Friday, November 22, 2013

passing the poetime

Last night a little party convened here in Boston.  At the table were Mary Lee Hahn of A Year of Reading, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater of The Poem Farm, Laura Purdie Salas, Carrie Finison of Story Patch, and Janet Fagal.  Later we had visits from Franki Sibberson, Tara Smith of A Teaching Life and Linda Baie of TeacherDance. The conversation was both broad and delightedly poetricentric.

One thing that came up was Amy's inability to keep a watch running, and her tendency to interfere with other technology.  We laughed about the strangeness of that phenomenon and remarked how (as Daisy would say) "that's a thing"--we all had heard of people who have those sort of troubles with cell phones and alarm clocks and streetlights.

This morning I went and read about EMFs--electromagnetic fields--and about our own bioelectromagnetism.  I found my way to a fascinating discussion with the flavor of quackery which I nonetheless found to be a compelling argument for increasing animal dis-ease, including our own human panoply of illnesses.  This is an area also where science intersects with earthcentric spirituality: read here for more views of our human "energy body."

But for now, all we need to know is that some people have a problem with

Killing Time

I plug it in but
nothing happens.
Lights dim and die
when I pass by.

I press the button;
nothing happens.
Clocks stop and sigh
when I pass by.

I wind my watch;
replace the batteries.
Again they die.
I don't know why.

I specialize
in killing time.

HM 2013 draft

You can productively kill a little more time enjoying the posts over at Write. Sketch. Repeat. with Katya today.  Welcome back, Katya!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

ncte boston | poetry and poets galore!

Tomorrow I'll be posting from a hotbed of poetic action, but for now, a poem that my daughter has deemed her favorite of all time:

(love song, with two goldfish)  | Grace Chua

(He's a drifter, always
floating around her, has
nowhere else to go. He wishes
she would sing, not much, just the scales;
or take some notice,
give him the fish eye.)

(Bounded by round walls
she makes fish eyes
and kissy lips at him, darts
behind pebbles, swallows
his charms hook, line and sinker)

(He's bowled over. He would
take her to the ocean, they could
count the waves. There,
in the submarine silence, they would share
their deepest secrets. Dive for pearls
like stars.)

Read the rest here.
Man, that girl has good taste!


Friday, November 15, 2013

way behind

12.  Ready or Not

this one is 78 months old
speaks three languages
comes from globetrotting scientists

this one is 63 months old
counts as high as 4 in one language
is learning how to look at a book

quiz: in what area
are both "fully ready"?

the only answer we need to know:
"The Arts: Expression and Representation"

13.  The Classics

At the end, covered in oobleck,
King Derwin sobs,
"I'm sorry!  It is all my fault!"
For dramatic effect and multilingual comprehensibility,
I beat my breast and wail, "Mea culpa!"

They get it.

14.  faith

you just know the wind is there--
watch it stir the trees
you just believe the water's there--
watch it leave the leaves
wind and water
air and vapor
science is a faith

15.  we interrupt this program

nibble from an editor?
priorities, girl!
mypoperday bows out

Monday, November 11, 2013


9. Breaking Through the Word Wall


We look
We like

We like apple!
We like cat We like dog We like eagle

You like this fish.
You like this lion.

I like
suddenly getting how this whole
writing-reading-talking thing actually works

10. Elemental Trace Analysis

icky sticky gooey glue
green grass green leaves
rain water mashed peas
playdough paint
pencil shavings
pumpkin vines
squishy brains
mucky gunky sticky mud
ooey gooey green gum

that's what oobleck's made of

11.  Standards-Based Grading

I am P for Proficient--
independent and efficient

I am I for In Progress--
I can get it, more or less

I am N for Not Yet--
more time to let my jello set

HM 2013 draft

Friday, November 8, 2013

MyPoPerDayMo catch up

Daisy hit 12,000 words on Wednesday and continues her quest to write 50,000 words in a month.  Speed challenges seem to helping her--she races against a friend for 5 or 10 minutes (not that she's competitive at all).  I just don't think that strategy is going to work for me, even if there were another poet who wanted to race me...

6.  Live Rock Show

I found a little rock
white with fuzzy green
I'm going to leave it out
in the rain so it can grow

(did you know
my brother is 14 and
my dad is 23 and
my mom is 13?
and I weigh 51 and
my little sister's catching up
and she weighs 62)

Some rocks are very small
but also rocks are big
or even huge like cars
I'm going to give it water

and watch my rock grow

7.  Watercolor Cinquain

why would
I put this paint
on the paper when I can
dip and dunk and swish it in the

8. Swimmy Does Math

This greedy tuna is
Greater Than.
See its ziggity zaggety teeth
waiting to chomp that big fat nine.

This hungry tuna is
Less Than.
See its beady greedy eye
searching for the juicy round eight.

Look at skinny little one.
He gets away!

HM 2013 drafts
The roundup today is with Diane at Random Noodling.  Yee-ha!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

MyPoPerDayMo 4 & 5

(two in the voice of the teacher)

Mr. B.'s Busy Day

Two doors down, the sound
of drilling:
Ms. Solomon's file cabinet
opens again.
Now she can pull out
an onslaught of

Just outside, the sound
of mowing:
colorful shreds of
grass and leaves
confetti the windows--
an onslaught of
the autumn.

In our bathroom, the sound
of splitting:
the toilet seat has
cracked in two!
The broken piece sits in
an onslaught of

Thank you, Mr. B.



ABC is for
apple, bat and cat?
Oh no. 
Not here.

A is for
B is for
C is for

FBA is for
write it all down:

C is for
center - independent.
E is for
transition - ending

DG is for
demands gratification.
NP is for
not preferred activity.
CT is for
attempts to take control.

SPT is for
offer support.
IGN is for
planned ignoring.
ADM is for
call for help.

Now let's spell
The only missing letter is

HM 2013 drafts

Sunday, November 3, 2013

MyPoPerDayMo 3

"What did you do over the weekend?"

Over the weekend
    Saturday   Sunday
Over the weekend
    Sabado   Domingo
What did I do?  What did I do?

I climbed over
the fence of Saturday
I climbed over
the wall of Sunday

I climbed over
the weekend
like the sun climbs over the day
and back down under the night

I take a stick from Saturday
I take a stone from Sunday
I bring them to school on Monday

HM 2013 draft

Saturday, November 2, 2013

MyPoPerDayMo 2

Finally Frozen

Is it my turn yet?
Is it my turn to share?
Is it my turn yet?  My turn to share?

It's my turn to share!
I'm scared.

Friday, November 1, 2013

MyPoPerDayMo 2013

Most reading this will have heard of NaNoWriMo, which is short for National Novel Writing Month. It takes place every November, and I'm thinking about it this year because my 9th grade daughter, who went off to high school and promptly joined both newspaper staff and creative writing club (*fist pump YES*), has announced that she will be writing 50,000 words this month. This is something like 1600 words a day, for a final novel similar in length to The Great Gatsby or Slaughterhouse Five.

Although Daisy allowed me to participate in plotting her novel (for which she has a pretty cool concept), there's no way I could commit to that goal myself. I have, however, twice attempted to write one poem per day for the month of November--once mostly successfully and once not at all. For many of you poetry bloggers, a poem a day is no big thing--you do it all the time as a matter of habit. But for me it requires a lot of discipline, and since my teaching life at the moment requires even more discipline, and since fundamentally I'm not a very self-disciplined person, committing to try for one PoPerDay for a month is a big deal.

I'm going to go in, inspired by Laura Shovan's novel-in-verse project, with the plan of writing all the poems from inside a classroom, which might just coincidentally be mine. I also might cheat by reusing poems I've already written since the start of the year. And if my undisciplined mind suddently writes a completely unrelated poem, I'll allow it and worry about connecting it or cutting it later. I'm pretty sure MyPoPerDayMo will be an unlovely rag of a thing, but it will be 30 poems instead of 5 or 6, and that's always worth doing, right?


The Other Kind of Toast

My mask hurt my nose.
The parade was long.
Back in the class the table was longer!
Plates with cupcakes, cookies, grapes!
But we couldn't eat yet--hands in laps.
The teacher made us toast.

"To the Fearless Frogs!" we all said.
We bumped our cups--GENTly, GENTly--
we didn't spill a drop.
"Cheers!" we said, and then we drank.
Then Angel said, "To Halloween!"
And Jashawn said, "To loose teeth!"
Camilo said, "To Ms. Friedrich's Class!"
"Salud!" "Chin-chin!" and "Prost!"
And then we got to eat.

HM Nov 2013 draft
*Fearless Frogs doesn't come close to Mighty Minnows, but it's best I can do for now/ Also please see Frederick by Leo Lionni.

Friday, October 25, 2013

OIK: academic vocabulary

Outside, during our daily 5-minute run-around:

Me:  "Look up and notice the clouds.  First they were over there and now they're over on this side of the sky.  How do you think that happened?"

Julee:  "Maybe the clouds collaborated together to travel through the sky."

wind and

wind and

nimbly swim
across the sky


Friday, October 18, 2013

the dishwasher of my mind

This is going to be one of those posts where I attempt to connect and convey quite a few overlapping ideas; luckily all teachers in Maryland have the day off in case they want to attend the state NEA convention, so I have some extra time today.  I'll be spending it with you all on Poetry Friday and in the Garage, but getting a late start, because sometimes a girl just has to sleep in.

Yesterday I heard this fascinating piece on NPR about new research regarding the role of sleep in animals, including humans.  Why we need to sleep is a question that has puzzled scientists, because in terms of the survival of any species, sleep is costly--way too many opportunities for an individual's entire genome to be snapped up off the face of the earth in the dark of night.

It's beginning to look like the function of sleep is to shut down other processes of the brain so that it can be flushed--literally flushed--by an influx of cerebral spinal fluid that washes away the toxic waste proteins accumulated during a day of learning, thinking, problem-solving, remembering.  In fact, brains that don't have an efficient sleeptime plumbing system to remove proteins like amyloid-beta are brains which have neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer's.

This question of sleep is on my mind too, because as in many school districts, we've been having a push to Start School Later, especially for adolescents, whose sleep cycles shift with the onset of puberty.  When a kid's melatonin (the sleepy hormone) doesn't kick in until 11pm or midnight, and then she has to get up at 5:50am to catch a bus to high school that starts at 7:25, a kid is routinely missing out on 3-4 hours of the sleep time that allows her brain to perform that essential cleansing process.  Here's some info on what other effects this ritual abuse of our young people can have on them and on the rest of us, courtesy of the national organization Start School Later.

Here in Montgomery County, MD, a surprising thing recently happened--the newish Superintendent of Schools read all the findings of our SSL Work Group and recommended that we actually move towards doing it!  Start time for high school would be pushed back to 8:15 and middle school would stay roughly the same at 7:45. Elementary schools would start at 8:45, as now, but have the school day extended by 30 minutes to allow the staggered triple school bus runs that we currently depend on.  I have high hopes that we can work this out over the next year--it's a win-win and a good step towards better aligning the  schedules and calendars of working families and schools.

But, you may ask, where is the poetry in all this?  Well, on Wednesday I spent 3.5 hours in chair reviewing and planning the entire kindergarten curriculum for Marking Period 2 at high speed.  By the end my head was spinning and I thought, "This is what our kiddos feel like every day!" We have a highly compressed kindergarten day in which we attempt teach a huge mass of concepts, skills and indicators without sufficient time to balance it all with a relaxed lunch, sufficient recess, or indoor creative play. At the end of our meeting, our Staff Development Teacher acknowledged that we had been "jambarded" by information, and a poem was seeded.  (Thanks for the great word, Joelle Thompson!)

The last thing you need to know is that this year our school serves universal breakfast in the classroom, which is a great thing with a lot of unintended consequences for instructional time and also tabletop cleanliness.

The dishwasher of my mind

Happy happy Tuesday
I've been up since 6 o'clock
the password at the door is like
this is how we walk in line
(does my name contain a b?
what to choose for lunch?)
after breakfast and announcements
(read the job chart, pledge allegiance,
total rainfall and respect)

the plates
in my brain
are already
"whole grain" cinnamon buns
sticky bombs of how-to-do-it
protein packs of need-to-know
jammy wraps of chant-it-fast

morning meeting, hello greeting
(say the rhyme sit down stand up)
plans and practice sounds and spelling
Quiet Reading all four steps and why
why do we quiet-read?
(shaky egg the Teacher Table
reading groups fly in and out)
she won't know unless I read it
date it draw it what's my center?
now clean up

the bowls
in my brain
are filled to
maple syrup-flavored pancakes
fudgy sauce of mix-and-fix
fatty folder-fill-it worksheets
spicy soup of story time

now it's time for lunch.
It's loud.

I need a chance to wash my dishes,
rinse and scrub and scour my brain,
clean off all the dried-on layers,
greasy gunk of what I learned,
sizzled residue of thinking.

Can't I lay my head inside a
shiny box with glowing buttons,
start the cycle,
take a nap?

~Heidi Mordhorst
    draft 2013

The Poetry Friday round-up today is with Cathy at Merely Day by Day.  I see her Teachers Writing badge, and I'm glad to have the chance to be one!

Friday, October 4, 2013

mortimer bounces back... answer this question:

"What poem do you wish you had written?"

Oh--do you mean the one that came to me at a crucial moment in the development of a healthier, looser grip on, well, everything?  You mean the one that I printed out in turquoise and taped to the inside of the mug cupboard, so that I see it every morning whether it's a tea morning or a coffee morning?  You mean this one, by my friend Liz Steinglass?  This little miracle poem, packed with images both fresh and nostalgic? This one that reminds me that there is both celebration and shatter in every day, that flow takes practice and that laughter is the last word?

"Yes," says Mortimer, "this one."


Pool | Liz Steinglass 

Cool me.
Soothe me. 
Paint me blue and lose me.
Hold me.
Enclose me.
Show me how to flow.
My crashing,
Into splashing,
Collapse in waves
Of laughing.
When I’ve gone,
Sit still.

Thanks for letting me share this, Liz, and thanks for asking, Mortimer.
Go get splashed by more poetry with Dori today over at Dori Reads.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

OIK Tuesday

Keeping it together in Room 166 is a big job these days.  Good work is getting done somehow, despite trials and tantrums, but there's not much left of me at the end of the day and what's Overheard in Kindergarten doesn't tend to be very poetic, especially out of my exasperated mouth.

However, there have been a couple of gems out of other mouths, including one from a Concepts of Print assessment that I conducted with a supersharp Level 1 ESOL student.  Please pardon my terrible Spanish, but I was trying to help him show everything he knew and that required me to be (as ma belle-mere once said of my French) "colorful and communicative."

Tell me, Elmer
from El Salvador,
Tell me:  What is this?

"Puntito!" Yes, it is!
It's a period in English,
but don't stop there--
Que dice el puntito?
Tu no sabes?  Never mind.

Y aqui, este marco,
what is this?  Conoces tu?
...A comma makes us pause,
ellipsis while you think...

Elmer, por favor,
what is this cutlass blade
atop a dot?

Eyes wide, sidelong glance,
leaning in, whispered breath--
You earn yourself
an exclamation mark.

~Heidi Mordhorst 2013

I so wish I could show you a 3-second video of his face when he whispered, "Misterio!"  The drama was gripping.  Go get gripped by more poetry (no doubt including some punctuation) with Dori today over at Dori Reads.

And now, rather belatedly, I need to thank somebunny once again for tagging me last week to do the Children's Poetry Blog Hop with Mortimer...if you didn't get there, please visit Laura Shovan's post and Janet Fagal's, and look forward to seeing Joy Acey's Mortimer Minute this week! Here's how it works:
1) Make up three questions you've always wanted to be asked in an interview about children's poetry and then answer them on your own blog (suggestion: use one question posted by the person who invited you to the Hop).

2) Invite one, two, or three other poetry bloggers to join the Hop. Children's poetry is preferred, but all poetry lovers are welcome.

3) In your post, list the names of the bloggers you invited and give the dates when they'll be posting for the Poetry Blog Hop.
Mortimer says, "Time for bed," and he's right....

Friday, September 27, 2013

children's poetry blog hop

Yes, there is a Children's Poetry Blog Hop, and I was contacted by Laura Shovan and Janet Fagal about participating.  It began I'm not sure when and I'm not sure how, but these guidelines come from April Halprin Wayland at Teaching Authors:

To participate in the Poetry Blog Hop, simply:
Make up three questions you've always wanted to be asked in an interview about children's poetry and then answer them on your own blog;
2) Invite one, two or three other bloggers who write poetry (preferably children's poetry, but we're broad-minded) to answer any three questions that they make up on their own blogs (they can copy someone else's questions if they'd like)
3) In your post, let us know who your invitees are and when they're are going to be posting their own Poetry Blog Hop questions and answers...if you know the dates.
I'm ready to do part 1 today and I'm working on parts 2 and 3...there doesn't seem to be any need to rush the hopping, and I don't have time to rush anyway!  Here are my questions for myself:

1)  What's your favorite Children's Poet Laureate project?
2)  Which poems from it do you love?
3)  Which poem would you have contributed to it, if you had been asked?

1)   Before I answer this directly, I must release a short rant on the fact that when one searches for a LIST of children's poet laureates, selected by the Poetry Foundation rather than the Librarian of Congress, as the [adult] Poet Laureate is, one finds no such useful list, no Wikipedia page, no helpful overview.  I feel the Poetry Foundation oughta do something about this tout de suite.

Now then:  I adore The Tree That Time Built, an anthology selected by Mary Ann Hoberman and Linda Winston and published in 2009 to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth and the 250th anniversary of the publication of  The Origin of Species.  I am always particularly tickled by connections and integrations, and I love it that the Children's Poet Laureate looked outward into the world of science (and, unavoidably, social science) to find a subject for her anthology, and then selected and arranged poems that light up that complex subject for young readers.

Another thing I like about The Tree That Time Built (and you can see my previous post on it here) is that it draws on the work of past and contemporary children's poets like David McCord and Marilyn Singer but also on the work of adults' poets like Sylvia Plath and Wendell Berry.  The more we children's poetry people can convince "adult" poets that their work can speak to young people, the more chances we have to show that our work is worthy of adults.  And when the topic is science--deep, knowledgeable, informative science--the "seriousness" of our work comes through especially loud and clear.

2)  Here's one from Mary Ann Hoberman herself, perfect for the CP Blog HOP and which showcases Hoberman's terse blend of rhyme, rhythm, imagination and information.

Frog | Mary Ann Hoberman

Leaps on
Long legs
Jelly eggs
Sticky tongue
Tricks flies
Spied by
Flicker eyes
Wet skin
Cold blood
Squats in
Mucky mud
Leaps on
Long legs
Jelly eggs
Laid in
Wet bog …

And here, from Felice Holman, a favorite of mine for pinning down that feeling that is at the core of middle childhood, that key to Growing Up, that moment when you see yourself suddenly from outside, as just one thread in the interdependent web of all existence.

Who Am I? | Felice Holman

The trees ask me,
And the sky,
And the sea asks me
                         Who am I?

The grass asks me,
And the sand,
And the rocks ask me
                         Who I am.
The wind tells me
At nightfall,
And the rain tells me
                Someone small.

Someone small
Someone small
                      But a piece

3)  Say Mary Ann had asked me for a poem for The Tree That Time Built...I'd have sent her this one, from Pumpkin Butterfly, also published in 2009.

Charles Darwin’s Garden Party 

balsam fir
spotted dolphin
pink verbena
garter snake
fragrant white water lily
grizzly sow
Crater Lake 

gnarled pinyon
Painted Hills
tag alder
red bat pup 

beebalm and bluebonnets
mountain lion
fungus cup 

Death Valley
prairie dog 

Virginia creeper
Keyhole Arch
black-browed albatross 

Moose Creek
tiger shark
I just never get tired of all the wild diversity in the world!  Thanks to those who invited me to hop along.  I "hop" to invite some others to participate in the coming week.  Now let's all hop on over to The Poem Farm with Amy for today's roundup!

Friday, September 20, 2013

catch them unawares

I spent yesterday evening writing a social story for one of my new Minnows, so I didn't write a poem or a post.  But I can share the joy of of this OIK moment...

We're working with the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears this week and alongside it, enjoying reading and preparing for a Teddy Bears' Picnic this afternoon.  Watching the video above, Angelo said, "What are they talking underwears for?  You put that on your buttie-butt!" 

Friday, September 13, 2013

pfams weather

We had some exciting weather yesterday outside our kindergarten classroom: at 1:35 we went out for our five-minute scream-and-chase-fest and noticed, despite the sunny sky and sweltering heat (and the screaming), some pretty powerful rumbles of thunder.  By 1:45 it had grown darkly cloudy and the rain was peltering down.  Lightning had joined the thunder, which was then joined by gleeful and fearful shrieking of 5-year-olds. 

We stopped looking at yesterday's-best Writing Workshop work and spun around on our blue sitting lines to face the weather graph, where we recorded.....our first rainy day in September!  And wind!  And still red-hot out there! 

[As I struggled to maintain control amid the storm and get everybody settled into Think-Draw-Write-Read mode, my parent volunteer, in for the first time, spoke the words we teachers long to hear, because so many people believe otherwise:  "This is a very difficult job--I don't know how you do it."]

All of this weather sent me looking for a sudden storm poem.  I picked up The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School and found three mighty enjoyable Week 9: Weather poems.  7th grade has Leslea Newman's "After the Blizzard, Outside My Window," and 8th grade has the rather exquisite "Sunbeam Confesses Its Love of Geometry" by Mary Lee Hahn, but it was in 6th grade that I found a poem closest to my stormy afternoon.  In case it's not obvious--I identified with the general. 

Racing the Clouds | Jacqueline Jules

The sky
is the color of a battleship.
wait with heavy breath,
like tense soldier listening
for a general's barked command.
The battle
will begin tonight.
But now
the sidewalk summons,
and a warm breeze kisses my cheek.
I'll take a chance
and race the clouds.
Hear my heart pound
in rhythm with my feet.

©The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School 2013

The round-up today is with Jen at Teach Mentor Texts, a new place for me.  And really, don't miss my Tuesday post below, a poem I found in my Comments inbox.  It's just too good (better than my blog lately).  And oh my gosh!  I almost neglected to mention that I am now a member of the Poets' Garage!  This is a wonderful development for me and I'm grateful for the opportunity, plus I like the cool badge.  Thanks to all the poets and clever administerial types who make the Garage run like greased lightnin'.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

OIK Tuesday: I will certainly be back

I was trying to write for my kindergarteners, from my kindergarteners, but then I found this comment in my inbox, too perfect to resist.

Its like you learn my thoughts!

You appear to grasp
so much approximately this,
like you wrote
the e-book in it or something.
I believe that you can do
with a few p.c.
to pressure the message home
a little bit, however other than that,
this is excellent blog.
An excellent read.

I will certainly be back.

Friday, August 30, 2013


With apologies to Peter Reynolds, here is a first week of school poem.

English German
beamish teamish

begin again
hot and sticky meish
becomes a ragged weish

tearish clingish screamish
ac busted steamish
oops a trigger:
nothing ish
about this fit!
this afternoon feels
I love you please go home

ac fixed relaxish
cryish calmish
routine is a balmish
hey an anchor:
nothing ish
about this song!
listen to us sing

Friday, August 16, 2013

first day feast

This amazing and delicious school-supply buffet by Jamie from Setting the Mood.  Suddenly I'm starving...

It's that time again.  In large part because of a course I took which required me to log 100 hours of "Preparing Effective Curriculum,"  I've been thinking about school all summer, and I knew because of the pattern of our family activities that this summer would feel particularly short.  But here we are on the morning of my first day back (yes, one ahead of the general schedule for special staff development) and I could say:  my summer's over.

As Daisy reminded me, Summer itself is not over, not by a long shot, but it's hard to remember that in the perennially pleasurable flurry of newness.  I participated in the exit interview for that course yesterday and sat with three other teachers who appreciate, as I do, the chance to Begin Anew each year, to rethink and improve and correct and refresh and embark and attempt.  We also appreciate the break that allows us to do this each summer.  I don't have to tell most of you that teachers have summer breaks because they NEED them to recover and regroup--ours is one of the most continuously intense kinds of work there is. 

[I believe in this annual New Beginning even though I also believe that we here in the US need to rethink our whole school schedule and move to the European one of just-about year-round school.*  It's the only thing that makes sense in our modern culture, and it's better for children and working families as well as teachers.]

So here's a Begin Anew poem.

First Day Feast

"Fresh" is a word I hear about food,
like "crisp" and "juicy" and "ripe."
But things feel fresh on the first day of school:
my new clothes are crisp,
my markers are juicy,
my brain feels ready and ripe.
All the stuff I learned last year
has sunk in deep and wet,
like feet in the sand and me in the pool.
Now I'm hungry!  Now I'm set
for a feast of the first-day type!

HM 2013

The round-up today is over at steps and staircases on tumblr, with our new host Lisa.  I hope I'm doing the right thing to post my link...

*In England, where I taught for 5 years, there are three terms of 12 weeks.  Each term is broken into two 6-week chunks by an entire week of half-term break, and there are 2-week breaks between terms.  School thus finishes around Wimbledon time each year, mid-July, and the summer break is "only" 6 weeks or so, but since teachers have not been driven sniveling into the ground by endless weeks of school punctuated only by the occasional Monday off, they don't need quite so much time to recover and regroup--that process is more ongoing.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

[OIK] Tuesday: the best part of the day

I'm working on my vow to write for kids, little ones, for a while...I have no kindergarten voices to draw on right now, so I'll be the 5-year-old for now. (This chart is not from my classroom, but it's nice, right?)

A Reason to Rejoice
Some of my friends are scared to choose-
all they can think of is what they'll lose.
But being the boss makes me rejoice:
My favorite time of day is Choice.
HM 2013

Friday, August 2, 2013

a roller coaster called kindergarten

As I return to "real" life after a long and fantastic trip to the France and Italy of our extended family, I'm grateful to Mary Lee for wisely reminding me that control is my favorite illusion:

It's the same feeling you get
just after you've nudged the sled
over the shoulder
of the hill.
Movement becomes momentum
and quickly shifts
to catapulting and careening.

You relinquish control
and hold on
for the ride.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2013

I'm also grateful to my father for sending me this poem that he found in the pages of the always stimulating Christian Century magazine.  It reminds me that it's not about the weight of the papers and planning and posters and pencils; the joy in this ride comes from the small mammals strapped in next to you on the roller coaster.

If I become like you, I will write about a roughed grouse | Brian Doyle

If I become like you I will write about a roughed grouse,
Says the boy, five years old, with a face like a chipmunk
Storing up winter browse. We are at his school, where he
And the other small mammals have written things for me
On bright scraps of paper. He hands me his paper and I’ll
Carry it in my wallet the rest of my life. Mister Brian, the
Sun is raining all around, another child says to me. It is up
And down sun, she says. I want to be a cookie when I’m
Your age, says another child. Once we were all monkeys
In skirts made from the skins of trees, says a boy with an
Icicle tattoo. It’s templorary, he says, explaining it to me.

I laugh and he laughs and every kid there starts laughing.
I think I am going to fly up gently into the air over a tree
From joy, as saints used to float when gripped by ecstasy.
That happened to Saint Joseph Cupertino, you remember,
Seventy times, it is said, and now I know why: no gravity.

I hope to make this the last poem written for adults for a good while and challenge myself to do that thing I like best, which is write for kids.  I thank Margaret over at the round-up at Reflections on the Teche for reminding me what a supportive community this is; I think I'm going to need it.

For now, I will lower my expectations a bit.  The title is for the grown-ups, but the poem works for little ones.

On Rearranging the Classroom, Again

It really matters where you sit,
whichever way you look at it.
Choose the middle of the middle;
that way you see it all a little.

Heidi Mordhorst 2013

                                  And here's a photo I came across that I just need to share...

Friday, June 21, 2013

summer sounds or summer silence?

May the long light of the sun shine on us all this Summer Solstice day!  It's been a whole month since my last lame post--an unintended hiatus brought on by my first taste of the Sandwich Generation.
In the last four weeks, with one hand I juggled the usual teacher's end-of-year obligations (including a program for parents at which my kiddos explained, announced and sang nine songs both enthusiastically and beautifully--very gratifying for all the adults);  with the other I scheduled and propped and permitted and prepared and attended the projects, plays, trips, tryouts, presentations and promotions of my own children; and with the occasional free left foot or right hip, helped my parents (rather fit at 73 but under duress) sort and pack 28 years' worth of important stuff from their Baltimore house during a move that was achieved, between "Maybe we should put the house on the market" and "We're on the road with the moving van right behind us," in 5 weeks flat.

Meanwhile, my adult partner in all this was as helpful and supportive as possible given that she was logging hours and miles in preparation for a successful 545-mile AIDS Lifecycle from San Francisco to L.A. This left only my right big toe free to think about and write poetry--and since my right big toe is not a skilled typist, I didn't log a single poetic thought between May 24 and this Wednesday morning, when I prepared to catch up with three (count 'em, THREE!) poetry meetings in one day.  It is perhaps no surprise that what I found in my files to work on was a blank page with nothing but a title:  "Experiment in the Silence Lab."

It's not ready to share yet, so instead I offer you this rumination from Billy Collins.  The round-up today is with Carol at Carol's Corner.

Silence | Billy Collins

There is the sudden silence of the crowd
above a player not moving on the field,
and the silence of the orchid.
The silence of the falling vase
before it strikes the floor,
the silence of the belt when it is not striking the child.

The stillness of the cup and the water in it,
the silence of the moon
and the quiet of the day far from the roar of the sun.

The silence when I hold you to my chest,
the silence of the window above us,
and the silence when you rise and turn away.
And there is the silence of this morning
which I have broken with my pen...

Read the rest here, or listen to Billy read it.

Friday, May 24, 2013

out of time

time_travel_ink0I don't really have a post today, and it's not about poetry.  I've been reading, you see, and watching, and there's only so much time in a person's last month of the school year.

A while back I read  A Wrinkle in Time to Duncan (which turns out not to be such a great read-aloud, but we made it work; any thoughts on that assertion?); then we did Percy Jackson 4 (my favorite so far) and most recently we read, quite slowly, When You Reach Me

Simultaneously, and after working to get into it for some weeks, I was reading The Time Traveller's Wife, which has been Daisy's favorite book since the middle of 7th grade.  (We'll go back some time to how I felt when I realized that my barely 13 yo was reading and rereading this adult work of fiction; it felt the same as when I realized she had watched six seasons of "How I Met Your Mother" before I even knew that show existed. Oy.)  Alongside THAT, I've been watching "HIMYM" with Daisy, which is essentially a time-travel experience, and the modern "Doctor Who" with Duncan.

So I have no poetry post today, only a report about how I can't stop thinking about diamond chips on a gold ring and the broccoli patch, Aunt Beast and the Laughing Man and Henry, and whether Rebecca Stead and Audrey Niffenegger have ever exchanged emails, and what it is exactly that Daisy is learning about the art of narrative from Ted (and I hope NOTHING from Barney), and how this whole two-Marcuses or two-Henrys-in-the-same-place-in-time is a slippery concept for me in the same way that subtraction is really slippery for some kindergarteners (including the 5-year-old me).

In the meantime I do have an OIK poem brewing, about the kangaroo's porch...but Calef Brown has probably already written it.

Enjoy Poetry Friday with Jama today!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

OIK Tuesday: backpacks in love

It's been a while since I took up the challenge of writing poems based on the things I hear in the classroom, but as our year is coming to a close I have to slow down, pay attention and grab a few more bon-mots from the mouths of kindergarteners.

It just so happens that the two girls beginning with K in my class sit side by side at the moment.  The other morning they came to me to untangle their backpacks.  In the course of unpacking, in a way that you could never achieve even if you made it your day's work, the zipper tab of one backpack had hooked itself through the mesh pocket of the other.  I separated the backpacks and we went to work trying to formulate Big Questions about The Little Red Hen.  (My favorite this year was Indi's:  "Why didn't the Little Red Hen get angry?")

That afternoon at packing-up time, the two K's came to me from the closet where their backpacks hang side-by-side.  They held up their backpacks, again connected by zipper and pocket, and one K said,  "We think our backpacks are in love!"  The other K added, "Maybe it's because they both begin with K."

Gosh, I love kindergarteners!

Backpacks in Love

zip on over close to me--
               I'll hold your heart capaciously
pop into my pocket
              I'll never ever drop it
pack your hopes and dreams in me
              I'll carry all you ever need
wear me out and wear me down
              I'll always hang around

Heidi Mordhorst 2013

Friday, May 10, 2013

sunday morning slam

Last month I shared poems written during Religious Education classes at my UU congregation; last week you got poems in the key of kindergarten.  This week I can leap off from both those points to share a piece from a couple of Sundays ago at the annual Youth Service, where high-schoolers take the whole service and the seniors leave us something of themselves and then cross over into young adulthood.

There are always impressive performances of various kinds at the Youth Service:  musical offerings, reflections, skits, dance numbers, and yes, poetry.  But I was surprised this year when senior Alek Zherka stepped away from the lectern and delivered a subtly powerful performance of his piece, "Strive to Be Me."  I wish I could share with you a video of his moment--it was brief, since he didn't include the long last section--but it sure sounded like a poem to me, and that's what Alek calls it. You'll see that it doesn't look on paper [or on screen] the way I expected it to when I wrote to ask for a copy.  Still, while Alek's delivery wasn't showy or stagey, he moved to the composed music of his words and created, for me anyway, an experience that was Louder Than a Bomb.

Strive to Be Me | Alek Zherka
Where is home? Home is where your heart is. The size of one's fist, yet it has so many parts that very few can list. The wrist up, seems pretty small, but it answers the call when you call on it to keep you living; breathing the same air that Lincoln breathed while thinking how to bring two halves to make a whole. One plus one is two, or so I've been told. Are we different, him and I? His goals aren’t mine, because his are his and mine are mine. Mine are for me and me only. That’s why I strive to be me.

Why can’t addicts stop? Why do kids want to be cops? Why do people destroy one another just to reach the top? Because that’s life, no meaning, just meanness; madness yes, but seamlessly so. The to and fro, the ying and yo, of the daily life we live. Living is seeing, and seeing is believing. Therefore people live to believe. That’s why I strive to be me.

How does one define the value of a life? Is it what one can give to a wife? He buys a diamond, stained with blood. Every kiss begins with slave. Taken away, over the waves, to a cave. Mining them, cutting them. Cutting fingers. The children’s screams linger. It's daunting, forever haunting those who know. But the feelings go, when one sees the bright shine of a diamond. So we say never forget, but we never do anything, something we say we will forever regret. But in reality we barely care. Girls will always want a reason to do up their hair. So a diamond is bought without a thought, it is always sought by those who ought to know not. So the small kids rot away, day by day. That’s the value of a life. The couple is forever happy under the sun. The kids can’t remember the last time they had fun, or even saw the sun. Does the ring fit? The closest thing is a candle once lit. If it doesn’t fit don’t fret, a new one only costs four kids. Next time you see one, a diamond that is, think of me, think of this. I hope I have made some difference today, talking about those not yet free. That’s why I strive to be me.
I'm thinking a lot about slam poetry this week because I've organized the annual visit of Gayle Danley to Daisy's school for a performance and workshops, and then Teacher Appreciation Week isn't complete without another viewing of Taylor Mali performing "What Do Teachers Make?"

The Poetry Friday round-up this week is at Booktalking with Anastasia, I think...

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

OIK Tuesday returns! kindergarten poetry

Today Overheard in Kindergarten Tuesday extends into Poetry Friday!  My eighteen Mighty Minnows spent the week of April 15 meeting poems by Langston Hughes, Lilian Moore, Arnold Adoff and Beatrice Schenk de Regniers to learn what poets do.  On the Friday they worked to compose their own poems.  I'm excited to share this work from children at varying stages of independent writing ability.

My proudest accomplishment as a teacher is that EVERY child knew what they wanted to write and felt competent to write a poem, and that EVERY child chose a different small thing to write about (with one exception, and that was my fault; I gave homework the night before to write a little poem about pockets). How's that for Thinking and Academic Success Skills


I found a cat
I found another cat
I found three cats

by Nadja


I hate
They bite
They give me

by Bertrand


I like flowers
You do too 
They can be colors
Well, you can like them
Everybody can

by Karina

I Am Pretty 

I walk
to a big butterfly
I wear
my green dress
I go
to my castle

by Janie


I really like pockets
and what you can put
you can take it out
and show it
or you can keep it in
and hide
by Briella 

unleashing the undead
the night unleashes
the dead: vampires,
zombies, ghosts, ghouls
ripping your throat.

by Beck
[Beck and I mutually agreed that while this is a cracking poem,
it isn't quite appropriate for a kindergarten anthology.  He's written
a new one about shoes, but I wanted to post his original creation here.]

Scaring Carrie
I’m a giant.
and she goes

by Santiago 

put them in a row
flick really soft
flick with your finger
watch them tumble
see them tumble!

by Mikael

Fast brings
  speed.  fire
     super super
   super speed!
    speed   That’s what
I call it!
     by Arden

in my pocket
in my pocket
then my popcorn
pops away! 

by Antonio 

Why do you think
you’re going to
bed?   I don’t think
I am going to bed.
by Tonya

To the Sun 
I flew to the sun
and was gone
forever and
I said   NOOO 

by Tiago 

Sing me
and everybody
sing and
the world
can sing

by Henderson 

A Horse

the wind is going fast
when the horse goes fast
the wind goes blowing
through her hair
when the grass blows
the horse goes away fast
the horse stops
to get a drink 

by Le’Ann
[Can you see the influence of Christina Rossetti here?  One of our
anthology poems was "Clouds," with the white sheep walking away

Paul’s Pockets
pocket skirts and
pocket shirts and
pants and pretty dresses
all have pockets
but I like Paul’s pockets

by Cora

cats are furry
cats are cuddly
cats are friendly
cats are hairy
cats are mean sometimes.

by Merrilee 

The Pockets

the pockets
are very important
why?  they help you
carry things when you
need them 

by Indi 

My Shiny Bow

Shiny shiny!
Shiny bow
I like it
I like it
It’s very low
Very very
Very very
Very very
Very low

by Susye