Sunday, April 06, 2008

Poetry in the Classroom - Lighting it Up

While I can always find many poems for teaching life science and earth science topics, physical science is another story entirely. Poems about energy, sound and matter are much harder to come by. I do, however, have two collections of poems that are wonderful resources for teaching about light in all its forms.

Flicker Flash, written by Joan Bransfield Graham and illustrated by Nancy Davis, is a collection of 23 concrete poems about light in various forms or things that give off light. Here you will find poems on the sun, a candle, match, lightning, firefly, porch light, light bulb, lighthouse, and much more. Since these are concrete poems they are impossible to reproduce here, but you can preview some of the pages at Google Book Search. One of my favorite poems in the book is Lighthouse, which begins this way.
of the
sky, you
your arms
and flash
your eye
This is a cleverly conceived book that provides many opportunities for exploring light in a myriad of forms with young readers.

Light & Shadow, by Myra Cohn Livingston, is a collection of 14 poems accompanied by the photographs of Barbara Rogasky. This is a quiet book that reflects on light and shadow as it accompanies us through the day. The photos and poems work so beautifully together that I have to wonder if the pictures were chosen to accompany the poems, or if the poems were written in response the images. Whatever the case, they make astounding pairs. The book opens with the poem Daylight and a picture of the morning sunrise. Here is the poem.
Light jumps
out of gray dawn
pushing a yellow ball

of earth and sea,
shoving it higher than

higher than the
tallest of all mountains
where it

circles the earth,
exploding the sky with
This is a beautifully written book that demonstrates how light often has a life of its own.

Many teachers enjoy using the Robert Louis Stevenson poem My Shadow when studying this topic. Here it is.
I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.

The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow--
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an India-rubber ball,
And he sometimes goes so little that there's none of him at all.

He hasn't got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
He stays so close behind me, he's a coward you can see;
I'd think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!

One morning, very early, before the Sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.
I have seen three illustrated books that take very different approaches to the poem. I don't think any do justice to the poem, but you'll need to decide if any of them "work" for you.
  • My Shadow, illustrated by Ted Rand, highlights children from all over the world playing with their shadows. This version is a Reading Rainbow book. My problem with it is that poem is told from the perspective of a single child, yet in many of the illustrations, groups of children are depicted.
  • My Shadow, illustrated by Monique Felix, presents the poem through the eyes of a mouse. This book is visually pleasing, however, some of the wording in the poem has been changed to better fit the illustrations. For example, the word children has been replaced with mice, nursie with mom, and arrant with errant.
  • My Shadow, illustrated by Glenna Lang, follows a young girl's as she travels through a "dream nightscape" with her shadow companion. The travels here are cast by the moon (noon in the poem is depicted as midnight). Scientifically, this one has some serious problems.
(Please note that there is still another version illustrated by Penny Dale, but I have not seen it and, therefore, cannot review it.)

If you are looking for some additional resources for teaching about light and shadows, you may find these to be useful.

No comments:

Post a Comment