Friday, October 31, 2014

science series IV

In Kindergarten we have been exploring the water cycle as best as we are able at 5 and 6 years old.  We sing a song I never get tired of, "The Wheel of the Water" by Tom Chapin (enjoy a story performance version here at minute 2:25 and a sample of the straight vocal version here), and use that foundational chorus as the anchor for all our discussions of cycles throughout kindergarten:  the wheel of the apple, the wheel of the pumpkin, the wheel of the sunflower/frog/chicken/turtle/human.

We always get that the water flows down ("down, trickle trickle down") and that "clouds rain down; thunder and lightning sound", but the stage of the water cycle at which the sun cooks the water into invisible droplet-filled vapor is still very mysterious.  We do a simple experiment:

1) Soak a paper towel.
2) Hang it with a clothespin somewhere in the room.
3) Go to Art or Music or P.E..
4) Return and retrieve paper towel.  What do you notice?

This experiment is always accompanied by shrieks of surprise, excitement and even shock.  But the answers to "Where did the water go?" are often very magical, despite the many rehearsals of "See the vapors rise; see them cloud the skies"--because we canNOT see the vapors rise, and it's hard to believe that the water is now in the very air of our room, and indeed that water is EVERYWHair.  This year it was concluded that the water vapor went through the little holes in our ceiling tiles to get to the sky, and I could not prove otherwise!

Here's an original that might have been a helpful addition to this week's curriculum, except that we were too busy with "Five Little Pumpkins" and the Spooky Ghost sound /oo/.  Boo to you and Happy Halloween too!

Water Becomes You

This water coming into your hands,
it’s old—older than today,
older than you are,
older than the oldest people you know.

This water has been around:
playing over and under the world,
coming up in different wells,
turning through the air into nothing.

This water will make its home in you,
become a part of you,
moving in your very thoughts—
old water welling up in new hands.

HM 2006
all rights reserved 


Go knock on Linda's door at TeacherDance--I bet there are lots of poetreats to be had today!

Friday, October 24, 2014

science series III

Scientist, poet...poet, scientist.  Opposite ends of the intellectual spectrum, you say? 

Both poets and scientists begin their work with close observation.  Both employ their senses in wide-open, curious ways. Both distinguish themselves by bringing wild creativity to their work. Eve Merriam gently commands young readers who may want to be poets to behave like scientsts.

One way to approach this poem--after it has been savored and enjoyed as a whole tasty mouthful--is to blow it up large and have students develop a "Five Senses" code to label words, lines and phrases according to the sense being engaged.  Do you need a sixth symbol for the sense of imagination? 
    Reply to the Question, "How Can You Become a Poet?" || Eve Merriam
      take the leaf of a tree
      trace its exact shape
      the outside edges
      and inner lines
      memorize the way it is fastened to the twig
      (and how the twig arches from the branch)
      how it springs forth in April
      how it is panoplied in July

      by late August
      crumple it in your hand
      so that you smell its end-of-summer sadness

      chew its woody stem

      listen to its autumn rattle

      watch it as it atomizes in the November air

      then in winter
      when there is no leaf left

                        invent one

      This poem appears in The Tree That Time Built, edited by Children's Poet Laureate Mary Ann Hoberman (Sourcebooks 2009).

      Rake your way on over to Merely Day by Day with Cathy for the Poetry Friday Roundup.


    Wednesday, October 15, 2014

    science series II

    The leaves are falling in earnest now where we are.  I have used this poem with children as young as first grade, emphasizing the cyclical journey of the leaves, the ecological concept of decay. This is a poem that begins in the realm of the obvious and then teaches readers to look beyond, to follow the trail of a thing.

    The language is at once simple and exquisitely textured, helping younger readers to access a complex concept and probably some new vocabulary.  I like it also because the last two lines insist on metacognition:  consider the reality of our nature but also the possibility of another.  We see how it is in our world, but how might it be in some other world?

    In Hardwood Groves || Robert Frost

    The same leaves over and over again!
    They fall from giving shade above
    To make one texture of faded brown
    And fit the earth like a leather glove.

    Before the leaves can mount again
    To fill the trees with another shade,
    They must go down past things coming up,
    They must go down into the dark decayed.

    They must be pierced by flowers and put
    Beneath the feet of dancing flowers.
    However it is in some other world,
    I know that this is the way in ours.

    Friday, October 10, 2014

    science series I

    In November at the NCTE Convention I'll be participating in a Children's Literature Assembly Master Class called "Poetry Across the Curriculum."  I'll lead a Roundtable discussion about how poetry can support science teaching, while others address math, social studies, art and P.E..  To get myself all geared up and to provide a resource for participants, I'm going to start now on collecting and commenting on some of my favorite science poems.

    For this season I love this one, a sensory feast from the queen of close observation, Valerie Worth.

    pumpkin | Valerie Worth
    After its lid
    is cut, the slick
    Seeds and stuck
    Wet strings
    Scooped out,
    walls scraped
    Dry and white,
    Face carved, candle

    Fixed and lit,
    Light creeps
    into the thick
    Rind: giving
    That dead orange
    Vegetable skull
    Warm skin, making
    A live head
    To hold its
    Sharp gold grin.

    from More Small Poems (Farrar Straus Giroux, 1976)
    Besides the festival of hard c and k sounds and the incitement of repeated long and short i's, Valerie gives us wonderful contrasts:  slick and stuck, wet and dry, white and orange, dead and alive.  Also there is the transformation that I hope every child has the hands-on chance to effect, from farm-field vegetable to human artifact (which makes this a social studies poem as well!).  Stop painting and get carving while you talk about change with K-2nd graders.

    A nonfiction text to place alongside this poem is the skillfully poetic Pumpkin Circle by George Levenson and Shmuel Thaler (Random House Children's Books, 1999).  It's the best way I know to introduce the concept of plant life cycles to young children.

    Join the poetry party this Friday at The Miss Rumphius Effect with Tricia!