Friday, January 18, 2019

"amazed of the nature"--habitat poems by 2nd graders

Long post today! First, want to publicly acknowledge the gift of poet Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, who gave 20 very full minutes of her precious time to two classes of 2nd graders yesterday via Zoom.  Thanks to the dedicated efforts of my media specialist, @JoelaPaik, the technology worked beautifully and those kids are marked by the blessing of her poetry and her personhood forever.  Thanks, Amy!

Our display board with informational brochures: a work in progress with help from my semi-retired friend Lou Ann 
Last Poetry Friday in Room 203 was a day with more gorgeous than bitter (it always is).  Again this year (see past projects 2017 here and here 2018), after quite some time spent researching and writing informational brochures about a range of world habitats, the Diamond Miners enjoyed some inspiration from the books pictured below as well as FOOTPRINTS ON THE ROOF by Marilyn Singer, and then set to work.

AFRICAN ACROSTICS by Avis Harley, FOREST HAS A SONG by Amy LV, WATER SINGS BLUE by Kate Coombs and, importantly, REJOICE: RAINFOREST POEMS by 3rd Graders (Scholastic Kids Are Authors series)
As always there were a couple who had trouble getting started--but only a couple and only a little!  Most kids understood that they were going to use all the knowledge they had accumulated through research to inform a poem and went to work with very definite ideas. And as always, I consider it evidence that my Poetry Friday routines are effective that every kid felt able to strike out on their own to act as "the boss of their poem."  I find that Poetry, in contrast to its bad rep for making people feel dumb and inadequate, Is Empowering for kids.

We started our workshop off with a shared acrostic involving ALL the habitats students had researched.  I'm particularly struck by the effectiveness of this year's acrostic poems--there were two that I actually didn't recognize WERE acrostics until I went to type them!  Today's project is to illustrate; I'll add those into the post over the weekend somehow.                      HABITATS
                      an acrostic poem by The Diamond Miners
                                             Have you seen
                                             A gila in the desert?
                                             Blue shiny waves
                                              In the ocean?
                                             Trees towering
                                             And expanding in the forests?
                                             Tall grasses waving over wildebeest in the
                                             Savannah?  Have you seen habitats?

And now, here are the students' poems!

Forests Spread
    by Chris M.

Forests spread
until the sun gets
low and low   The
leaves look dark
Fantastic trees
look at the sun
while it is getting
low    Green leaves

 by Isabella ZR 

Deserts are hot
what can I do? I might melt
on the sizzling sand
You know why! I might burn
myself!!! but some
have snow.  I might go!
Will I see snow?


 by Ethan F.

rivers are   smooth   soft

relaxing   sometimes rivers
grow   no one knows when they

Tall Grasses Dance
by Siddhartha Dangol

tall grasses dance in the
wind   they dance all
night and day  
never stop  never stop  
they like to stay in the light
and night    never stop
tall grasses always dance
in the grassland every
day    never stop at all.

     by Christian W.

Open blue sea
Covering the land   I’m the
Emperor of the sea
Amazed of the
Nature of the sea.

    by Ashly AM

forests are covered
with orange and red
in fall
forests are covered
with green and yellow
in summer

In the Desert
 by Kymani F.

in the desert
the wind blows hot
in the desert it prickles
and it tickles
the sand and the cactus
in the desert

 by Hannah D.

Really hot
Animals everywhere
In the rainforest
Noisy and quiet
Finding things to eat
Organic habitat
Really calm
Expanding trees
So much rain
The plants so pretty

Forest Is
 by Matthew H.

Forest is green and
brown and blue
vines on trees and
leaves and bears
wood and lakes

by Ezra W.

a grassland is
covered with grass
as tall as a zebra’s
covered with animals
like hyenas

by Bruce H.

Day after day it is hot.
Every monster can be dangerous.
See if you can touch one?
Evenings animals hunt for food,
Ringing on houses for prey.
There is not much rain.

    by Emma D

      r i p p l i n g
rain on the leaves
          on the
        into the
      g r o u n d

Thunderstorm in the Savannah
by Corwin R.

is coming
in the savannah
fire and rain
on the hill
with the
ant mound

Rain Forest Research
 by Jadeline Z.

      Rainforests don’t get snow!
      But why?  You need to know!!!
You can look at a book.
What about PebbleGo?
Fine, but where’s the computer?
I lost it.  What?!!!

In the Desert
 by Heidy R.

in the desert
it burns my feet
the weather is windy 
the wind blows the sand

by Aydin T. 

Water rippling shiny & blue.
Ocean splashing fiercely on shore.
Waves crashing & splashing.
Thunderstorm’s a comin’!
Water smooth, water calm.
Thunderstorm’s all gone! 

And finally, I must mark the passing of one of our quietest yet greatest voices in poetry, Mary Oliver. I believe she would have enjoyed these poems by 7- and 8-year olds, and certainly, through me, their voices are influenced by hers. In memoriam...

by Mary Oliver

The spirit
   likes to dress up like this:
     ten fingers,
       ten toes,
shoulders, and all the rest
   at night
      in the black branches
         in the morning
in the blue branches 
    of the world.
       It could float, of course,
          but would rather
plumb rough matter.
   Airy and shapeless thing,
      it needs
         the metaphor of the body,
lime and appetite,
   the oceanic fluids;
      it needs the body's world,
 and imagination
   and the dark hug of time
       and tangibility
to be understood,
   to be more than pure light
      that burns
         where no one is --
so it enters us --
    in the morning
       shines from brute comfort
          like a stitch of lightning;
and at night
   lights up the deep and wondrous
      drownings of the body
         like a star.
The roundup today is with Tricia at the Miss Rumphius Effect.  Let us mourn and rejoice together. 

Friday, January 11, 2019

ODT for kids

The bitter, gorgeous paradox 
for 2nd graders.

The Day (after "The Year" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox)

Did you have a good day, dear?
What happened today?

Chocolate milk spilled on my desk.
It got inside. It was a mess.

I made a card for Kim's sick mother.
She looked happy so I made another.

At recess Chris wouldn't play with me.
I went off by myself and discovered a tree.

My math was hard, so hard I cried.
Ms. P explained it. She was proud I tried.

My day was good but also bad--
the most normal day I've ever had.

draft ©Heidi Mordhorst

Now you can enjoy this song (and my personal day will be more gorgeous if I'm introducing it to someone who's never heard it) while you head over to the Roundup Downunder with Kat Apel.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

not OLW but ODT

not my actual dishes, but close
I just went back to see what my One Little Word for 2018 was and found that I didn't choose one.  I think I passed, knowing that I have had a hard time keeping my eye on it for a whole year and feeling slightly fraudulent and failed for taking the trouble to choose a OLW and then losing track of it almost immediately.  It's like embarking on a diet on January 2 and finding on January 3 that you have already blown it.  I have given up that kind of diet, that kind of New Year's resolution, because "resolve" and "will-power" are demons that distract me from One Difficult Truth.

It is this One Difficult Truth that, thanks to time, hurt, reality and Anne Lamott I will have no option but to attend to every single day forever, since it is the essence of every single day.  This is the paradox that you, Dear PF Friend, may have understood since your childhood spent in a bakery instead of a hardware store (you'll have to read Almost Everything: Notes on Hope to get that, although it's such a brilliant metaphor that you might grasp the meaning immediately).

This is the paradox of two truths about life that are bruisingly, simultaneously true at every moment of every day:  life is excruciating AND beautiful.  In each moment, at the same time as I am despairing deeply about the number of children separated and detained in cold metal "facilities," I may also be stirred by a freshet of joy, what Anne calls a "giddy appreciation" for a small, lovely satisfaction, such as how this year the number of holiday cookies was just right for the length of the holiday-cookie-eating season.

I know--duh.  But as Anne says, that all truth is paradox is "distressing for those of us who would prefer a more orderly and predictable system," a more black-and-white reality in which we could know we were Right, in which it's possible to Fix It.  I spent a lot of time and effort in my days as a young parent trying to solve the Dishwasher Problem, which was that no matter what system we devised for processing dirty dishes into clean ones neatly stacked in cupboards, THE KITCHEN WAS ALWAYS STREWN WITH DIRTY DISHES.  Really, I thought that there was some clever, simple way to fix this, if only I could discover or devise it, and it has taken me literally 20 years to understand that the only way to avoid dirty dishes is to stop eating.

And of course, to stop eating, to stop gathering for a hilarious, fraught family dinner as often as is practical, is a recipe for the end of humanity.

All this must be why I keep posting and reposting this old-fashioned poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox.  She understood the paradox of the Dishwasher Problem even before dishwashers were invented, and she didn't even need a fancy metaphor to say it--only a few not especially clever rhymed lines.

I'm sure I still have loads of raging to do against the bitter and gorgeous paradox that is every moment of every day for those who have the wisdom and fortitude to see it.  It's making me exhausted and even depressed to be so wise.  But---

My injured foot healed in time for me to dance on New Year's Eve to "What I Like About You," and as we went around the circle after recess to practice naming our emotions, two 2nd graders said "Today I'm feeling happy because we are back at school," and my spouse took the trouble to find MacIntosh apples at the grocery store, and although these freshets of joy dry up fast when I listen to the news or notice the way my eyelids have drooped so that my boring blue-grey eyes barely sparkle anymore, at least I know this is normal.

I'm late to the roundup today, hosted by Sylvia at Poetry for Children, but I know I'll always feel a giddy appreciation by being a part of it.  Happy excruciating and exquisite 2019 to all.

Friday, December 28, 2018


Cranking along, enjoying the mini challenge of one haiku per day, I addressed everything from our ill-behaved President to the 200th anniversary of THE Christmas carol.

Dec. 22
hope a lump of coal
in your stocking ruins the golf
naughty selfish boy
Dec. 23

smoke of wood fire
smells like home to primal noses
as Silent Night to ears

Oh, yes--I was having a lot of satisfying creativity and community writing #haikuforhope, and then on top of my injured foot, which wasn't getting better, came this:

Dec. 24

high holiday
laid low by fondue and flu
gentle morning joy

I'm blaming the flu shot I got last Saturday, which I did only to pass the time more productively while I waited in an urgent care center for an x-ray which might show why my injured foot wasn't getting better.  I haven't been terribly ill--but it does feel like every single 2nd grade germ of 2018 has just been waiting for an entryway, and the little hole where the flu shot went in was it.  My Killer Immune System, of which I am still very proud, has been working overtime, but suddenly I needed NOTHING on the horizon.

Dec. 25

music of the season
jangles, twitterjabber jars
now for long quiet

And I also came to realize that all that hanging around on Twitter liking things was getting in the way of my real intent for this break, which was to read some books.  So I just decided to stop.  Just like that.  So today, here are the last of my #haikuforhope and me experimenting with a challenging philosophical conundrum: quitting shit.  [Pardon my rhyming.]

The question I'm wrestling with is: Where is the line between dependability and flakiness?  What is the ratio of external appearances to internal integrity in that calculation?  When is it compulsion and when is it commitment?  Can you be a good person (and I think I know what that means, having watched all of THE GOOD PLACE so far) if you quit something you promised, or even just intended--to yourself or others--that you would do?  Is it okay to not do things because you don't feel like it?  What kind of lesson is that to teach your children? And most fundamentally,

When is enough enough, and why would this be so hard for me to figure out?

Dec. 28

it is my son who
"has trouble stopping," I thought
tyrant intentions

Donna JT Smith is our round-up host on this endingbeginning Poetry Friday of the year.  See you in 2019!

UPDATE 1 HOUR LATER: As always there is wisdom to be found at Tabatha's blog The Opposite of Indifference.  Here's a quote I just found in her Christmas Eve post, which seems to suggest starting from a position of NOT doing things:
Never compose anything unless the not composing of it becomes a positive nuisance to you.
~Gustav Holst


Friday, December 21, 2018


Wishing all a merry and bright Solstice!  Our family's 12 Nights of Yuletide begins this evening with a special meal and a candle-lighting ceremony (see Dec. 20 below), so all I have time for in between cooking and tablesetting is to recap my #haikuforhope this week.  Thanks again to Catherine Flynn and Mary Lee Hahn who ignited this little practice for me again this year.

Dec. 15 

holiday party 
I can’t enjoy the spiced punch 
emptied water jugs

Dec. 16 

pins and needles 
weary foot won't take the weight 
limbs stage a slowdown 

Dec. 17 

butter flour fruit spice 
rows and columns of goodness 
edible calendar

Dec. 18 

blur of class play grades 
parties actual meetings: 
a girl could lose a day  

Dec. 19 

weeks of drought 
dry arroyo of bedroom 
a flood of daughter

Dec. 20 

tradition, you bully 
meet me at the corner of 
must and love

Dec. 21

dark clock ticks 
repeatedly remind myself
tomorrow is longer

Three and half more hours of school...I look forward to a full tour of blogposts this weekend, rounded up for us by Buffy at her blog.  Joy to you all!

Friday, December 14, 2018


I'm continuing to join a whole crew of December hopefuls in Tweeting daily haiku.  Here are mine for the last week, and while I keep trying to hew to some basic tenets of traditional haiku, circumstances continue to drain my self-discipline so that the best I can do is to write something, never mind according to any rules.

What are those rules?  I often turn to my friend Robyn Hood Black for haiku inspiration, because

empty window
the last of her fur
in the lint trap

 ©Robyn Hood Black
Frogpond 40:3, Autumn 2017

which just goes to show you don't even need  5-7-5, but today I'm reviewing a bit of guidance from The Academy of American Poets:

Among the greatest traditional haiku poets are Basho, Yosa Buson, Kobayashi Issa, and Masaoka Shiki. Modern poets interested in the form include Robert Hass, Paul Muldoon, and Anselm Hollo, whose poem “5 & 7 & 5” includes the following stanza:

     round lumps of cells grow
     up to love porridge later
     become The Supremes                                          [my goodness, how I love this]

Haiku was traditionally written in the present tense and focused on associations between images. There was a pause at the end of the first or second line, and a “season word," or kigo, specified the time of year.

As the form has evolved, many of these rules—including the 5/7/5 practice—have been routinely broken. However, the philosophy of haiku has been preserved: the focus on a brief moment in time; a use of provocative, colorful images; an ability to be read in one breath; and a sense of sudden enlightenment and illumination.

As you'll see in my week's work, each of my haiku has one or two of the traditional elements, but I don't think any one has all of them.

Dec. 8

is this a place where
only those survive who are

 Dec. 9

dead brown living green
hanging somewhere in between
wise bud of waiting

Dec. 10

single string of
tiny lights twines up trunk
strives at crescent moon

Dec. 11

full-on sweat-soaked battle
scrambling bodies slap the mat
purity of wrestling

Dec. 12

two holes show hidden joins
present hearts, everyone

Here are two where I try to get at all the markers of classic haiku.  Let's see if it makes a difference....

Dec. 13

still a week to go
weary feet make for the car
frozen lawn sparkles                               

Dec. 14

lot full of tiny trees
our car the polar opposite
of Grinch's sleigh

Okay, ONE where I try to get all the markers!  Yep, the self-discipline is definitely a little flabby. I'm sure the round-up this week will be toned and taut over at Laura Shovan's blog, where she's featuring a book by a mutual friend of ours from Maryland, Jona Colson.  Wishing you all more merry, more bright.

Friday, December 7, 2018


Some of us in the Kidlitosphere, in the Twitterverse, are spending December haikuing, just as in 2016, led and inspired by Mary Lee, we haikued for healing. (I now regret attempting to use haiku as a verb.)

This year our friend Catherine suggested modifying our daily writing practice to #haikuforhope, and that is certainly resonating with me...although it does appear that when you're trying to produce a pithy moment each and every day, just about any topic comes to seem like a commentary on hope, if not actually hopeful.

Here are mine so far this week:

Dec. 1

last red branch exhales
catching up in slow motion
refusing to rush

Dec. 2

Sunday morning Spirit Play
we all watch as fog lifts
in a water glass

                                                           Dec. 3

                                                           nothing can pierce this
                                                           afternoon dark
                                                           not even 12-foot Rudolph

Dec. 4

seven-year-olds sit
in silent rows, testing
cold winds test the glass

Dec. 5

unwinding the light
tightening the twinkle
window candles spark

Dec. 6

"we are in trouble"
small hands mold
plasticene landscapes


Dec. 7

Tuesday despair
Friday giddy energy
estrogenic seasons

Participants in this December tradition are Catherine Flynn @flynn_catherine, @MaryLeeHahn, @MargaretGSimon, Linda Mitchell @LindaMitch2783, Molly Hogan @mbhmaine, Julieanne Harmatz @jarhartz, Jone MacCulloch @JoneMac53, Jean LaTourette @mz_lat,  Linda Baie @LBaie, Carol Varsalona @cvarsalona, and @mandyrobek....and probably more.  Join us!

And join the Poetry Friday round-up (what is that? go HERE to find out) hosted by Liz Steinglass today, where there's all kinds of merry and bright.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

out of sync

is how I seem to be this shortest fall ever, with NCTE climbing in over parent conferences, with winter sweeping into mid-November, with December jingling in early with Hanukkah on its heels, with the hottest, the wettest, the driest, the coldest ever.

In rebending a few crucial spines of myself, I'm off the clock, off-kilter, out of step, outta sight and out of mind and hardly ever sure what I want to be doing with my time.

So now it's Saturday evening and I find I did want to post for Poetry Friday, although early on Friday instead of composing my post I was doing something else poetic and secret.  Maybe it's not too late.  Maybe it's never too late.

It's definitely not too late to reconnect with a former student.  Tyler hasn't been gone long; he's in 3rd grade now and I had him last year. I got the most welcome email from his mom, sharing this, "proudly described as his first rhyming poem."

I love this for so many reasons.  This poem is Tyler through and through, the Tyler I knew, short and  full of power!  But also, the craft: the tantalizing switch-up of "hunters taking wing" and "rulers of the air" for the title, the collective voice, the mythic feel of the language with the ring of a pledge, a shift in the rhythm at the end lest it become too sing-song and lose its gravity.

And of course I love the evidence that the work and play we did with poetry continues to hold a place in Tyler's world, which is definitely not all due to his year with me in 2nd grade--his mom is a high school English teacher AND the literary magazine sponsor.  But it does feel good that Tyler would want to reach back and share this with me.

And here I am, a day and half late, sharing it with you, Poetry Friday.  Thanks to all who steadfastly make this community happen and do their part to keep it going. Even when any of us step out for a time, we are always welcomed back.  And thanks to Carol at Carol's Corner, for hosting this week!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

live from #NCTE18

Greetings, all, from sunny Houston, to which I escaped so early Thursday morning that I journeyed unscathed by the surprise autumn snowstorm that CLOSED MY SCHOOL DISTRICT, in mid-November, no less!  I'm happy enough to be here at NCTE that I don't mind missing the snow day, but boy--the time spent on sub plans gone unused--THAT really stinks. :)

I was delighted to be presenting again this year as part of a session called Poetry in the Wild. My team included the greatly gifted teacher-poets Mary Lee Hahn and Margaret Simon, plus the greatly gifted poet-authors Irene Latham and Laura Purdie Salas, all well-known to you Poetry Friday regulars.

Our session went swimmingly with an extra surprise from Mary Lee, who introduced us each with a snippet of "wild" music. Here are the slides from my section, entitled "Talk a Mile in Someone Else's Shoes: How Poems for Two Voices Encourage Young Writers to Step Into New Perspectives." You can download this presentation as a PDF by clicking on the front page, and I'm also providing a copy of the "poetry folder" that I use in 2nd grade small group reading over the course of 5-10 days when we're focusing on point of view in the curriculum.

I hope there's something useful there for all you teachers.  Don't forget to be careful about attributions and copyright rules, which you can find here: [2008 Copyright Guidelines]

I'm excited to rejoin the Poetry Friday routine and look forward to all the goodies piling up over at TeacherDance with Linda to host us!