Monday, April 21, 2008

Poetry in the Classroom - Colorful Poetry

I have been focused on the teaching of patterns and classification in the last week, and find myself coming back to the trait of color over and over again. Color often plays an important part (if not integral) in the way we describe and define things in the world around us. In the case of poetry, color often helps set a mood. However, in this set of books, the poems are all about color.

Hailstones and Halibut Bones, written by Mary O'Neill and illustrated by John Wallner, is a collection of 13 poems, each about a different color. First published in 1961, it was updated in 1989 with gorgeous new illustrations. All the poems in this volume are titled What is __? (Fill in the blank with a color.) Here is an excerpt from one of the poems.
What is Red?
Red is a sunset
Blazy and bright.
Red is feeling brave
With all your might.
Red is a sunburn
Spot on your nose,
Sometimes red
Is a red, red rose.
Red squiggles out
When you cut your hand.
Red is a brick and
A rubber band.
The poems in this book are all filled with a keen sense of observation. In some cases, reading them makes you say, "Oh yes, that IS red!" (or green, blue or some other color). Nearly 50 years old, these poems have stood the test of time.

Color Me a Rhyme: Nature Poems for Young People, written by Jane Yolen with photographs by Jason Stemple, is a collection of 13 poems about 11 colors. Each double-page spread contains a poem (two if the form is haiku) about one color, and is accompanied by one or more color photographs. Synonyms for the color are scattered around each page. The page for purple contains this poem.
I have no rhyme for purple.
But each purple flower in the forest
is a poem.
Synonyms on this page include amethyst, lavender, plum and violet. The final poem, Crayons: A Rainbow Poem, describes the enormous variety of colors in the natural world and in the skin color of the people who inhabit it.

Flashy, Clashy, and Oh-So Splashy: Poems About Color, by Laura Purdie Salas, is a collection of 15 color-themed poems. Each one is accompanied by a gorgeous photograph. The colors are vibrant, with poems adding to the exuberance. One poem begins this way.
I'm flashy
and clashy
and beautifully
and everyone notices me!
Can you guess what color this poem was written for?
One of my favorite poems is accompanied by a close-up photo of a cow. Here is an excerpt.
Cow Colors
coat with
spots of

eyes in
slow deep

and blacks,
you think
I won't spoil the ending, but it's just lovely and totally fits with the image.

This book not only includes poems, but also an informational section on the language of poetry that includes definitions of poetic forms and devices. These descriptions are connected to examples in the book. After this you will find a glossary of words from the poems that early readers may not know, and a list of related books and Internet sites.

I recommend matching any of these books with Steve Jenkins' book Living Color, which looks at animals (66 of them!) in color groups and explores the role that color plays in the life of that animal. For example, in looking at red animals red could mean:
  • I’m all grown up (some animals change color upon reaching adulthood).
  • You can’t see us (great description of light).
  • It must have been something I ate (imagine turning pink from eating so much red food!).
The book ends with an afterword explaining more about coloration. This is followed by a pictorial appendix that includes approximate sizes for each of the book's creatures.

If you are interested in exploring more about the topic of color, check out some of these resources.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for mentioning my Color poems books. What a bright thing on a grey day here in Glasgow! \having a blast in Scotland so far. :>)