Friday, October 7, 2011

picking the apple of analysis

It's all about apples in Room 144 right now, with a little leaf work on the side and pumpkins on their way.  This is despite the fact that our new Curriculum 2.0 (which fancies itself rotten, as they say in England) is integrated not around something concrete and interesting for young children such as apples, but around "Thinking and Academic Success Skills." 

There is certainly no doubt that kindergarteners can begin to understand Big Ideas such as analysis and collaboration, but I'm not sure it's very productive, in the third week of school, to ask 5-year-olds a Unifying Question such as "How do identifying and describing attributes help you understand your world and organize your ideas?"  More mystifying to me is that we the teachers seem to be DIScouraged from developing these eleven Thinking and Academic Skills through projects or topics that are thematically integrated and relevant to children's experience of what's happening outside school--you know, such as apples.  Why not do both?

But it's Poetry Friday and I must step down off my apple crate to allow Robert Frost to speak, literally.  The poem below (which is nearly suitable for kindergarten, but not quite) can be heard in Frost's own growly tones at The Poetry Foundation website.  Robert Frost knew how to keep it concrete for sure.

After Apple-Picking

My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

~ Robert Frost

More "keeping it real through poetry" at Great Kid Books with Mary Ann today, where she highlights April's Poetry Tag collection and sets the stage for the new and thrilling p*tag collection for teen readers, now available here!  Download the divine!


  1. The apples are here. The apples are ripe. Just like the children! How lucky they are to have you who sees the seasons through the bureaucracy. And hey, congratulations on p*tag! I have it now on my phone and am going to settle into it this afternoon! Happy PF! A.

  2. I love that notion of 'keeping it real' thru poetry - it's actually echoed in my own post today which is lovely - that alignment of thoughts and ideas.

    I enjoyed apple picking - and I sympathize with the demands being put on the young kindergartners who seem to be rushed through Piaget's concrete operational stage in the struggle and initiative for them to develop the skills to form abstractions. What's wrong with concrete? At this age of abstraction, sometimes the crunch or redness of an apple and its all-too-realness makes more sense. ;)

  3. Heidi, Thank you for the overflowing apples and the link to Frost's own "growly" voice! The curriculum issue sounds dreadful. I'm thankful your particular class has someone at the helm who can connect with five-year-olds creatively in spite of it. (My daughter is studying to be a teacher and loves kindergarteners. She would not love that ridiculous 'Unifying Question.') On a different note, your "Wishing Tree" poem in p*tag is terrific.

  4. Hi, Heidi. This is one of my favorite poems. I tried to memorize it once -- not so easy! You do such a wonderful job of integrate broad elements into your classroom lessons. Your students are lucky to be so immersed in learning.

  5. Great post, Heidi! "After Apple-Picking" plucks me out of half-sleep every time I read it.

  6. My first grade son made applesauce in his classroom this week. Sounds more like your kind of curriculum! :) Maybe you can weld the gobbledee gook talk over a crockpot full of Macintosh mush?

  7. Yes, why not do both?!? Heigh ho.

    I do love Robert Frost's poetry but I don't like him reading it! And yes, we are inundated with apples here at the moment too. I love his imagery of apples looming in your dreams.

    And congratulations on p*tag - I've just reviewed it over on PaperTigers. I love your Wishing Tree poem.

  8. Marjorie, I agree--I was so surprised to hear his reading, rather rushed, I thought, and unmindful of his own deep wisdom. But maybe I'm just used to a reading performance that *enacts* the text more, for the benefit of beginners. : ) Thanks to you and Robyn for the compliments on "A Wishing Tree." I had fine inspiration and fine home support!

  9. Just so you know, in my dream school, YOU are the kindergarten teacher and you get to use your own best professional judgement about how and what to teach!

  10. Love this: "ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
    Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall." Thanks for this one!


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