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Hanging with fellow Georgia writers (from top, l-r) Tracy Walker, Heather Kolich, Donna Bowman, (bottom, middle) Janice Hardy and Paula Puckett
photo by Steve Kolich

Susan Rosson Spain, Robyn Hood Black, Elizabeth Dulemba, and Myra Meade at the Hall Book Exchange in Gainesville, Ga.
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Southern Breeze Kudos Kites 09 - Donna, Robyn, Heather, Sarah, and Peggy

Robyn with Kathleen Duey, author extraordinaire http://www.kathleenduey.com

Robyn with Alaska Nature Writer Debbie Miller http://www.debbiemilleralaska.com

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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday - POEMS ARE TEACHERS author Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, and a Giveaway!

October 18, 2017

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, teaching, students, book giveaway, poetry resources, Poems are Teachers



As I pack up for a week of school visits in the Atlanta area next week, I am SO excited to be tucking in a brand-new, soul-enriching resource, POEMS ARE TEACHERS – How Studying Poetry Strengthens Writing in All Genres, HOT off the press this week from Heinemann. It is the result of the passion, creativity and smarts of our own Amy Ludwig VanDerwater of The Poem Farm. A graduate of Teachers College, Columbia University, and a former 5th grade teacher, Amy is the author of picture books, professional works, and lots and lots of poems!

Each section of POEMS ARE TEACHERS includes a poem by a contemporary adult poet and two poems by students (grades 2 through 8). These are models exemplifying six topics: finding ideas, choosing perspective and point of view, structuring texts, playing with language, crafting beginnings and endings, and choosing titles. Of course, the poems are so rich that teachers and students will find cross-over examples of all kinds of techniques, leading to lively classroom discussions. And the book’s clear organization makes it easy to jump in and out according to specific objectives.

The quality of the poems by adults is a little breathtaking, with names you will surely recognize, including some familiar Poetry Friday contributors. I have to say, the student poems really choked me up (like “What Ifs” by Alex C., grade 8), or made me break out into helpless laughter (such as “A Bacteria Tragedy” by George M., grade 3). These and the other poems by young writers are honest and surprising and fully felt – terrific examples to share in any classroom. (Hats off to the teachers of these young writers.) Each student poem is presented in the author’s own handwriting, making the poetry personal and accessible.

Here’s a sample of a poem by a contemporary adult writer, Kristy Dempsey, in the “Writers Play with Language” section:


Rain Song

Rain taps out a rhythm,
a rapid skipping rhythm
a plitter-plinking, plopping,
hopping, bopping kind of beat.

It starts with just a drizzle,
a syncopated sizzle,
a sound that soon becomes a tune
as raindrops hit the street.

It sets my toes to tapping,
I’m twirling and I’m clapping,
Splashing, dashing, laughing
as I move my dancing feet.

Play the water music,
the thrilling, trilling music!
Spill the notes from every cloud,
DripDrop, PlipPlop. Repeat!


©Kristy Dempsey. All rights reserved. Used with permission. (Thanks for sharing, Kristy!)

Immediately following in “WORDS FROM THE POET,” Kristy says, …To me, all writing is made to be read out loud, to be heard and even performed! When I’m writing, both poetry and prose, you’ll find me tapping my hands or feet, dancing and jumping, and using my mouth and tongue to make sounds – almost like beatboxing – so I can listen to the rhythm of my words.

The book also offers a wonderful foreword by Katherine Bomer, and a heartfelt dedication to Lee Bennett Hopkins.

Ever Amy, the author encourages readers/users of this book to “fall in love first” with texts and poems, and then explore what techniques might be learned from the way those words are put together. The pages of this book are filled with play and with joy – I think lots of teachers will be falling in love! So happy Amy is joining us today for a behind-the-scenes peek.

Welcome, Amy! You are both an award-winning poet and a teacher of writing. How do your own poetic sensibilities inform your teaching?

Because I write and share regularly, I understand the terror associated with writing and sharing. So the more I write, the better I become at approaching young writers with gentleness. I know what it feels like to take a soul-risk, and so I work to listen carefully, to hear what is be most helpful to a writer now, be it encouragement or a tip.

How did the idea for this book come about? What is its own backstory?

Working in the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project office with Lucy Calkins back in the early ‘90s changed my life. During that time as a graduate student, I learned from many brilliant folks including Katie Wood Ray, Carl Anderson, Georgia Heard, and Isoke Nia. I got to carry Katherine Paterson’s backpack and listen in as great minds spoke to groups large and small. I heard gorgeous speeches and watched masterful teachers. Then, several years later, I met Lee Bennett Hopkins, my poetry teacher to whom this book is dedicated. My life changed again as I worked hard to write stronger, leaner poems. This book is a marriage of those two wonderful parts of my learning life.

No two students are the same, of course, but do you find students connect to poetry in a different way than they connect to other genres? (As readers and/or as writers.)

Poetry frees us. Many children and adults discover our beliefs and our voices through poems. Again and again, teachers share with me stories of students who did not connect - who even struggled - with other genres. But with poetry...their voices sang with rhythm, metaphor, and deep connection. Children know that poems are full of love.

What is an example of a bridge students can cross between poetry and fiction or nonfiction?

In poetry, we quickly see how repetition can tie stanzas and lines together. We speak often about repeating words and lines and sounds when we read poems. Yet we find repetition threading through narrative and information and opinion texts too: the recurring image, the last line echoing a first line, the surprising yet perfect alliterative phrase. Standing just on one page, a poem can illuminate all kinds of writing techniques. And once we understand, we can bring these techniques with us; we can welcome them to seep into our prose.

You’ve had lots of experience writing poetry and educational texts. What were some of the delights and challenges of being an anthologist of sorts, working with so many different poets, teachers and students?

It was a gift! To be in touch with so many fabulous poets of all ages and so many wise teachers...this whole thing was a gift for me. But difficult, as I am a disorganized person. And difficult, too, because I have read and admire mountains of professional books. I was scared to do this - What if it didn’t work out? Aside from that, the hardest part was knowing when to stop. How many poems? How many explorations? How many words for each? For there’s no end to the possibility. Fortunately, there was a deadline. My amazing editor, Katie Wood Ray, and everyone at Heinemann was marvelous, making extra space and bigger pages to fit so much goodness from so many talented people. POEMS ARE TEACHERS is: one third poetry anthology, one third professional book, and one third celebration of student writing. I can’t believe it’s out in the world.

Thank you, my friend Robyn, for having me at your place today. I am so happy to be able to share your clever poem “Word Wanted” in this new book...and now I think I’ll go celebrate by shopping at artsyletters!


[She really did, and she insisted on keeping that in there. Thank you, Amy!]

Here’s my poem; I’m beyond grateful to have it included in this treasure of a book:


Word Wanted

POEM seeking just the right word.
Must dazzle when written, spoken or heard.

Slight words, trite words need not apply.
Precise and concise words, give us a try.

Regardless of your part of speech,
a noteworthy job could be within reach.

Endowed with sound second to none?
Potential for growth, if you are the one.



©Robyn Hood Black. All rights reserved.


But wait – there’s more! Heinemann has kindly offered to send a copy of POEMS ARE TEACHERS to one lucky reader of this post! Please leave a comment below by Tuesday, Oct. 31 (Boo!), and I’ll announce the random winner on that Poetry Friday. Many thanks to Heinemann, and bouquets of gratitude to Amy for visiting with us today.

Now, please enjoy ALL the instructive poetry this week over at A Day in the Life, where Teacher/Reader/Writer Leigh Ann has the Poetry Friday Roundup! (Thanks for hosting, Leigh Ann.)

Poetry Friday: Unlocking PFAMS!

February 28, 2013

Tags: Poetry Friday, poetry, anthologies, standards, teaching, authors, book tracks

When the Poetry Friday Anthology debuted last fall, I heard a couple of teachers say they’d love to see something like that for older students. Well, today’s the day!

It’s the official launch of The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School (PFAMS), brilliantly brought to life by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong.

Here’s the official scoop:

The Poetry Friday Anthology is a series for K-5 and Middle School (6-8) designed to help teachers meet the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in the English Language Arts (ELA). “Take 5” teaching tips for each poem provide step-by-step poetry lessons that address curriculum requirements.

PFAMS offers many of the same features as the original PFA. In fact, the same theme is used for each week in grades 6 through 8 as is used for K-5. Each grade section opens with a “Poem for Everyone” and then a suite of weedkly poems for each grade level for the whole year, tied in with the “Take 5” activities to grade-level standards. Pretty nifty, eh?

In fact, the first poem in the collection, a poem for everyone, is “First Day at a New School,” penned by none other than our Poetry Friday host today, Julie Larios .

One difference in this volume from the K-5 version is that each poem here claims a whole spread, rather than a poem and its activities presented one per page as laid out in the K-5 edition. As you can imagine, the “Take 5” lesson ideas are a bit more sophisticated, but still very user-friendly.

I’ll share one of my two in the collection to demonstrate how it works. (The other will show up here sometime soon, too!)

My poem “Locker Ness Monster” appears in the Sixth Grade section for Week Two, for the theme, “More School.”


Locker Ness Monster


Twenty-four
Eighteen
Six.


Arrrgh. That’s not it.

Twenty-six
Fourteen
Eight.


Nothing. Nada. Nyet.

Twenty-six
Eighteen
Four.


CLICK. That’s it!

Unlock your head,
then your fingers,
then the door.


©Robyn Hood Black. All rights reserved.

For the “Take Five” element on the opposite page, there are five different activities a teacher could choose to use with this poem. I won’t give them all away, but the first is particularly intriguing:

1. Add a bit of fun to sharing this poem with a “poetry prop” – hold up a locker lock before reading the poem aloud. Spin the wheel and stop at the numbers in the poem (24/18/6; 26/14/8; 26/18/4). See if you can do that WHILE reading the poem aloud!

(I love a challenge - but I'd probably have to pass this one on to someone more coordinated!)

A teacher might pick one activity or all five. You really can introduce a poem and lead a related activity in five minutes, if that’s all you have to work with. The number 5 in each “Take 5” is one always one of my favorite elements of these anthologies: a connection to another poem in the book (and sometimes to a published collection if it particularly relates). In the case of my poem here, readers are encouraged to check out another poem “involving confusion over numbers” – it’s “Fourths of Me” by Betsy Franco, in the 7th grade section, a terrific poem about identity. Another poem that connects back to mine emerges for the “In the Water” theme a few weeks later in sixth grade – “Dear Monster of Loch Ness” by Jack Prelutsky. (Great poem; amazing poet!) You get the idea.

One of my favorite things about these anthologies is the first “key to remember” in the opening pages:

A poem should first be enjoyed for its own sake.

This is vitally important. These anthologies enable teachers to present what can be an intimidating subject in accessible, fun, age-appropriate ways, while at the same time touching on the new Common Core standards. I wish this had been around back in the day when I taught middle school English!

Reminder: Sylvia and Janet have done an amazing job making this material accessible in a variety of ways. The anthology is available in a print version with all of the 6th through 8th grade entries; as an e-book; and by grade-level as e-books for a nominal price. Teachers who want to share a poem with students can do so quite easily with a Smartboard. But wait - there's more.... While the book cover pictured above is the CCSS version, educators in Texas can purchase the anthology with activities tailored to the TEKS standards. Ordering info for any of these can be found here.

I have really enjoyed reading the poems included in this collection and exploring the connections and activities they inspire. For more great poetry today, drift on over to see Julie at The Drift Record.

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