Thursday, April 23, 2009

Poem definitions

Here’s something different:
a poetry collection presented as a sly dictionary of 51 challenging vocabulary words with clever poem definitions. From “aggregate” to “gregarious” to “lugubrious” to “refute” to “wistful,” poet and teacher Michael Salinger personifies each word in ways that suggest attributes and defining characteristics—making the word memorable and visual for kids (especially tweens and teens) who want to expand their word knowledge.

A table of contents (with the part of speech for each word designated) lists all the featured words, and an introduction by the author provides a bit of overall context. The small (5 X 7) trim size is appealingly pocket-sized and cartoonist Sam Henderson offers doodly pen and ink elliptical people for many of the poems.

Each poem begins with the vocabulary word in bold and then includes a description or list that gives the highlighted word a personality all its own. They're light on rhyme, but strong on structure, and built upon personification. Many of the poems end with a pair of clever end lines with a twist or surprise. A one-line straight definition of each word appears at the bottom of the page in small print. Here’s one example:

Obsolete is absolutely useless
although in the past
he was reasonably handy

time—it kept on ticking and he
just never bothered to adapt
so now he gets passed over

sits in the corner collecting dust

his colors are fading

his chrome has started to rust

but don’t feel too bad for obsolete

his future is not completely bleak
as long as he keeps hanging on

eventually he’ll become an antique.

[obsolete: no longer useful; outmoded]

Salinger, Michael. 2009. Well Defined; Vocabulary in Rhyme. Ill. by Sam Henderson. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press, 46.

I think it would be fun to use this as an example for a class project with kids working alone or in pairs on a designated word, creating vocab-poems that can then be combined in a class book. Challenge them to cover the alphabet with words from A to Z. What a great way to prepare or review for vocabulary tests or the SAT or ACT exams!

Image credit:

Posting (not poem) by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2009. All rights reserved.


laurasalas said...

Cool and clever! I think he's speaking at IRA next week. I'm off to see if that's right...

Sylvia Vardell said...

I'm envious at the gathering at the upcoming IRA conference-- which can be a great event. And I'm always nostalgic about Minnesota since I lived there for 5 years at got my PhD from U of M. Go gophers! Don't miss those winters though... :-)

BTW, I just got my hands on CHATTER, SING, ROAR, BUZZ which I must blog about soon. And I didn't realize that you've written TEN of these Capstone poetry books! WOW! Must. Find. Them. Now!