Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday Poetry Stretch - Kodachrome

Over the last few weeks I have been scanning slides and revisiting old family photos. My uber-cute brother and sister are in the picture below! Don't you just love those Easter basket sunglasses?
While immersed in this project I've been reminded me of a story NPR ran a few years ago about a photo historian who found an archive of more than 14,000 photos taken by Charles W. Cushman. Cushman began using Kodachrome soon after it came out and used it to capture the world in ways it had never been seen before. 

You can hear the story at The Found Archive of Charles W. Cushman. Better yet, you can see some of the photos at Lost and Found: Discover a Black-and-White Era in Full Color.

Our family slides are not great works of art, but they contain an awful lot of history. I'm amazed that this array of images has captured the evolution of the television, clothing, hairstyles, and cars. So, today I'm thinking about old kodachrome and photographs. I hope you'll join me this week in writing about them. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Tuesday Poetry Stretch - Lipogram

I looked back over the last month and realized I have failed to post a stretch for several weeks now. Mea culpa, mea culpa. If you only knew about all the crazy things happening in my life! Please forgive my absence here. I've missed writing with you! I have been working on a project with the Poetry Princesses that I hope will be unveiled in a few short weeks.

That said, today I'm thinking about the lipogram. A lipogram is a piece of writing that avoids one or more letters of the alphabet. You can read more about lipograms at A.Word.A.Day.

Here is an example of a lipogram. It comes from Gadsby, the 1939 story (more than 50,000 words!) by Ernest Vincent Wright that does not contain the letter E.
"Now, any author, from history's dawn, always had that most important aid to writing: an ability to call upon any word in his dictionary in building up his story. That is, our strict laws as to word construction did not block his path. But in my story that mighty obstruction will constantly stand in my path; for many an important, common word I cannot adopt, owing to its orthography."
Here's another form of lipogram favored by JonArno Lawson in A VOWELLER'S BESTIARY. This alphabet book is based on vowel combinations rather than initial letters. The lipograms in this book exclude certain vowels from each set and include each of the vowels in the word. Here's an example.
Excerpt from  "Moose"
(p. 30) 
Yellow-toothed wolves
lope somewhere close, rove homeless over broken slopes,
overwhelm moose's forest home.
Moose seldom welcome wolves.

So, which letter or letters will you slight? Write a poem this week omitting one or more letters. I Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Poetry Friday Is On!

Welcome friends to Poetry Friday! I'm thrilled to be your host this week. Today I'm sharing a bit of Robert Frost. He's the one poet I revisit every fall. Whether it's Gathering Leaves, Nothing Gold Can Stay, or After Apple Picking, Frost puts me in the mood for my favorite season.

October
by Robert Frost

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.

Read the poem in its entirety.


I'm rounding this one up old-school style, so please leave a note with a link to your offering in the comments. Happy poetry Friday all!

*************************
Amy Ludwig VanDerwater shares an original poem entitled Each Seed.

Robyn Hood Black shares the work of Grace Futral, the haiku student poet of the month.

Bridget Magee shares an original poem about election season.

Carol Varsalona shares the poem Pretty Words by Elinor Wylie and some thoughts on crafting a poem.

Violet Nesdoly shares an original poem on the allure of fall.

Donna Smith shares an original poem written for a poetry prompt, as well as a found poem created from the lines of other challenge-takers!

Julie Larios shares all kinds of good stuff, including her thoughts the connection between creativity and home, her month-long trip to Oaxaca, and a poem by Nelson Bentley.

Heidi Mordhorst shares a poem by Valerie Worth and her thoughts on using the poem for instruction.

Laura Shovan shares an original poem inspired by the recent eclipse of the full moon.

Michelle Heinrich Barnes shares a poem by Keri Collins Lewis on the season.

Mary Lee Hahn shares a poem by Walt Whitman and some thoughts on science and creativity.

Tara Smith is still thinking of summer and shares the poem Summer Tomatoes by Karina Borowicz.

Laura Purdie Salas shares an original riddle-ku.

Margaret Simon shares the results of students writing zenos.

Jama Rattigan shares excerpts from the rhyming picture book BAKING DAY AT GRANDMA'S by Anika and Christopher Denise and a recipe for chocolate cake! Yum! (Notice which part of the Friday Feast description I've chosen as the link!)

Diane Mayr has lots of goodies today. At Random Noodling she shares some Edgar Allan Poe. At Kurious Kitty she shares a bit of Billy Collins.

Matt Forest Esenwine shares an original zeno.

Tabatha Yeatts shares day a poem by Hong Kong poet Leung Ping-kwan.

Ruth shares several versions of the Pangur Ban poem in honor of their new kitten of the same name.

Linda Baie shares some early Naomi Shihab Nye.

Catherine Johnson shares two original zombie poems.

Joy Acey shares a skeleton poem and a poetry prompt.

Jone MacCulloch shares some thoughts on poetry books and reminds us to NOMINATE BOOKS FOR THE CYBILS!

Charles Waters updates on the good things happening in his life since moving to the Big Apple and shares an original poem.

Tanita Davis stopped in to wave hello from Kidlitcon. She has a poem, and as soon as I have a link I'll post it! Have fun all you folks participating in Kidlitcon this weekend. I wish I was there.

Jeannine Atkins shares some thoughts on writing and a quote from Frost.

Doraine Bennett shares the poem Invitation From a Mole by Alice Schertle.

Little Willow shares the poem For Women Who Are Difficult to Love by Warsan Shire.

Karen Edmisten shares an original poem on Lemony Snicket.

Catherine Flynn shares Poem Without End by Yehuda Aichai.

Andi Sibley shares a review of the book JOSEPHINE: THE DAZZLING LIFE OF JOSEPHINE BAKER by Patricia Hruby Powell.

Ramona shares her experiences promoting the Poetry Storybox project.

Sherry shares the poem October's Bright Blue Weather by Helen Hunt Jackson.

Joyce Ray highlights a new journal of ekphrastic poetry.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Poetry Friday - Zombie Poetry

Yesterday at lunch my son and I were having a major discussion (that included math) over the check and tip. As I was explaining my thinking, the conversation took an unexpected turn.

Son: Mom, did you just do all that math in your head?
Me: Yes, I did.
Son: Wow. If I were a zombie I'd totally eat your brain first.

A strange compliment if I ever heard one, but I know exactly what his 13 year old mind was thinking!

That conversation got me thinking about zombies and poetry. (Yes, I know my mind works in strange ways!) Did you know there was a book of zombie poetry?
You can download a free sample. You can also listen to the poem Rebirth is Always Painful.

In 2012 The New York Times ran an article on zombie poetry.

Finally, while doing a bit of searching, I came across this little gem.

Midnight Snack
by David Piper

The sound of plates and glasses clinking
Woke me up quite late last night.
And from the kitchen something stinking
Gave me, well, a nasty fright.

Read the poem in its entirety. (It also contains a lovely bit of artwork.)


I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Laura Purdie Salas at Writing the World for Kids. Happy poetry Friday friends!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Poetry Friday - Saved From the Discard Pile

I've frequented some library sales and second hand bookstores recently and have added some lovely titles to my poetry collection. Today I'm sharing two poems from the book Sweet Corn: Poems by James Stevenson.

Screen Door

When fog blurs the morning,
Porches glisten, shingles drip.
Droplets gather on the green screen door.
"Look," they say to one another.
"Look how dry it is inside."


Ladder

The ladder leaning against the barn
Is like the man who used to use it:
Strong at the beginning,
Okay in the middle,
A few rungs missing at the end.


Poem ©James Stevenson. All rights reserved.


I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at The Poem Farm. Happy poetry Friday friends!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Poetry Friday - The Gray of Day

I've been reading some terrific new poetry books this week, so today I'm sharing a lovely poem from the book EVERYTHING IS A POEM: THE BEST OF J. PATRICK LEWIS.

The Gray of Day

Shy Evening paints all heaven gray,
Erasing blue from balmy Day,

Uncolors brute box elders, oaks,
And elms with even, gentle strokes,

Then finds the houses, whereupon
She dabs her brush ... their lights come on

As if two dozen stars fell down
To twinkle life into the town.

But Evening's easel leaves undone
One mischief streak of western Sun

To grace the masterpiece she drew—
Still Live: An Evening's Point of View

Till he robs her of fading light,
That thief of art, black-hearted Night.

Poem ©J. Patrick Lewis. All rights reserved.


I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Renée LaTulippe at No Water River. Happy poetry Friday friends!

Monday, September 08, 2014

Monday Poetry Stretch - Polysemantic words

I'm always inspired and a bit in awe when I read a poem that uses the same word in multiple ways. I often wish I were this clever. However, I've begun to think that like many things, getting better is a matter of practice.

Polysemantic words are words that have multiple, diverse meanings. I often share these words in math and science to highlight just how confusing content vocabulary can be for students. Think about the word scale. Scale can be:
  • an instrument used to measure weight or mass
  • the outer covering on a reptile or fish
  • a proportion between two sets of dimensions
  • a series of musical tones in ascending or descending order
  • the act of climbing 
I'm sure you can think of many words that have multiple meanings. Your challenge this week is to pick a polysemantic word and use it in multiple ways in a poem of any form. I hope you will join me. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.

Elementary School Homework and Reading in Math and Science

Yesterday I read a post by Donalyn Miller entitled No More Language Arts and Crafts. It struck a chord with me as I thought about how we try to motivate kids to read, and all the ways we get it wrong.

First, let me respond to this by telling you about a little rant I usually end up making during the first weeks of the semester. It generally occurs when I teach students how to write lesson plans and we get to the section labeled homework. I've seen a lot of bad homework over the years, as a parent and a teacher educator reading lesson plans. It seems that no one really thinks about why we give homework. What purpose does it serve? How does it advance what you're doing in the classroom? Is it absolutely necessary? Homework should be given because it is beneficial to student learning, and not because it's "school policy."

There has been a lot of research done on the effects of homework. One of the best introductions to this is the Educational Leadership piece The Case For and Against Homework.

I do tell my students (future teachers) that I think a worksheet with 25 problems is a terrible idea for math homework. I would rather see students solve one good problem and explain how they did it than use rote skills to complete a series of problems that doesn't do much to engage their brains. Also, too many teachers assign homework as practice long before students are ready to tackle the problems on their own.

Ultimately, my suggestion for elementary school homework is "Read, play, and puzzle."
Read - Reading for homework is a no-brainer, and EVERYTHING and ANYTHING should count. How can we ever hope to build stamina if kids don't sit and read? Kids should be read to and read on their own. Please don't tell me that wordless picture books and graphic novels don't count. You won't convince me that reading David Wiesner's wordless book Flotsam is any less challenging or engaging than a "traditional" picture book with words. Or that the graphic novel The Great American Dust Bowl by Don Brown isn't a masterpiece of history and science, weaving together sourced facts in an accurate historical narrative. 
Play - Kids weren't meant to sit in a chair all day long. They need time to run, play, imagine, create, and do all kinds of things the curriculum doesn't allow them to do. When kids get home from school the first order of business shouldn't be homework. They should be allowed to run and play outside, ride a bike, walk the dog, catch frogs (if they do that sort of thing), climb trees, and more. They should build with LEGO and GoldiBlox, draw pictures, build train track, topple dominoes, play board games, and more. Play is just as important as structured learning, and kids don't get enough of it today.  
Puzzle - When was the last time you sat down to solve a puzzle and did it for fun? I do this all the time. Sudoku, crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, logic problems, tangrams ... I could go on. Puzzles are good for the brain. They develop critical thinking and problem solving skills. They teach kids to persevere, guess and check, collaborate with others, and try a whole host of new strategies. Can you think of a better training ground for mathematical thinking than puzzling? Now imagine if your teacher encouraged you to do this for homework. 

Let me bring this back to reading and how we document what kids do. When I taught middle school science I had a large classroom library. Most of the books were nonfiction of the Eyewitness variety, though I had a lot of books by Patricia Lauber and Seymour Simon. Every Friday one class of kids went home with a book from my library. EVERY KID. There were no reading logs, no book report forms, no AR tests. The books came back on Thursday and each child gave a quick book talk. These were informal. We sat in a circle, they held up their books, gave the title and author, and then gave a general overview and one cool thing they learned. Each student was given one minute. The hardest part of the assignment? Cutting kids off at the one-minute mark so everyone had a chance to speak. I only lost two books in the three years I did this. Kids didn't forget to bring them back. They often wanted to keep books longer than the week. And you know what? THEY WANTED TO READ. The bonus for me was that they were learning a lot of science on their own and from their peers. During the week they had their books there were lots of side conversations about what they were reading.

Isn't this what we want? Kids excited about reading and what they are learning? Yes, I think so.

I've been working on a series of "homework" bags to share with my classes. The math bags contain a book and a game (with all the materials and directions to play). Homework is reading and play. The beauty is that the play is mathematically oriented, so kids are practicing and reinforcing basic skills. The science bags contain a pair of linked books, usually a nonfiction or poetry title with a picture book. For example, one bag pairs a copy of the book An Island Grows by Lola Schaefer with the book Volcano Rising by Elizabeth Rusch. Where I can include cheap materials and activity ideas, I may just do that. 

Ultimately, I don't want reading or homework to be a chore. I want kids to be engaged and thinking. I don't believe homework should be given out per some classroom policy, but should be thoughtfully devised and intentionally planned. If we do this, it will make a difference.