Friday, April 11, 2014

Science Poetry Pairings - Animal Senses

Teaching the five senses is an important part of the elementary science curriculum. While we generally focus on how humans use their senses to explore and understand the world around them, we don't often think about how animals use their senses to thrive and survive in the wild.

Today's book trio is all about how animals experience the world around them.

Poetry Book
Animal Sense, written by Diane Ackerman and illustrated by Peter Sís, explores the ways that animals navigate the world using their senses. This book is also divided into five sections, each representing one of the senses. The poems are funny and clever and occasionally include made-up words. This book begins:

A stapler with its tiny fangs
cannot outwit

Rocks are very good at sitting
but never walk
or take up knitting.

Living things all feel the sense
their way through
every happenstance. . . .
Organized into sections for touch, hearing, vision, smell, and taste, 3 different animals are highlighted in each. Here's my favorite poem from the section on hearing.
Baby birds aren't born knowing their song.
They babble at first and just hum along, 
learning to sing when they're downy and young
by listening hard, then rehearsing for fun. 
Whistle a made-up tune, and before long
the baby birds will pipe out your new song. 
It's pretty, no, when a whippoorwill throws
the boomerang of its voice across summer meadows? 
Still, you could teach it a lullaby or simple ding-dong,
and it wouldn't question you or get the notes wrong. 
A bird does not sing because is has an answer.
It sings because it has a song.
Poem © Diane Ackerman. All rights reserved.

Voices from the Wild: An Animal Sensagoria, written by David Bouchard and illustrated by Ron Parker, was awarded the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award in 1997. In this collection of imaginative and expressive poems, animals relate the ways in which a particular sense helps them hunt, avoid predators, and care for their young. The book is divided into five sections, one for each of the senses (sight, smell, touch, hearing, and taste). Each section features five poems, each one accompanied by a lifelike painting of the animal.

Here are the first two stanzas of the poem that precedes these sections.
Have you ever stopped to think
About each of nature's children?
Have you ever stopped to wonder
Who got what, and how and why?
Who was given the best of each sense? 
Is the vision of the eagle
Any better than the cougar's?
Can the owl hear that much more
Thank its prey, the nervous hare?
If all other things were equal,
Who could smell from greatest distance?
And if one would like to know,
Who to ask to find the answer?
What to ask and who would answer?
At the end of each sense section is a short poem asking where humans are in all this discussion. Here's the poem that follows the section on sight.
What of humans? What's the reason
That we've not be featured here?
What has happened to our eyesight
That our focus is so narrow,
That we see but what's before us,
And then only in the light?
What about us as you see it?
What has happened to our sight?

Finally, here's an excerpt from the touch poem about the raccoon.
When I put my foot in water,
That's the way I test its worth.
Is it rotten? Is it wholesome?
This is how I learn the truth.
I don't smell it, I don't taste it,
I just use my hands to feel it.
Poems © David Bouchard. All rights reserved.

At the end of the sections on senses is a final poem about humans and their exclusion from each of the categories. The back matter includes a page for each of the senses with factual information about each of the animals pictured and described in the poems.

Nonfiction Picture Book
What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? , written by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page and illustrated by Steve Jenkins, is a Caldecott honor book that examines the function of ears, eyes, noses and other body parts. Each double-page spread pictures a body part of several different animals, such as noses, accompanied by the question, "What do you do with a _____ like this?" The next double-page spread shows each animal and includes an explanation of how the part functions. Here's an excerpt.
What do you do with ears like these? 
If you're a jackrabbit, you use your ears to keep cool.
If you're a bat, you "see" with your ears.
If you're a hippopotamus, you close your ears when you're under water.
If you're a cricket, you hear with ears that are on your knees.
If you're a humpback whale, you hear sounds hundreds of miles away.
Text © Steve Jenkins & Robin Page. All rights reserved.

Back matter includes additional information about each of the animals highlighted.

Perfect Together
After reading several poems on how different animals make use of the same sense, share the appropriate set of pages from the Jenkins/Page book. First look at the "teaser" pictures and try to determine which animals are being pictured. Then turn the page and read about how the animals use that body part. After this, select one animal and ask students to brainstorm some words and/or phrases that might be useful in a poem describing how the animals uses this sense. Write their ideas on sentence strips. Once you have a number of suggestions, rearrange them and put together a class poem. After you have collaboratively written a poem or two, encourage children to write their own poems that focus on animal senses.

For additional resources, consider these sites.

1 comment:

  1. Depending in species, some birds are born knowing their songs, some have to be taught.--Jane Yolen