Friday, December 18, 2015

decking the halls

As darkness burns the candle ever dimmer at both ends, my family prepares for our grandest holiday celebration, the Winter Solstice dinner and candle-lighting tradition.  I invite you to read (or sing) with new mindfulness my favorite and most pagan of the classic carols....

Deck the Halls

Deck the halls with boughs of holly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
Don we now our gay apparel,
Fa la la, la la la, la la la.
Troll the ancient Yuletide carol!
Fa la la la la, la la la la.

See the blazing Yule before us,
Strike the harp and join the chorus.
Follow me in merry measure,
While I tell of Yuletide treasure.

Fast away the old year passes,
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses,
Sing we joyous, all together,
Heedless of the wind and weather!

This version uses "troll" in the 4th line, but I have also seen "toll" here.  This webpage gives some interesting etymological detail on the language of this carol, and here you can read some history which suggests that further research could be fun.  And in doing some of that further research, I discovered that there is a tradition of madrigal singing in the Philippines!  Please enjoy some sounds of the season.

Apart from all the interesting history, I love these words and this melody for their joyful and energetic  uplift--amid the cold and dark, we should deck! don! strike, hail and sing! be jolly and merry all together, heedless of the wind and whatever climate-change induced weather may come! (It will be 70* here on the 25th, they say.)

To you and yours, I wish jolly and merry and fa la la la la la la la la!
Round up today with Diane at Random Noodling.

Friday, December 11, 2015

from seven to SPARK 27

Last week I posted rainforest animal poems by my 7-year-old 2nd graders.  This week I'm leaping forward a few generations to highlight work I did in collaboration with a visual artist through the SPARK program.  This free opportunity to give and receive artistic inspiration is now in its 27th round, and I always enjoy the challenge.  This time I was matched with Aimee Fullman, who's living in London at the moment and who wears all kinds of hats besides photographer!

Aimee sent me two pieces to select from, which I appreciated, so I sent her two poems, and old and a newer one.  Here are our two resulting pairings of photography and poetry.   The first photo shows the George Washington Masonic National Memorial.  It inspired this geometry poem.

Aimee chose this poem, written from the flipped expression "my eyes flashed before my life," which slipped out of my daughter's mouth one day (probably during a driving lesson).

I'm pretty pleased with both match-ups--fascinated by Aimee's response piece and thrilled as always by how effective a prompt can be for me (not to mention a deadline).  I bet other PF regulars participated--find more inspiration at the round-up today, hosted by Tara at A Teaching Life.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

poetry freedom


The Diamond Miners have been working for a long time on a research project about rain forest habitats and the animals that live there.  With the help of PebbleGo and some other resources, we worked together to research the rain forest and practice taking notes.  Then each child chose a rain forest animal and worked more or less independently to choose only the most important words to note down, later recomposing those words and phrases into complete sentences for a trifold brochure complete with a variety of text features.

We were just about done with that project when I rediscovered a really awesome book called Rejoice! Poetry Celebrating Life in the Amazon Rainforest. It was written by 3rd graders and reminded me of my own advice from last year: poetry is a way into and out of all learning.  We had make time to write poems!

Rejoice  includes almost all the animals my students had chosen, but we didn't read those poems first; instead we read other poems and noticed some of the tools that the young poets used to make their poem sound good to your ears and feel good in your mouth.  Our three days of work were quite meaningful, with evident effort from many Diamond Miners to write about their animals in a "juicy" way that was different from the reporting of facts in the brochures. How freeing!

There may be factual inconsistencies at work which will be addressed at a later time (and some English learner issues, too)--but not yet, with our first foray into writing poetry.

And now here they are, attributed to pseudonyms to protect identity...

spider monkey
by Angel

four long thin legs
like a spider
climbing trees
like a spider
climbs webs
black and hairy
like a spider


by Montana

Black spots
Yellow fur
Attack  Attack
Attack jaguar Attack
look out or else it
Attacks you.

by Brogan C.

squeeze   their prey
squeeze   look out
he will squeeze you tightly
so look out
he will attack
when he sees you he will
suffocate his prey
and then eat his prey
eat   hisssssssssssssssssss

Ring-Tailed Lemurs
by Ronan

Ring-tailed lemurs, leap through
trees, come in twos,
or threes.  they have fights,
  maybe in nights.
   if this animal was
    a fool, I would have
    chosen it as
       not cool!

sneaky cat
by Brogan R.

sneaky wildcat
sneaks through the rainforest
sharp teeth

Poisonous Thief
by Siti

Big scaly
reptile  smooth
skin  longer
than a
sinks its
into any
so watch

Poison Jewels

by Ms. Mordhorst

shiny red

shiny blue

tiny curvy spotted black

smooth wet skin

like a jewel water drop


don’t touch


Porcupine’s Enemies

by Gigi


Quills as sharp

as nails   the

enemy jumps

to eat its prey

quills shoot out

the porcupine wins

the enemy doesn’t

dare to come near

this monster again


Brown as a deep

hole it sneaks

into the night

up in the trees

down to the ground

it walks sloooooooooowly

it walks safely through

the dark night



By Jory

Jaguars climb trees

they are good climbers

they sleep in trees

      Deer is here
      Deer is there
by Adina

Deer is here
Deer is there
Deer is running from the prey.
Deer is here
Deer is there
Deer is hiding from the prey.
Deer can run
Deer can hide
Deer can eat
Deer can run, hide and eat all day long.

furry animals

by Mathew

Brown furry
animals that walk
slow  they eat
plants on a branch
sloths also eat

by Callie

Watch out for
the blending-in wildcat
Slow and quiet as
it creeps up on you!
Watch out   it blends in

What’s it called?
The jaguar!!!

         Buggy fur
        by Sam

  parasites lurk in the sloth’s
           fur so they can camouflage
  the sloth’s fur they 

by Jophy

Big   squeeze their
prey   brown skin
black spots dark as a
shadow   rats
don’t stand a chance
against the
boa constrictor

Fuzzy Sloth
by Sally

Grip  Grip
slow as slow.
Fuzzy as
can be.
They find food
at night.
Furry as grass.
Climb so slow
Grip  Grip.

Isn't the variety wonderful?  Almost as rich as the rainforest itself!
The Poetry Round-Up today is with Buffy at her blog--refresh with the poetry freedom.