Tuesday, July 24, 2012

OIK Tuesday: winter in July

This past Sunday Daisy and her youth group held a Winter in July fundraiser for a Habitat for Humanity project in our community.  They made and sold snowcones, iced cocoa and gingerbread house cookies, and there were little origami present boxes that were sold for amounts ranging from $5 to $100.  You bought a present and then looked inside to see what item you had provided for the building project.  We bought a box of nails and sod for a front lawn.

So I'm in the mood for gingerbread (often: see additional post here), which coincidentally is the next poem from the last year's Mighty Minnows kindergarten poetry anthology.  It's an "Anonymous" type rhyme that we incorporated into our puppet show retelling of The Gingerbread Man story on the last day before winter break.

Making Gingerbread Men

Stir a bowl of gingerbread,
Smooth and spicy brown.
Roll it with a rolling pin,
Sideways, up and down.
With a cookie cutter
Make some little men.
Put them in the oven,
Till half past ten!

It makes a nice nursery-rhyme complement to the previous more complex Frederick poem and to the upcoming beginning-of-the-new-year selection.  The children memorized it easily, and ate the gingerbread men we baked even more easily!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

have a _____ day

I'm late to Poetry Friday this week, but I've been trawling and organizing my computer files and finding a few forgotten treasures, and here's one worth sharing.

Teachers will be familiar with cloze procedure,  "a technique in which words are deleted from a passage presented to students, who insert words as they read to complete and construct meaning from the text."  The term "cloze" was introduced in 1953 by Wilson Taylor, who derived it from the Gestalt psychology principle of "closure," which holds that our minds tend to complete patterns and perceive figures even when part of the information is missing.  It's used as an exercise or assessment for determining how well readers use ________ clues in language.  (The missing word there is context.)

Before kids can complete a cloze activity, they must of course understand what the blanks are all about.  A couple of weeks into the school year I start introducing blanks into the Morning Message (which includes information about our plans for the day).  Figuring out what to write in the blanks becomes part of the Reading Leader's job.

Enjoy Lou Lipsitz's poem below, and see how important it is to teach the little ones to read the blank out loud:  "Have a BLANK day"?

How else will they know they have work to do, filling in that blank with one of the choices, or choosing something of their own to put in the blank, or "yielding, ...swallowing hard, breathing more deeply," when the blank fills itself in before they're ready?

Have a ____ Day  |  Lou Lipsitz

Have a nice day. Have a memorable day.
Have (however unlikely) a life-changing day.
Have a day of soaking rain and lightning.
Have a confused day thinking about fate.

Have a day of wholes.
Have a day of poorly marked,
unrecognizable wholes you
cannot fathom.
Have a ferocious day, a bleak
unbearable day. Have a
riotously unproductive day;
a grim jaw-clenched, Clint Eastwood vengeful
law enforcement day.
Have a day of raging, hair-yanking
jealousy and meanness. Have a day
of almost grasping
how whole you are; a finely tuned,
empty day.

Have a nice day of walking and circling;
a day of stalking and hunting,
of planting strange seeds and wandering in the woods.
Have a day of endearing nonsense,
of hopelessly combing your hair,
a day of yielding, of swallowing
hard, breathing more deeply,
a day of fondness for beetles
and macabre spectacles, or irreverence
about anything you want, of just
sitting and wondering.
Have a day of wondering if it's
going to help, or if it just doesn't matter;
a day of dark winds
and torrents flowing though the valley,
of diving into cool water
and gasping for breath,
a day of sudden hunger for communion.

Have a day where the crusts you each
were given are lost and you stumble
with your fellows
searching endlessly together.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

OIK Tuesday: sky mice

This week I'm sharing a poem that the Might Minnows discovered, hiding in plain sight, in the Leo Lionni book Frederick. We read it in November, when the change of seasons was unmistakable here in the mid-Atlantic and it was important to think about storing up food--and sunrays, colors and words!--in preparation for the long winter.  This book also served as our first introduction into what it is to be a poet.

I won't post the well-known "Five Little Pumpkins" rhyme that came before this one--it can be found enough places.  But I will point out that our poetry anthology, when completed, deliberately included both simpler poems like "Five Little Pumpkins" and more complex ones like the one below that I titled "Frederick's Sky Mice."  Sometimes we all learned the poem by heart, and sometimes it was enough to hear it over and over again and complete each line as the teacher read it.  When we reviewed our anthologies at the end of the year, some children were surprised to find that they could read this one independently now!

Frederick’s Sky Mice
by Leo Lionni

Who scatters snowflakes? Who melts the ice?
Who spoils the weather? Who makes it nice?
Who grows the four-leaf clovers in June?
Who dims the daylight? Who lights the moon?

Four little field mice who live in the sky.
Four little field mice … like you and I.

One is the Springmouse who turns on the showers.
Then comes the Summermouse who paints in the flowers.
The Fallmouse is next with walnuts and wheat.
And Wintermouse is last … with little cold feet.

Aren’t we lucky the seasons are four?
Think of a year with one less … or one more!

Teachers, go here and here for great resources on Lionni's books, and enjoy the photos of mice visiting the Mighty Minnows!

Friday, July 13, 2012

bedecked with text

I love summer.  Is it because I'm a hot-weather person with a penchant for peaches, or is it because at this time of year I can luxuriate in the literacy activities that form the core of my being?  I love school-times too, but there are so many constraints on what I can read and write then.  Still, something is shifting, and not just because I'm not working (working for The Man, that is, whoever he may be).

I know because this week I've been reading not one but TWO works of contemporary adult fiction.  I mean actually reading my way through them, not just carrying a book to the pool and in the car and to the beach but reading the same second chapter over and over again without making progress (this was the fate of both Loving Frank last year and The Elegance of the Hedgehog the year before).  I seem to be able suddenly to give myself up to a book like I used to, in the days when I lived mainly to get back to any of the several books I was reading at any given time.

[Around about Monday Daisy asked, "What are you reading now, Mommy?"  "Upstairs I'm reading An American Wife and downstairs I'm reading Room."  "Good for you!" she exclaimed, as though I'd happened upon a uncommon but to-be-recommended practice.  "I do that but my friends don't get it."  Little does she know that I invented that practice, not she, but that was back when.....when I was 13 too.  : )]

This is what else I have had the wide-open pleasure to encounter this week, in the random sort of order which is appropriate to the season:

*The Silver Chair, aloud to Duncan (C.S. Lewis)
*What Color is Your Smoothie?  (Britt Allen Brandon; goes with my new hyperpowered blender)
*my own poems and those of my fabulous new critique group
*An American Wife (Curtis Sittenfeld; having the slightly creepy effect of making me like Dubya)
*Room (Emma Donoghue; finished on Tuesday night and best thing I have read since I can remember)
*IKEA, Crate & Barrel and other online furniture catalogs with my "New House Notebook" alongside
*Chapter 3 of my other critique partner's entertaining middle grade novel
*online documents regarding some shady dealings between our County Executive and our school system on the conversion of an organic farm occupying school land to privately owned soccer fields
*Narrative Magazine (thinking of entering poetry contest)
*Time magazine articles from March and April on The Next 10 Big Ideas and the 100 Most Influential People in the World
*and finally, this poem, which had a similar effect on me to last week's offering.  Its power links to that poem, to Room, and to the process of saying a long goodbye to rooms full of the evidence of younger childhoods.  (That said, only last week Duncan and his friends bedecked themselves with marker lipstick and eyeshadow, dug out wigs and sparkly handbags and videoed themselves acting out a visiting-Santa-at-the-mall skit.  Brave rainbow hearts indeed.)  My dad forwarded it to me.

Bedecked // Victoria Redel (apologies; the formatting is not right, I'm sure)

Tell me it’s wrong the scarlet nails my son sports or the toy

store rings he clusters four jewels to each finger.

He’s bedecked. I see the other mothers looking at the star

choker, the rhinestone strand he fastens over a sock.

Sometimes I help him find sparkle clip-ons when he says

sticker earrings look too fake.

Tell me I should teach him it’s wrong to love the glitter that a

boy’s only a boy who’d love a truck with a remote that revs,

battery slamming into corners or Hot Wheels loop-de-looping

off tracks into the tub.

Then tell me it’s fine—really—maybe even a good thing—a boy

who’s got some girl to him,

and I’m right for the days he wears a pink shirt on the seesaw in

the park.

Tell me what you need to tell me but keep far away from my son

who still loves a beautiful thing not for what it means—

this way or that—but for the way facets set off prisms and

prisms spin up everywhere

and from his own jeweled body he’s cast rainbows—made every

shining true color.

Now try to tell me—man or woman—your heart was ever once

that brave.

Among other places, this poem is published in an anthology called 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day, edited by Billy Collins.  May we be so brave as he.  The round-up today is with Jone at Check It Out

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

OIK Tuesday: look up for metaphor

Continuing my roundup of the poems that went into my kindergarteners' Poetry Anthologies this past year, here's the classic by Christina Rossetti, which I have also heard set to music.

This poem linked to our weather studies and was the first time we discussed the idea of metaphor.  I showed a photo of white clouds in a blue sky and asked the children, "Where are the sheep?"  They had fun realizing what Rossetti had done with her words and comparing that photo to one of actual sheep on a green hill (blue sky and white clouds on the horizon).


White sheep, white sheep,
On a blue hill,
When the wind stops,
You all stand still.

When the wind blows,
You walk away slow.
White sheep, white sheep,
Where do you go?

by Christina Rossetti

If you're a teacher and would like a copy of this poem for illustrating, let me know and I'll send you a not-very-fancy document.

Friday, July 6, 2012

blind, feeling a way

It's three months until we move, but in the spirit of making hay while the sun shines, I've begun casually, nostalgically sorting and packing a few things.  In a pile of books in the parlor I came across a collection of Anne Sexton's poems.  Opening randomly, I read--and burst into tears.

Daisy doesn't care for horses, but she is 13, and I see this moment coming.

Pain for a Daughter // Anne Sexton

Blind with love, my daughter
has cried nightly for horses,
those long necked marchers and churners
that she has mastered, any and all,
reining them in like a circus hand -
the excitable muscles and the ripe neck -
tending, this summer, a pony and a foal.

She who is squeamish to pull
a thorn from the dog’s paw
watched the pony blossom with distemper,
the underside of the jaw swelling
like an enormous grape,
Gritting her teeth with love,
she drained the boil and scoured it
with hydrogen peroxide until pus
ran like milk on the barn floor.

Blind with loss all winter,
in dungarees, a ski jacket, and a hard hat,
she visits the neighbors’ stables,
our acreage not zoned for barns,
they who own the flaming horses
and the swan-necked thoroughbred
that she tugs at and cajoles,
thinking it will burn like a furnace
under her small-hipped English seat.

Blind with pain, she limps home;
The thoroughbred has stood on her foot.
He rested there like a building;
He grew into her foot until they were one.
The marks of the horseshoe printed
into her flesh, the tips of her toes
ripped off like pieces of leather,
three toenails swirled like shells
and left to float in blood in her riding boot.

Blind with fear, she sits on the toilet,
her foot balanced over the washbasin,
her father, hydrogen peroxide in hand,
performing the rites of the cleansing.
She bites on a towel, sucked in breath,
sucked in and arched against the pain,
her eyes glancing off me where
I stand at the door, eyes locked
on the ceiling, eyes of a stranger,
And then she cries…
Oh! My god, Help me!

Where a child would have cried “Mama!”
Where a child would have believed “Mama!”
She bit the towel and called on God,
And I saw her life, stretch out…
I saw her torn in childbirth,
And I saw her, at that moment,
in her own death,
And I knew that she knew.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference, where she's sharing some of the poems exchanged through the Summer Poem Swap she has organized.  I'm participating and will have at least three to share next Friday--thanks, Tabatha!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Overheard in Kindergarten Poetry Roundup

This summer I'm going to continue my Tuesday OIK posts by sharing all the poems that ended up in the Poetry Anthologies of my kindergarten class this year.  My goal was a new poem every other Friday, and with a total of 15 (including the first song we learned together but not including a few other songs), I did pretty well, if we say that there were 4 quarters x 9 Fridays = 36/2 =18. 

We'll chalk up the missing three to fate.  My colleague Alex is so right when he says "...and then Kindergarten happened." It's a shortcut expression for all the unexpected events and developments that interrupt our careful classroom plans, and one of my goals for next year is to be more welcoming and gracious when Kindergarten Happens!

We started our school year with "Fish" by Mary Ann Hoberman, already posted here, and next worked on color words and some of the five senses by singing a rainbow.  I would have called "Sing a Rainbow" a folk tune--I've heard so many versions over the years--but the copyright is held by Arthur Hamilton for this 1955 song.  Read more here.  Our version goes like this:

Sing a Rainbow

Red and yellow and orange and green,
Purple and pink and blue.
I can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow—
You sing a rainbow too.

Listen with your eyes,
Listen with your eyes
To every color you see.
I can sing a rainbow, sing a rainbow—
You sing along with me!

If you're a teacher and you'd like a copy of my colorful and unapologetically unscientific WordArt pocket chart for this song, let me know and I'll send it to you.  There's not much better than hearing a couple of 5-year-olds sweetly singing their way through a literacy center!