Friday, November 20, 2015


Time again to pause and think about the many things we are grateful for in our lives-- like this online community of poetry lovers, for example. Thank YOU for continuing to support my little blog and the field of poetry for young people all around. What a privilege it is. But I always like to balance the serious with some silliness too. So, I hope you'll indulge my sharing this nutty Thanksgiving-themed poem from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations (with thanks to Brod Bagert, too). The "artistic" interpretation, however, is mine (with thanks to Matt Groening).

I'll be sharing this poem this afternoon at my NCTE presentation (with Janet Wong, Laura Purdie Salas, and Susan Marie). If I had any cheerleading experience, I think it would be a hoot to choreograph this as a cheer with the staccato motions and gestures that cheerleaders use. But, I'm just going to rely on my "Take 5" activities from the Celebrations book:

Take 5
  1. Before reading the poem aloud, ask children to close their eyes and envision a Thanksgiving gathering and meal. Then read the poem aloud with enthusiasm.
  2. Read the poem aloud again and invite children to chime in on the second line of each three-line stanza (echoing you and the first line) and then on the final word, YOU!
  3. As a group, talk about favorite Thanksgiving foods and traditions.
  4. Pair this poem with the picture book Duck for Turkey Day by Jacqueline Jules (Albert Whitman, 2009) and discuss the many “right ways” to celebrate Thanksgiving.
  5. Connect this poem with “‘Break-Fast’ at Night” by Ibtisam Barakat (June, pages 180-181) and with selections from Thanksgiving Day at Our House: Thanksgiving Poems for the Very Young by Nancy White Carlstrom (Aladdin, 2002) and Holiday Stew: A Kid’s Portion of Holiday and Seasonal Poems by Jenny Whitehead (Henry Holt, 2007).
If you're looking for more holiday poems for November and December, we have a wonderful assortment to share in classrooms, libraries, and at family gatherings. Here's a select list from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations:

And don't forget to check out the rest of the Poetry Friday fun over at Miss Rumphius where Tricia has a bit of Robert Frost to share!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Science + Poetry + Movement

I just presented a session at an area conference of the National Science Teachers Association in Philadelphia (along with Janet Wong) and what a great crowd we had! Plus, walking the exhibit hall I learned about Science Friday, a weekly radio program (now with podcasts and more) that's been around for 25 years. We talked with them about linking POETRY Friday with SCIENCE Friday! I'll keep you posted on how that develops. We also ran into "Ben Franklin" and shared a poem about him from one of our books-- that was a hoot. He seemed to genuinely enjoy that moment too. He even asked to have our picture taken with HIS camera! We talked about how poets are like scientists in their careful observations, focus on details, and sharing of their "findings!" And of course, we shared tons of poems (and Take 5 activities).  One of the most popular was this one (along with the Take 5 activities):

And of course we had to share this 13 second video of Jane Goodall herself making the chimp call!
Also this poem offers a perfect transition to NEXT week's presentation at the annual conference of the National Council of Teacher's of English. Next week, Janet and I shift gears at join forces with poets and authors Susan Marie Swanson (who wrote the "Jane Goodall Begins a Speech" poem above) and Laura Purdie Salas to talk about poetry and movement, "Into the Poem: Active Strategies for Engaging Kinesthetic Learning." More on that next week! Meanwhile, head on over to Wee Words for Wee Ones for the rest of the Poetry Friday fun and enjoy our closing slide from our presentation, "How is a Scientist Like a Poet: Connecting Literacy and Science."

Friday, November 06, 2015

Book Links: Playing Tag with Science Poets

I just got my copy of the November issue of Book Links and I was so tickled to see that my usual poetry column was a featured article this time! Woo hoo! Thanks to the 15 poets who graciously collaborated with me to share favorite science poetry books. The title is Playing Tag with Science Poets" and these poets participated: Joyce Sidman, J. Patrick Lewis, Margarita Engle, Leslie Bulion, Jane Yolen, Marilyn Singer, Betsy Franco, Douglas Florian, Carole Gerber, Avis Harley, David L. Harrison, Lee Bennett Hopkins, and Michael J. Rosen.

Here's how the article begins:
I’ve made the case for connecting science and poetry many times in the last few years, focusing on how scientists and poets both observe the world closely and describe their observations in distinctive ways. I’ve pointed out the long poetry tradition of capturing the natural world through lyrical language. So this time I’m turning to the poets themselves. I asked 15 poets who write science-themed poetry to recommend one of their favorite recent collections of science-themed poetry by another poet. And none of them knew who was participating and which book others were choosing, so it was fun to see the tag team connections that emerged.

Poetry and science may seem at first glance to be strange companions, but they offer interesting connections for children who view all the world with wonder. They need both information and inspiration to understand what they see, hear, touch, and learn. As the great novelist Victor Hugo observed, “science is a ladder... poetry is a winged flight.” Surely we can provide both to the children we reach.

And then the poets get rolling:

Avis Harley tags J. Patrick Lewis
Avis Harley explores the natural world through collections such as Sea Stars: Saltwater Poems; The Monarch’s Progress: Poems with Wings, and African Acrostics; A Word in Edgeways, among others and she explores the natural world with a knack for crafting poems in distinctive forms, some of which she has invented herself! Here, Avis Harley salutes The National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry edited by J. Patrick Lewis: “National Geographic’s Book of Animal Poetry edited by J. Patrick Lewis, is a superb collection of 200 classic and contemporary poems, each paired with a spectacular photograph illustrating the beauty, wonder, and strangeness of the animal world.  There is a section on the writing of such poems, plus valuable resources, and four indexes to guide you to a favorite animal.  Poems and photos are humorous, serious, poignant, reflective, full of surprises: a truly gorgeous addition to your poetry shelf."

J. Patrick Lewis tags Leslie Bulion
Former Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis has produced many cross-curricular collections of poetry including several science-centric works like the insect poems in Face Bug: Poems as well as serving as anthologist for the two collections cited by others here. J. Patrick Lewis applauds Random Body Parts: Gross Anatomy Riddles in Verse by Leslie Bulion: “If what you’re after is a salmagundi of delightful poetry pieces, look no further than Leslie Bulion’s tour de force, an inventive mix of riddles, Shakespeare, and various verse forms. Elegant riddles are evoked in a limerick, a ballad stanza, a triolet, a double dactyl and more. Playfully fashioned from shades of Shakespeare, each riddle is accompanied by an explanation of the body part as a helpful clue. And all the verse forms are deftly described in End Notes. Random Body Parts is sure to challenge anatomy buffs of all ages.”

Leslie Bulion tags Laura Purdie Salas
Leslie Bulion studied oceanography and her science background comes through her poetry, including At the Sea Floor Café; Odd Ocean Critter Poems and Hey There, Stink Bug!, as well as this year’s Random Body Parts. When asked for her recommendation, she chose Water Can Be by Laura Purdie Salas: “I love the way the brilliant imagery in Laura Purdie Salas’s Water Can Be… invites me to linger on every single page. For example, “Picture catcher” transports my mind to wonderful water reflections I’ve seen, and when I read “Woodchuck warmer,” I wonder about those woodchucks tucked snug under snow in winter. Laura uses accessible, developmentally appropriate language to explain the science concepts behind each lyrical, rhythmic phrase in the back matter--perfect for young science poets!”

and it goes on...
(As soon as I see it online, I'll post the link, but it's currently only available to Booklist subscribers.)

And I end with suggestions of activities to consider (along with CCSS connections). Here's that chunk:

1. Play science poetry tag! Gather a selection of science-themed poetry books and encourage children to browse through them, sharing poems spontaneously with one another. Then, choose one poem to begin. Read it aloud and talk about it together. Then find another poem to link to it based on some connection between the two poems: another poem by the same the poet, another poem on the same topic (animals, nature, planets, etc.), or another poem from the same area of science (biology, astronomy, etc.). Share that poem aloud and discuss and compare. If time allows, keep going by “tagging” another poem.

2. Start with science photos. There are so many excellent sources of images for science study, from those in print books, of course, to online sources such as National Geographic (e.g.,;; Choose a subject that is of current relevance and interest (e.g., Mars, chimpanzees, bacteria) and peruse the available images (in print or online sources). Then, search through available poetry anthologies and see if you can find a poem to go with the image. It might be an explicit connection— a poem about the sun to go with an image of the sun—or it might be a more abstract connection, such as a poem about summer fun, day vs. night, or warmth and caring. Work together to create your own collaborative anthology of images and matching poems. 

3. Many of the science-themed poetry books mentioned here weave together poetry, prose, and art. Challenge children to work in trios to research a science topic of their choice. Then allow them to choose their role for the next step: who will write the explanatory prose paragraph? Who will write the poem? Who will create the accompanying illustration? Afterward, talk about each role and discuss which they find easiest or hardest and why. Invite them to challenge themselves by taking on one of the OTHER roles next time and talk about how each information source is valuable and unique: prose, poetry and art. 

Finally, the article also includes a comprehensive bibliography of science poetry books, too including all the books by these poets and "tagged" by them too. 

Click HERE for the link to the whole piece in BOOKLIST QUICK TIPS (March, 2016).

Science Poetry Scoop
And I have a science poetry project of my own (that includes many of these poets, of course) that I'm very excited about and will share more news about that on Dec. 1. Stay tuned! 

Meanwhile, join the Poetry Friday crew over at Write. Sketch. Repeat. hosted by Katya Czaja. See you there!