Today my newlywed teacher-daughter, Morgan, welcomes 27 wonderful third-graders to her class in a new (to her) school. Married life summoned her back to north Georgia, and in June, she was juggling last-minute wedding planning with job interviews and moving!
While she’ll have a few things to learn herself, she does know third-graders – that’s the age she’s taught for two years, in addition to her student teaching experience before graduation.
So for today, I went hunting for a back-to-school poem with a special tip of the hat to Third Grade.
I didn’t have to look far in my art studio (with its own projects for fall sprouting in every corner). I’ve procured several vintage “readers” in recent years. I can never pass up poring through those books during thrift store jaunts. Not too deep in the stack was an ELSON PRIMARY SCHOOL READER – Book Three, for Third Grade (Elson, William H. Chicago: Scott, Foresman and Company, 1913. Illustrated by H. O. Kennedy). Well, the title page says, "Book Four," but the cover says "Book Three/Third Grade." A bit of rushed proofreading between volumes?
Anyway, halfway through, I fell into Christina Rossetti’s “THE MONTHS: A PAGEANT.”
Do you know the work? I didn’t, but was delighted to discover, and a quick search gave me an initial publication date of 1881.It’s a play, written in poems, with students taking on the characters of the months.
The opening scene is “A Cottage with Its Grounds.”
January starts us off, seated by the fire, and soon February knocks on the door, and so on.
Here is our poem for August:
Wheat sways heavy, oats are airy,
Barley bows a graceful head,
Short and small shoots up canary,
Each of these is someone’s bread;
Bread for a man or bread for beast,
Or at very least
A bird’s savory feast.
Men are brethren of each other,
One in flesh and one in food;
And a sort of foster-brother
is the litter or the brood
Of that folk in fur or feather
Who, with men together,
Breast the wind and weather.
[August sees September toiling across the lawn.]
My harvest home is ended; and I spy
September drawing nigh
With the first thought of Autumn in her eye,
And the first sigh
Of Autumn wind among her locks that fly.
[September arrives, carrying upon her head a basket heaped high with fruit.]
It might be a fun project for a contemporary class to read this “old-fashioned” pageant/play, then write an original play with their own parade of months! Maybe three or so students could be assigned a month, with each student then sharing a stanza during the play's performance.
By the way, do you remember your third-grade teacher? Mine was Mrs. Ashton and I thought she hung the moon. Maybe she did.
Both of our kids were taught third grade by our dear friend Cheryl Brown, retired now but still working with students. Her class was that perfect combination of warm & welcoming and challenging, and she helped prepare her charges for future success in academics as well as on the playground.
Goooo, Third Grade!
And, speaking of school, please visit the multi-talented Tara at A Teaching Life for this week’s Roundup.