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Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday: Unlocking PFAMS!

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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