Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Happy Day 100

Today is the 100th day of 2008. Many schools use this as an occasion to teach young children about math, gathering 100 of some object (paperclips, canned goods, etc.) to count, sort and categorize. 100 seems like such a big number when you’re 4 or 5 and counting to 100 is an enormous accomplishment! So, let’s make a poetry connection with this 100th day. Look for the poetry of Betsy Franco who loves to weave math into poetry. In fact, find her collection, Counting Our Way to the 100th Day! She shares a sample poem on her Web site:

One Hundred Puddles
by Betsy Franco

One hundred puddles make a pond.

One hundred ponds would make a lake.

One hundred lakes would make a sea.

Just add some salt and sail with me.

One hundred drops can be a cloud.

One hundred clouds can be a storm.

One hundred storms is winter weather.
Let's make a fire and read together.

One hundred words can be a poem.

One hundred poems can be a book.

One hundred books can fill a shelf.

Come read of dragons, bears, and elves.


And while I’m at it, allow me to mention Betsy’s professional resource book, Conversations with a Poet, Inviting Poetry into K-12 Classrooms (Richard C. Owen, 2005). I’ve posted about Betsy before (on her birthday on August 15, 2007) and had the chance to work with her when she presented on my poetry panel at ALA last summer. I knew she had compiled these wonderful collections of poetry BY teens, as well as authored many nature and math-themed poetry books of her own, but I had not realized that she had also created this lovely guide for grown ups. (Thanks, Richard, for bringing this to my attention.) It’s much like Georgia Heard’s work (For the Good of the Earth and Sun; Teaching Poetry and Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School) since it represents the POET’S perspective and focuses on guiding children in writing poetry and understanding its varying forms. She calls it a “frank discussion of writing and teaching poetry from a poet’s point of view.”

But Betsy offers even more nuts and bolts that the classroom teacher or librarian or parent will find tremendously helpful. She provides discussion questions to guide talking about poetry (which should help reduce the intimidation factor that so many people seem to face), tips for teacher demonstration, warm ups and poetry starters, even a helpful and sound rubric for assessing student efforts (that is very positive and not punitive).

Her section on 16 poetry forms is a gem all by itself. For each form (from acrostics to haiku to sestinas), she offers background info, characteristics of, how to approach this with younger or older students, samples, and listings of other examples. She even offers what she calls “think throughs” that describe what the poet is thinking when writing or responding to a poem. She also provides “read through” lessons designed to be read aloud verbatim, if desired. That may sound odd, but they are clear and concise and in a charming voice—so helpful for teachers who just feel at a loss in talking about poetry. A glossary of poetry terms with examples also helps demystify poetry jargon. These tools will all help jumpstart the dialogue about poetry that comes so naturally for some and not at all for others. Check it out. It’s a great addition to any professional library on sharing poetry with kids.

Picture credit: amazon and

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