Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Poetry in the Classroom - Down on the Farm

The folks from Virginia's Agriculture in Classroom visited my classroom this week to share information and resources with my preservice teachers. In thinking about their work, I decided this was a good time to share some of my favorite farm poetry.
Our Farm: By the Animals of Farm Sanctuary, written by Maya Gottfried and illustrated by Robert Rahway Zakanitch, is a collection of mask poems in which the animals describe their lives. All of the animals in the book lived or still live at Farm Sanctuary, a shelter for once neglected and abused farm animals. Watch the video below to hear Gottfried talk about the book and read two of the poems.

The illustrations were created using watercolors, pencil, and ink and are beautifully paired with the poems. The expressive faces of the animals stand out and quietly enhance the voices in the mask poems. It is as if the pictures are speaking.

On the Farm, written by David Elliott and illustrated by Holly Meade, is a collection of twelve poems about farm animals (rooster, cow, sheep, goat, pig), as well as some creatures that are often found on farm property (turtle, snake, bees). The poems are descriptive, rhythmic, and playful. Accompanied by vibrant woodblock prints and watercolor, the poems and illustrations form a perfect pairing. Here's a sample poem.
The Sheep

Began his woolly life
as gentle as a
lamb. Too bad
he turned
into a

Poem ©David Elliott. All rights reserved.
Once in the Country: Poems of a Farm, written by Tony Johnston and illustrated by Thomas B. Allen, celebrates life on the farm throughout the year. The eighteen poems celebrate everything from overalls and fences to a mule and an old dog. The young girl pictured in the soft pastel illustrations describes the people, animals, events and things that are part of her life on the farm. Here is one of my favorite poems.

Come evening, in the fading light,
I go to the barn to say goodnight--
To the plow horse chewing in his stall,
To a brown mouse hiding in the wall,
To pigeons coming out of sight,
To little bats in velvet flight.
I whisper, quiet as I can,
To the quiet lump of sleeping lambs.

Poem ©Tony Johnston. All rights reserved.
Growing up next to a dairy farm cemented a special place in my heart for cows. As a result, I find that I have great love for the book How Now, Brown Cow?, written by Alice Schertle and illustrated by Amanda Schaffer. This collection of 15 poems is smart and lyrical and a fine example of different poetic forms. The teacher in me finds this poem a terrific vehicle for exploring sounds and spelling.
Consider Cow

Consider cow
which rhymes
with bough
but not
with rough.
That's clear

Remember moo
will rhyme
with through
but not
with trough
or though
or tough.

You've got
it now:
There's dough
and bough
and cough
and through
and mough . . .
er, moo.

Poem ©Alice Schertle. All rights reserved.
Though not a book about the farm, A Lucky Thing, written by Alice Schertle and illustrated by Wendell Minor, contains a number of farm-related poems. You'll find a poem about the barn, a weather vane, a rooster, chickens in a coop, a scarecrow, and sheep. Here's the first stanza of the scarecrow poem.

Last night, alone, he saw the rising moon
set silver fires among his stalks of corn
and watched the tassels burn like candlewicks.
At dawn he saw the noisy crows return.
They know him for a friend, this man of sticks
in boots that dangle just above the dirt,
the handle of a rake shoved through his shirt.

Poem ©Alice Schertle. All rights reserved.
Now that I've got you thinking about farms and farm animals, here are some resources for further exploring farm life.
  • The 4-H Virtual Farm lets kids tour a farm and learn how different aspects are run.
  • The Farm Animals page at Exploring Nature Educational Resource provides coloring pages and information about typical farm animals in North America.
  • Barnyard Palace describes how animals on a farm are raised and provides interesting facts about them.
  • Here are some fun facts about agriculture you can share.
  • Check out Kids Farm to learn about animals and people that live and work on a ranch in Colorado.
  • Domino's Pizza has a web site/game that shows how all their ingredients get from farm to pizza.
  • Family Farms Around the World is a site listing web pages for more than 150 farms in 40 states and 18 countries around the world. Most include information about life on their farm, animals, crops, wildlife, marketing, problems, economics, soil, climate, and other information of interest to farmers, students, and the general public.
  • There are many good children's books on agricultural topics.
That's it for today. If I've missed a favorite book of farm poetry or a great resource, please let me know.


  1. Great post! Children benifit so much from understanding farms and farm animals. I take my city kids to a county fair every year. We have goats visit our classroom and we hatch chickens in an incubator. It's a great way to learn.

  2. Tricia,

    Have you seen "Buttercup's Lovely Day"--a collection of poems about a day in the life of a cow? It was written by Carolyn Beck, illustrated by Andrea Beck, and published Orca Book Publishers in 2008.

    Here's a link to my Wild Rose Reader review of "Our Farm." The post includes videos taken at Farm Sanctuary.