ok, that he'll be a success.

Loved it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Poetry Picnic

My 3-year old loves picnics!  I think that being outside and eating is more like having a snack than eating what I ask her to for meals.  And that's probably true.

But you don't want a picnic to be too much work!  You want to enjoy the outdoors and the food and the rolling down of hills or picking leaves or flowers (more often weeds in our yard).  So how do you incorporate poetry but still have a fun, casual picnic?

Well, you could do rhyming foods.
peas and cheese and strawberries (maybe not all at once)
rolls in bowls and doughnut holes
Hotdogs and ants on logs (celery with peanut butter and raisins) and chocolate frogs (oh wait, this isn't Hogwarts)
You get the idea.

You could make up similes and metaphors to go along with what you're eating.
That actually can be really fun -- especially with young kids because they have the best imaginations.

You could talk about onomatopoeia -- words that are sounds -- and what each food sounds like when you eat it (could get a little gross though)

You could write shape poems for each item in your picnic or acrostics to describe them.

Could be some fun possibilities.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Poetry Scavenger Hunt for home

Kids love scavenger hunts.  Hey, I love them too!  It's fun to figure out clues and search for treasure or prizes -- very pirate-y.  The poems that I've chosen are accessible to all ages -- not a lot of interpretation is needed to get you to the next location where a clue is hidden.  And all I've done is list the poems with the place where they would take you on a scavenger hunt.  This post would be entirely too long if I included them all.  But leave me a comment if you'd like a copy of them all and I'll send it to you -- or email me at lightbulbsandlemonade at yahoo dot com.

The prize at the end?  That's up to you.  But this is a search to enjoy poetry -- not to analyze -- so it should be something fun.  And poetry related.  Maybe fun school or office supplies (but I'm probably the only one who thinks that's cool . . . ), a field trip somewhere, a poetry picnic lunch (more on that tomorrow), or something musical -- music is poetry (more on that later too).

Ready for the poems?

Desk/office: "Pencils" by Beverly McLoughland
Stairs: "Mother to Son" by Langston Hughes
Soccer ball: "Soccer" by Lee Bennett Hopkins
Car: "Windshield Wipers" by Rebecca Kai Dotlich
Eggs in the fridge: "Eggs" by Jack Prelutsky
Piano: "Piano" by D.H. Lawrence
Kitchen or bedroom: "My Papa's Waltz" by Theodore Roethke
Mudroom, foyer, coat closet (wherever you put your hats, coats, shoes): "What is the opposite of hat?" by Richard Wilbur
Dish cupboards: "December Leaves" by Kaye Starbird
Bedroom window: "My Window Screen" by X. J. Kennedy
Game closet or cupboard: "Monopoly" by Alice Schertle
Telephone: "Eletelephony by Laura E. Richards
Toaster: "The Toaster" by William Jay Smith
Remote control: "Channel Changer" by Richard Michelson
Flashlight: "Flashlight" by X.J. Kennedy
Bed: "If a Bad Dream Comes" by Siv Cedering Fox or "Covers" by Nikki Giovanni
Bookcase: "When you Can Read" by Bobbi Katz

Monday, April 25, 2011

Black Bean Brownies

A few weeks back I drove with another woman to the LDS cannery and learned some interesting things about food storage and preparation.  She told me that you can make a batch of brownies with just the mix and a can of black beans and not only does it work, it tastes good!

No way, really?
Please note -- this is not the best brownie I've ever had.  But it's pretty good, and since my guilt level at eating a whole pan of brownies is significantly diminished (hey, I need the fiber and the protein!), it's a handy little recipe to have.  And super easy.

Drain and rinse 1 can of black beans.  Put the beans back in the can and then fill with water.  Blend in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Mix with 1 brownie mix and bake according to package directions -- maybe a little longer than called for (check with a toothpick).

That's really it.  It's a pretty dense, chewier brownie than usual.  My girls liked them ok -- we'll see if they ask for more later.  That will be the real test.

But a can of black beans and a brownie mix?  That's a great treat that works for shelf-stable food storage!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Birthday for the Bard!

As a former English teacher I can't let the day go by without acknowledging that today is Shakespeare's birthday!
Since it's Easter weekend, we're involved in Easter activities but I've been cooking up some ideas for  a Shakespeare party and am kind've sad that I can't pull it off this year!

Every party needs to start with the food right?  You're more likely to get a good turnout if the food is good I think . . . 

So start with a "hamlet" for breakfast.  Ok, it's really a mini ham and egg cup from Our Best Bites.  But after a student told me on their extra credit question that one of Shakespeare's plays was called "omelet", I've never been able to think of an omelet with ham as anything other than a hamlet!  Strange?  Well, it makes me laugh every time honestly . . . 
Because of a lack of ingredients, I did not use spinach and roasted red peppers.  Instead I just used fresh green pepper but they were quite tasty regardless!  And because they're muffin-size, I think the name hamlet fits quite well -- it's a small village of egg and pepper and cheese . . . and that's probably another stretch!

Anyway, on with the food!  For a dinner celebration . . . 
Don't forget a Julius Caesar salad -- super easy with romaine lettuce, Parmesan cheese, a good Caesar dressing (I do like Newman's Own), some croutons, and maybe some chicken in there.
And of course Funeral Potatoes and chicken baked with rosemary and butter.  I have no idea where the name for the potatoes came from but that's what they've always been called around me and since everyone dies in his plays . . . 

Shakespearean Funeral Potatoes
Mix together 1 can cream of chicken soup, 4 Tablespoons melted butter, 1/4 cup shredded onion, 1 cup grated cheese,  and 1 pint sour cream.  Stir in 1 32 oz. bag of southern style hash browns and cook in the oven at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes . . . so good!

And dessert?  Well anything that invokes love of course but what would really take the cake would be an English pudding.  Hmmm, maybe I'll see if I can get a good recipe . . . 

Entertainment?  Of course!  You can't celebrate Shakespeare without entertainment.

My favorite movie options are West Side Story, Much Ado About Nothing starring Emma Thompson (lovely!) and Kenneth Branagh (please be aware there is bare back in this one -- oh and it also has Robert Sean Leonard whom I have loved since I was fifteen, sigh)

  The Taming of the Shrew starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor is FABULOUS! 

 Hamlet with Mel Gibson (and Helena Bonham Carter -- one of my favorite actresses ever)

 and for the younger set -- The Lion King
 Please be forewarned that anything Shakespeare is liable to have some questionable material but these ones in particular are so good!

There are a million more out there of course -- Shakespeare has permeated so much of life.  I could go on and on for hours.  In fact, I think I'll do a separate post on books and teaching Shakespeare -- make that 10 separate posts.  There's just too much!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Spiritual Easter for Toddlers

I've been pondering and pondering how to make our Easter celebrations a little more spiritual and have had no major lightbulbs unfortunately.

Don't get me wrong.  I love the Easter egg hunts, the egg dying, and the candy (I really love the candy), but I want our children to understand the real reason behind Easter and that's proved to be rather difficult.

I've decided that Christmas is more accessible to toddlers on a spiritual level because the concept (a baby born) is a little easier for them to understand.  Atonement and resurrection?  Not so much.  So these ideas are very very basic (we all have to start somewhere right?) but they have helped my 3-year old.

Let me preface this by saying that I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Most of the resources I am using are published by the church.

The first is the Ensign and The Friend magazines.
Since the content of both of these is completely online at The Church website, I don't save the old ones anymore.  Instead, I cut out pictures and activities that I like and file them away for later.

There is a nice activity here that uses eggs filled with symbols of Easter and has the kids read the scriptures that correspond.  I'm definitely saving it for later, but a 3-year old?  

So this is my version:  I filled 11 eggs with pictures representing different parts of the ENTIRE story of Jesus Christ (I want her to connect all the parts of his life to the same person).  The parts are: birth, baptism, calling the apostles, teaching the people, miracles of healing, triumphant entry into Jerusalem, instituting the sacrament, atonement, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.

I folded the pictures up and put them in eggs and then "hid" the eggs (difficulty according to age so in this case, in plain sight).  When my daughter found all the eggs, the idea was to open them one at a time and tell the story.

She got a little excited and just opened them.  But afterwards, she did sit on my lap and let me tell her the story.  With all the pictures, it was kind've like reading a book -- and she loves books.

I know she doesn't understand it all yet (heck, I don't even understand it all!), but I feel better knowing that we have made a start.

My other ideas?  Well we haven't done them all yet but what I'm thinking is . . . 
1.  Watch the end of the Testaments movie, when Christ appears to the Nephites
2.  Maybe watch the short video His Sacred Name: An Easter Declaration, found here

And I actually have one more thing but I need to find it first to link to it -- it's a beautiful presentation about Christ that I used last year in a Primary activity that brought the Spirit so incredibly strongly and that was for children 3 to 12.

And if anyone out there has ideas for me -- please let me know!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Poetry for Teenagers . . . Yes, I'm serious!

Technically, this also covers another one of those poetry bits and pieces.

Narrative Poetry: A poem that tells a story.

In my days as a teacher I ran into plenty of enthusiasts for Edgar Allan Poe's poetry -- especially "Annabel Lee" and "The Raven".  But book-length narrative poems are few and far between.  You could go back and dig up Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh.  But it probably won't get your teen excited.

I think I have a solution.  Two actually.
Karen Hesse, Out of the Dust is a fabulous story told from the point of view of a teenage girl living in the Oklahoma panhandle during the Great Depression and in the middle of the Dust Bowl.

But despite the despair that the story begins in, and continues in, there is hope at the end of the tunnel.  And in these economic times, I found that reading it again was inspiring in way.

The story is told in poetry -- but you hardly notice it.  And that's the key to good narrative poetry.  Well, good poetry at all.  It flows so much that you simply read and soak it in.  But it also has moments where as you read you see how the form and the technique of the written poem adds to the feeling that is created.

My favorite poems (but you can't read them out of the context of the novel now!) are "The Accident", "Hope", and "The Dream".  But they're all good.  Hey, they make me cry.  Ok that's not necessarily a mark of genius -- I'm a fairly leaky person!

Secondly, if you want something for that middle school crowd, and boys-who-don't-like-poetry especially, Sharon Creech's Love That Dog is a cute read, perfect for National Poetry Month.
Take a look at her site on the book because she not only talks about the book but about the inspiration behind it in a poem from Walter Dean Myers.

And then I will say this -- the main character is a boy and he expresses a typical boy's interest in poetry in the beginning of the book.  His voice is so clear that I can practically hear this kid sitting in my classroom complaining about poetry!  Also, he references several well-known poems that I think would be great to read with the book and have kids respond to them as well.  But he comes around.  As I wish they all would!  It's a fun fun read -- particularly for me as a teacher.  But it is really easy to relate to -- especially to kids who don't like poetry (and unfortunately, that seems to be most of them!).

Those are my favorites for narrative poetry.  Oh, and another thing to entice your teenager with?  They're short.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pirate Party anyone?

So September 19 is International Talk Like a Pirate Day (how the heck do you officially make something like that international -- I want to hear a Russian talk like a pirate . . . ) but I couldn't wait until then to share a cute book.

Plus, little kids love pirates so it may be pirate day in your house many times before September.
Sarah McConnell's book is one I randomly pulled off the shelf on library day and it is really cute.  How could it not be with a grandmother named "Long Joan Silver"?  The Silver's are a family who have left piracy behind, until the daughter finds gold and all those pirate-y instincts are awakened!!  And the main character is a girl.  Which for my girls, is kind've a plus.  The illustrations are fun and it's particularly fun to read if you really can talk like a pirate!  And for one person out there . . . I know you're celebrating "P" week this week so if pirates are on your list . . . enjoy!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Rotating Your Food Storage

I covet these can rotating systems from Shelf Reliance but can't really afford them right now.  Plus, as we're getting our food storage in order I think it's more important to spend the money on actual food.  So how do you rotate?

First, designate a space for your rotated food storage -- preferably one that is easy to access when you're cooking.  I had my wonderful husband build some extra shelves in the pantry specifically for that purpose. Before then, I told him -- top shelf is food storage -- DON'T TOUCH UNTIL I GET THE SYSTEM GOING!!
 Purchase a white board or chalk board and hang it on the wall next to your space and load up your shelves.
 Everything that goes on the food storage shelf gets a sticker.  Garage sale stickers (less than $2 at Walmart) work perfectly.
It is a pain to search each can and figure out when it expires.  The stickers are color-coded by year (with a key taped to the shelf) and the month and year are written on the sticker.  There is nothing that will expire in 2011 on these shelves.  When 2012 hits, anything left on the shelf with that green sticker will go into my regular food area for use before it expires.

But we still rotate.  This is where the white board comes in handy.  My husband has explicit instructions that if he takes something off the shelf that has a sticker on it, he writes the item down on the white board.  This way, I know what needs to be replaced when I grocery shop.

Does it work?  Well, this morning my husband was eating instant oatmeal and like the OCD organizer that I am I immediately asked him if he had written it down.  He said yes, I double-checked (I'm that terrible), and he really did.

Works for me!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Harry Potter!!!

As if you didn't already know that today is the day The Deathly Hallows part 1 comes out on video -- excuse me, DVD or Blu-Ray.  Can you even buy a VHS of new movies any more?  I don't think so . . .
What I love about the final movie (part one anyway) is that it stayed so true to the books.  The others have been great but I always get an earful from my husband afterwards about what was different.  It really bothers him.

What I didn't love?  The vamped-up sexuality of the scene where Ron is trying to destroy the horcrux and it's presenting him with his fears about Harry and Hermione.  Because someday I would like my teenagers to see these movies and I really don't think that was appropriate.  Or necessary.  Or sold more tickets.  Please, it's Harry Potter people.  It doesn't need it.  This is the reason I hesitate to spend money at movie theaters.  I never know when I'm going to have to walk out.  The rating system doesn't really help.

That's my soap-box.

Rapunzel's Story

Back in the fall, I won some tickets to see Disney's Tangled when it previewed in theaters.
I was unable to go!

Don't worry, the tickets were put to great use by some friends, but I was so bummed by the circumstances and have been dying to see the movie ever since.  The day it came out, I purchased it, movie unseen.  And it was totally worth it.

I love fairy tales.  

But it did get me thinking.  The stories (ok the pretty versions) of Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and all of those are fairly well known.  Of course Disney always gives it a twist from the original -- most do.  But Rapunzel's story is not one that I was too familiar with.

So I channeled some Hermione Granger and went to the library!

I found this Rapunzel by Paul O. Zelinsky.
First of all, beautifully illustrated story book -- and the pictures in fairy tales have to completely do it justice or it goes back on the shelf!  Secondly, he does explain that it is a retelling of the original.  But it's pretty close I guess (I need to read the Grimm original really . . . ).  Rapunzel is an herb.  Ok not the girl, the name.  And, like most Grimm books, the ending is pretty grim (haha) before it gets good again.  Because there is a happy ending after the disturbing parts.  There is a witch-slash-sorceress-slash-old lady who is pretty much the villain and there is long golden hair.

Then I read Cameron Dokey's Golden.
The elements that I am now becoming familiar with as the bones of the true (in this case original) story are there but there is a unique twist that makes love and acceptance the central moral of the tale.  It was a quick read, kept me engaged, is really geared towards teenagers, and is totally appropriate -- no violence, language, or sex!  How fabulous is that?

And now, when I watch Tangled again (because you know I will -- you know, for the sake of my 3-year old, hehe), I can see the bones even better in them but I can really appreciate the Disney elements.  And I love the Disney elements: the lanterns, the character and her strength and goodness, the family "stuff", and the humor.  I laughed, I cried, I sighed with contentment and I will do all of those things most likely every time I see it.  I tend to be emotional.

But now I'm curious about the Grimm stories . . . 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Happy Birthday Thomas Jefferson!

Ahhh, the founding fathers.  You know, despite the fact that Jefferson indeed was once a President of the United States, I don't think that he is typically included in President's Day.  We tend to think about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln on that day.  But Jefferson was also incredibly influential in our nation's building so Happy Birthday!

I love American history.  Despite a relatively short history in terms of nations across the country, we have certainly managed to pack in some extraordinary things.  And the beginning of our nation is one of those.  I truly believe that students should study it more.  If you like American history and that beginning time period, there are two excellent books to look into:

The first is Bowen's Miracle at Philadelphia.  An adult book obviously, it is an easy read (for political nonfiction anyway) and incredibly informative.  This book was assigned reading in my Advanced Placement U.S. History class when I was in high school (with Mrs. Snyder -- I wonder if she's still around, love that woman!) and it was a fascinating, yet fairly concise look at the Constitutional Convention.

But if you're looking for something a little less serious . . . 
Lane Smith's book is fantastic!  She has a clever way of looking at John (Hancock), Paul (Revere), George (Washington) and Ben (Franklin) (and oh yeah, Tom Jefferson too) and portraying them as children.  But there is a great fact sheet at the end about the myths of the founding fathers and which are true and which are false.  

And it's fun because we never think of these men as children.

And her humor is wonderful.  Something about really big underpants . . . 

So celebrate Jefferson a little.  He deserves AT LEAST a passing thought!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Happy Birthday Beverly Cleary!

95 years old today!  Happy Birthday!

I don't know how elementary schools run today.  My girls aren't quite there yet and I taught in middle and high so those kids were a little bit beyond her, but I don't think it should be possible to get through childhood without Beverly Cleary books!

I of course read the Ramona books but also loved The Mouse and the Motorcycle and Dear Mr. Henshaw.  And I never made the connection until now that many of her books are illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky -- author of the Rapunzel book.  Small world right?

Anyway, her website has all of her titles of course plus resources for parents and educators and a neat interview with Beverly Cleary herself.  If you live in the Portland, Oregon area there is also a Beverly Cleary sculpture garden for children.  Lucky ducks!!

And it's also (according to Ramona Quimby) National Drop Everything and Read Day!  D.E.A.R.  That sounds like a good idea to me, now what to read what to read . . . 

Monday, April 11, 2011


Personification: a figure of speech that gives human characteristics to anything nonhuman: force of nature, inanimate object, another living organism, or even an abstract idea.
Beautifully written, wonderfully illustrated (a Caldecott Honor Book), this book ended up in my library bag on accident.  And I'm so glad that it did.  It reminds me of the reasons to love each season and I can almost feel them cycling through as I read.  It "explains" perfectly those fabulous days when you step outside and just breathe in the perfection of the moment.

Good poetry tugs at your heart.  It's hard to explain how it makes you feel.

Friday, April 8, 2011

How To Teach Poetry: Bits and Pieces

I could write a post every day on how to teach poetry.  There are that many (and more) methods to use.
So today I'll talk a little bit about the bits and pieces.

You know: metaphor, simile, rhyme scheme, onomatopoeia (love that word), meter, form, and all of those other good things.  Because they are good.  My one complaint about a bits and pieces approach is that then you have a poem that sits in bits and pieces and you can miss the wholeness.

And of course it begs the question, do you need the bits and pieces to write good poetry?

I don't know.
I'm not sure that Emily Dickinson had much formal education in that area before producing her brilliant (and sometimes completely confusing) works.  But of course then some pieces rely on bits and pieces.  And I personally prefer more traditional, formally composed poems than modern ones. 

So it's really about preference.

But for teaching bits and pieces, I wish wish wish I had had this book as a 9th grade teacher:
R is for Rhyme: A Poetry Anthology by Judy Young

Each letter of the alphabet is accompanied by the following: a term related to poetry, a poem that illustrates that term fabulously (written by Ms. Young), a wonderful illustration, and 3 or 4 paragraphs that include an explanation, history is applicable, and questions/activities for the student to work with the poem.  

This book makes my brain itch in a very good way.  I want my daughter to suddenly be 8 and 12 and 15 so that we can use it and see how her sense of poetry changes as she matures physically, mentally, and academically.  Because you really could use it that often.

Wait, you thought I was actually going to talk about the bits and pieces?  Not all in one post!  But a little bit here or there.  It will come out -- I can't prevent that from happening!  But I won't be covering them from the book -- no, find your library, order on Amazon, whatever floats your boat.  This book is a fabulous foundation.  And it's also a great model for a cool activity to do with students as well . . . 26 days of learning about poetry and composing your own based on 26 different bits and pieces.  I love it, but it would be pretty intimidating to a class of 9th graders.

I can already hear the groaning!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Put the Broom Down!

Sometimes I wonder how these days become noteworthy.  Who is the person who came up with "Dress in a polka-dot apron day" (not a real holiday . . . at least I think not . . . ) and then how in the world did they get it to be recognized?  

Well, this one is in Chase's Calendar of Events so it's somewhat legitimate.  And I'm not complaining.

Happy No Housework Day!

And use it for all it's worth because I KNOW that you do housework every other day of the year.  Especially if you have little ones who like to "help".  That always seems to create more housework for me.  But I do love the smile on their face.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Poetry for School-age Children

I am a fan of Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss of course.  But recently I've discovered another fun poet that I'd like to get to know better who is perfect for the school-age set (and beyond actually . . . )

Introducing: Jack Prelutsky!

This may not be an introduction at all though.  Apparently, he's been writing for 30 years and was named the  first Children's Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation in 2006.  I don't know how he has escaped my notice and I'm actually pretty ashamed to admit it because he is fabulous!

My 3-year old and I have been reading
The verse is fantastic -- rhythmic and fun.  Humorous -- I love the play on words and animals.  And the illustrations completely do it justice.  She loves the animals of course.  And sits mesmerized by the poetry.

He also has a fabulous website with poems and activities and a place for parents to get ideas to utilize his work and teach poetry in general.

He also had a hand in a book that is on my list of books to add to our personal library.  Well, maybe a little more than a hand since he selected of the poetry in this book:
This is a fabulous, fun anthology with humorous and serious poetry.  Poets include Mr. Prelutsky himself and a wide variety of classic and more contemporary poets.  It's organized somewhat by subject and so it's been a great book to use in putting together my poetry scavenger hunt -- now that will be fun (coming up at the end of the month).  If you're working on a poem a day, this is a must have!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Poetry for Wee Ones

Of all written and published poetry, I sometimes think that the little ones have it best.  You don't have to work your brain too hard to figure out what the poem is about, and most books written in poetry for children have the wonderful benefit of being practically singable.  I love reading books to my children that have fabulous rhyme and rhythm and meter.

But even among the toddling set, not all poetry is created equal.  Some of our favorites in this house include:
All of Karma Wilson's Bear books are fabulous.  This particular one has been read so often that the cover is partly chewed off and, quite honestly, if you call me I'll recite it to you right now.  I love these books to the point of green-eyed monster -- the illustrations are fabulous and the meter and rhyme superb!

We're new to this series and were introduced by a friend.  Thank you friend!  They have a great message and I didn't know that you could rhyme llama quite that much!  They also illustrate real-life behavioral situations.  I mean, look at that title -- that says it all some days!

Last but not least, Nancy Shaw's Sheep series.  This group of sheep falls into disaster in every book and you nearly will with rhyme that borders on tongue-twister.  Just this week I found one at our local library that involved aliens and that is the current favorite of the sheep books.  

I've just realized another theme though.  All of these have to do with animals!  I know there are so many children's books out there with great rhyme and meter -- leave me your suggestions so I can find more!  But in the meantime, my 3-year old who adores animals asks for these over and over.

And you can't go wrong reading good books over and over.  Poetry or not.

Friday, April 1, 2011

6 Ways to Build a Poetree

Nope.  Not a typo.  It's part of my celebration of National Poetry Month!  

As an English teacher, I really enjoyed teaching classes that were organized by genre.  Chronological study has it's merits, but I love the focus genre study brings.  And I especially loved that I could schedule in our study of poetry during April and National Poetry Month.

One of my favorite things to do with poetry in the classroom was to build a poetree.  The original idea is not mine, and I'm sad to say that I don't remember where I saw it.  But these 6 ideas to utilize a poetree are indeed mine and I love them!

Basic supplies needed:
brown paper (sometimes they have rolls of packing paper at the dollar store)
green construction paper (for leaves)
a little creativity and artistry (just a little I promise)
and whatever else you need for the leaves once you pick an idea!

Step 1: Create the tree.  Either draw it out or freehand your cutting but the great thing is that trees are easy. I can draw stick figures and trees.  And my trees are better.  You don't need many branches, they'll be filled up with leaves.

Step 2: Tape it to your wall.

Step 3:  Add some character.  Again, no real art talent needed . . . 

Step 4:  Add your leaves.  Again, freehand it -- these particular leaves take up half of a sheet of construction paper.  In the classroom, I used full sheets and had a much larger, fantastically full tree.  Do you know what this does for the high school--no windows--bad paint--pipes exposed--classroom?  My kids loved it -- and were definitely not too cool to make it known that they loved it.

Step 5:  Use the tree.  How?  Well, here's 6 ways to do just that.  Feel free to modify for your children's (your own or students) interests and age ranges.

  1. Have kids write poems on leaves and post them on the tree.
  2. Build your tree complete with leaves that already have poems on them.  Choose one each day to read aloud and savor.
  3. Write poetry related activities on each leaf and allow the choosing of a leaf to direct your teaching / learning for the day.
  4. Use the tree to give a visual organization of different types of poetry: Branches can be types with individual leaves holding representative poems as examples.  Variation -- poetry terminology with examples as the leaves.  Of course this would require more branches . . . 
  5. This is a perfect opportunity for a mini-research project.  Assign (or have them choose) each child a poet and have them do the research.  All research should be written on the leaf -- short and sweet but a great opportunity to teach the basics in that area as well.
  6. For very young children (this is what I'm going to do with my 3 year old), place flashcards on one side with pairs of rhyming words.  Introduce your children to rhyme and have them pick leaves from the tree and match the rhyming pairs.  Variation: if your child is a beginning reader, have them use it to practice sight words or understand how words can rhyme but not be spelled exactly the same.

 These flashcards are a combination of Winnie the Pooh and Playskool beginning word sets that I picked up at the dollar store.  I'm pretty sure though that I have seen rhyming flash cards at Target in their dollar aisles as we get closer to the beginning of school.

If you're less artistically inclined than even I, use a real or fake tree as your base and embellish from there.

I know there are many more ways to use this and if you're willing to share, I would love to hear your lightbulbs!  Have fun with it and use it to celebrate poetry, not wallow in it.