Saturday, April 26, 2008

Poetry in the Classroom - Counting Books and Poetry

There are many, many counting books available these days. Some are even written in rhyme, but two of my favorites are actually books of poems.

One Leaf Rides the Wind, written by Celeste Davidson Mannis and illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung, is set in a Japanese garden where a young girl counts the things she sees, like bonsai, koi, and lotus flowers. The left side of each spread contains an illustration of the objects being counted. These are gorgeous pieces done with oil paint glazes on sealed paper. On the right side of each spread is the printed numeral, a haiku describing the objects, and a footnote introducing readers to various aspects of traditional Japanese culture. Here is an example.
Hoping for some crumbs,
they nibble at my fingers.
Nine glittering koi.

Koi fish are admired for their colorful appearance and
hardiness. They are also a popular symbol of
determination and strength. Ancient legend tells of a koi
fish that struggled up a huge waterfall in order to be
transformed into a dragon.
The book ends with a brief description of the Japanese garden and some information about haiku. This is a quiet, beautiful counting book that also serves as a wonderful introduction to haiku.

Ten Times Better, written by Richard Michelson and illustrated by Leonard Baskin, is a collection of dueling poems in which an animal describes a feature it is proud of, such as the three toes on a sloth, only to be bested by an animal that is ten times better in some way. The three-toed sloth is bested by the centipede, which has thirty feet. Here is an example from 7 and 70.
My mask makes me look like a bandit in jail,
but my number's heavenly--count on my tail.
I have SEVEN halos, that's how I perceive it.
Raccoons into stealing? Don't you believe it!

Seven? Good heavens! So what? Count my spots.
I'm TEN TIMES BETTER. Giraffes have...well, lots.
Me, I have SEVENTY just on my neck.
Heck, you can count them yourself. C'mon check.
You can view some sample images from the book at the author's web site. The watercolor images provide exceptional views of the animals and provide opportunities for counting. Yes, there are actually 60 teeth in the mouth of the alligator, I counted them! The book ends with an extensive section of information on each of the animals highlighted. In addition to basic information, readers are challenged to solve a math problem. Here is what you'll find for giraffe.
Giraffes are the tallest land animals. Baby giraffes are over six feet tall when they are born.
Every giraffe's neck has a unique pattern of spots.
Their necks alone grow taller than the tallest person.

A baby giraffe can stand on its own ten minutes after birth and it can run within ten hours. Even a small baby giraffe is TEN TIMES HEAVIER than a huge human baby. If that baby weights eleven pounds at birth (most weight seven to eight pounds), how much might a small baby giraffe weigh?
The final page of the book contains and index to the animals and answers to all the math questions posed in the informational section. Counting from 1 to 10 and in multiples from 10 to 100, this is a unique and imaginative counting book.

If you are interested in extending these topics in your classroom, these resources may come in handy.

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