Friday, March 27, 2009

Poetry Across The Curriculum: Kate Shelley - A Poetry Break

This biographical poem tells the story of a young girl’s bravery to go out in a storm to save the men from a train crash during the late 19th century. Perfect for social studies lessons, pair this poem with picture books like Kate Shelley: Bound for Legend written by Robert D. San Souci and illus. by Max Ginsburg and Kate Shelley and the Midnight Express written by Margaret K. Wetterer and illus. by Karen Ritz.


Kate Shelley
By Ann Whitford Paul

Lightning ripped apart the sky. Thunder pounded loud,
hammering relentlessly. Rain pelted from the clouds.
Kate Shelley trembled – mother, too – at the raging storm.
They moved in closer to their hearth,
Dry and safe and warm.
Then on the tracks nearby their home,
Men rode a service rain to check the rails
for damage caused by so much pouring rain.
Kate heard its bell toll once, twice, and then a roar of sound,
as if the thunder rumbled in the belly of the ground.
Kate heard its bell toll once, twice, and then a roar of sound,
Kate grabbed her lantern.
Mother begged her, “Stay!” but Kate dashed out.
The bridge was smashed! The train had crashed!
Two men clung desperately to trees.
Kate started into town for help.
The path was overgrown – she tripped and tumbled down.
Kate stood again and ran
until she reached Des Moines’ wide river.
The water lapped the railroad bridge.
Her lantern’s small flame quivered. Then it died!
Kate strained to see the ties place far apart,
stooped down to her knees, and groped on through the dark.
Jabbed by splinters, ripped by nails,
she crawled along the planks – across a span, five hundred feet.
At least she reached the bank.
Cold and wet seeped to her bones,
yet still she ran – raced fast! – to town.
The people there were horrified.
They grasped and hurried with her to the train.
Though nearly drained of hope,
the men were pulled to safety with a long and looping rope.
Kate Shelley didn’t wait for thanks,
But trudge on through the storm,
back to Mother, back to home,
dry and safe and warm

Invite the children to share what they would have done if they saw that the bridge was out and the trained had crashed. After sharing the poem and other picture books, ask the children to compare the different versions of Kate Shelley’s story. Which one did they like best? Also continue the sharing of stories of heroic people in history, including girls found in All by Herself by Ann Whitford Paul.

This poem is from:

Paul, Ann Whitford. 1999. All by Herself: 14 Girls Who Made A Difference. Illus. by Michael Steirnagle. NY: Harcourt, Inc. ISBN: 0152014772.

Poetry Across The Curriculum: Mathematickles!

Franco, Betsy. 2003. Mathematickles!. Illus. by Steven Salerno. NY: Margaret K. McElderry Books. ISBN: 0689843577.

Through a combination of seasons and math, poetic math problems will tease the brains of readers young and old.

In this fun yet educational collection, Franco’s simple, free verse poems are creatively presented in various math problems that range from the easy addition, subtraction, multiplication, division to graphs. Following a young girl and her cat, readers are taken through the concepts of math, language arts, and the four seasons.

The poems are short, no more than eight words in all,. Through the use of the mathematical format the essence of the poem is easily understood and appreciated. Through the combination of formats, poetry and math, the readers are engaged in multiple subjects at ones. Some of the poems are easier to understand the answer while other ones can be thought provoking as they present a new way of thinking of a season, like:

– harvest
earth’s naptime

as well as ways you think of other things like exploring during the season like:

ice puddle + snow boot = creakgroanCRACK!

Even through the simplicity of the poems and the aspect of mathematics, there is still the wonderful element of imagery still is part of the overall book. For beautiful poem is:

x leaves
pearls on green plates


maple leaves + puddle = crimson ships

Through such imagery the readers are seeing how math and language can be combined to create something fun as well as beautiful.

Salerno’s colorful gauche illustrations range from single page with one or more poems to two page spreads with several season related poems throughout. The illustrations are artistically and whimsically painted as they present the four different seasons, the animals, the nature, and even the girl and her cat. One of the best aspects of the illustrations as it provides a visualization of the answers to the poems such as when the poem

coldair -:- breath = tiny cloud

the illustrations show the girl walking through a wintry scene and we can see her breath. Or, as another example there is

squirrels + ___________ = winter storage

(answer: acorns) [the answer is presented upside down]

and the illustrations show tall trees with holes where the squirrels have hidden all of their acorns. Providing a visual of the poems’ subjects creates a way for readers who are still gaining understanding of the math concepts but can begin to figure out the answers by looking at the illustrations.

The mathematical poems, as well as the colorful illustrations, are a fun and creative way to gain understanding of both math and the seasons. Readers of all ages will have fun reading and figuring out the poems. Pair with seasonal, science, or math poetry and picture books as well as with textbooks, Mathematickles! is perfect for enhancing the education of students all the while having fun!

*Continue to enhance math with poetry books like Arithme-Tickle: An Even Number of Odd Riddle-Rhymes by J. Patrick Lewis and Illus. by Frank Remkiewiz.
*Expand and enhance science with poetry books like Spectacular Science: A Book of Poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins and Illus. by Virginia Halstead.

Poetry Across The Curriculum: Bee! I'm Expecting You! – A Poetry Break

This poem written by the classic poet Emily Dickinson is wonderful to share when spring is beginning to bloom or when you’re introducing the concept of letters. Come with other poetry books about spring. To prepare for sharing and add to the fun, copy the poem on a page of stationary and put it in enveloped addressed “From: Fly, To: Bee.”


Bee! I’m Expecting You!
By Emily Dickinson

Bee! I’m expecting you!
Was saying Yesterday
To Somebody you know
That you were due –

The Frogs got Home last Week –
Are settled, and at work –
Birds, mostly back –
The Clover warm and thick –

You’ll get my Letter by
The seventeenth; Reply
Or better, be with me –
Yours, Fly.

Invite the children to share their ideas of who would be friends and who would be expecting to see each other when winter is over and spring is coming. Have then write their own letter according to their ideas, whether in verse or not. Have them also write a letter to one of their own friends (human or animal or a thing of nature) about what they’re going to do now that spring is here.

This poem is from:

Hull, Robert. 1991. Spring Poems. Illus. by Annabel Spenceley. Austin, TX: Steck-Vaughn Library. ISBN: 0811478025.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Kinds of Poetry: Lunchbox - A Poetry Break

Time for a lunchtime poem! Share this poem when you’re breaking for lunch or when you’re learning about food. Pair this with other poetry books about food or mealtimes, such as Laura Purdie Salas’ new book Lettuce Introduce You: Poems About Food.

By Valerie Worth

They always
End up

The soft

The round

Invite the children to look into their lunch box and create a little story about the food they find inside of it. A limerick is a perfect poem form to use. Or have them create an acrostic poem by using the names of the food they have for lunch like APPLE, SANDWICH, MILK, JUICE and much more! Ask them if the food they have would like being in a lunchbox together or would they disagree with each other like the sandwich and the apple in the poem.

This poem is from:

Katz, Bobbi. 2004. Pocket Poems. Illus. by Marylin Hafner. NY: Dutton Children’s Books. ISBN: 0525471723.

Kinds of Poetry: Who Killed Mr. Chippendale - A Book Review

Glenn, Mel. 1996. Who Killed Mr. Chippendale?: A Mystery in Poems. NY: Lodestar Books. ISBN: 0525675302.

When the high school English teacher, Mr. Chippendale, is murder at the school’s track students and people whose lives he affected share their personal thoughts as the police and a guidance councilor figure out who is the murderer.

Presented in free-verse form, Mel Glenn’s mystery verse novel explores the aftermath of Mr. Chippendale’s murder. Instead emphasizing on the mystery, the intrigue, and the whodunit, Glenn focuses more on the emotional and personal impact that the unexpected and harsh death of the high school teacher caused.

English teacher Mr. Chippendale, or Mr. C. as some many students called him, was popular among many of the students. He played a pivotal in the life choices of many of his students lives such as Celia Campbell who praised her poetry and Cynthia Arroyo who wanted to be a writer and had Mr. C tell her that her job at the Hot Dog Heaven is an “opportunity:”

‘Study people’s faces, not french fries.
Hear how they order, not what,
And imagine a minibiography
For each of them.
Make a connection, no matter how brief,
What do you think they feel?
What do you feel about them?
Even if it’s about customers and condiments.
Learning about life is a painstaking task,
But it has to be done with
Relish’ (p. 28).

There are also thoughts from those who had taken his class terms before but were affected by his death, such as Karen Miller who witness Mr. Chippendale being shot in the head who describes her constantly memory of the death as a “never-ending video loop/projected in of [her] eyes” (p. 66). There is also Leah Talbot who had a crush on the teacher. There were students who failed his class that did not care that he had died, and there were those who did not care plain and simple.

There are more than thirteen voices in the novel that tells this story; however, Angela Falcone can be considered one of the most important characters. As Tower High School’s guidance counselor she serves as a person where the students could share their thoughts about the teacher. She also use to be Mr. Chippendale’s girlfriend, which attracts unnecessary initial suspicion from the police. It is also through her that the murderer is ultimately apprehended.

Though all the poems are the personal thoughts of the characters, Glenn mixes things up by presenting the thoughts as Eugene Braymore’s, the police captain, press memo, possible motives, personal memo and reminders, notes from the murderer, an interview between Angela Falcone and an the detective Harry Balinger in which questions are being asked and answered and their personal thoughts correspond:

“Any students complain....................I use to hate high
......about him?”
“they complain about ......................Whining 101
“Can you think of............................Worth a shot, why not?
.......Anyone specific?”
“The murderer just pops up.............He’s too cocky, a kid. my mind.”
“Nothing rings a bell,........................She’s hiding something.
“No.”.................... .......................Who am I, Quasimodo?

Another form that is seen is also a letter to Mr. Chippendale, which came after his death, from the Board of Education concerning the matter that he had not specify “which health-care option” he had chosen, and that he need to replay immediately so they can “best serve” him and that they wish him “good health and a long career” (p. 18). By including this letter, the impact of Mr. Chippendale’s death is deepened.

Since the novel focuses more on the thoughts and emotions of the characters rather than the mystery of who is the murdered, which is seen in traditional mystery novels, there are not many twists and turns that makes the reader truly get caught up in who the murder is. There are, however, subtle hints within the poems. The most significant element is a red sweatshirt that only appears as a voice twice and appears an article of clothing in two other poems. Another more apparent “hint” would be the presences of a few characters who did not like the teacher and who liked watching movies with “blood and stuff.” With these subtle elements it allows the readers to keep on wondering who really did kill Mr. Chippendale.

The novel ends with a simple Epilogue: Roll Call that explains what happened to the each character thirteen years after the murder, which includes the murderer. It then comes to a poignant close with a new teacher arrives at the school:

“In the early morning light,
Roberta Chartoff, a new English teacher,
Walks up the front steps of the school,
Eager to step onto the educational wonderwheel
Cautiously, she approaches the main office
And notices a little plaque to the left of the time clock.
It reads:

Robert Chippendale
Teacher, Scholar, Friend

‘Whose that?’ she wonders,
As she punches in a 7:04.”

By staying true to poetry as an literary art form in which emotion and imagery are expressed and by incorporating the free verse style with different presentations like notes, letters, memos, conversations, etc., but also including the needed hint of a mystery of who killed Mr. Chippendale, Glenn’s mystery is a unique addition to any library collection.

*Ask the students if they had an idea who the murderer might have been. Where there any hints or literary element that they picked up on?
*For another mystery in poem read Mel Glenn’s Foreign Exchange: A Mystery In Poem.

Kinds of Poetry: Paper Dreams - A Poetry Break

A persona poem is when a poem is written from the point-of-view of the its subject. In this particular poem, it is from the point of view of craft papers that are waiting for the scissors to make them into different things. Share this poem come prepared with colorful paper and a pair (or more) scissors. Cut out shapes that are either mentioned in a poem or that can be easily copied by the children. To me ambitious, you can memorize the poem and recite it as you are cutting shapes out of the paper.


Paper Dreams
by Bonni Katz

...Neatly stacked in separate piles
....................we wait
.......for the shape of a stencil –
...........the press of a pencil
.............of silver scissors.
...................We wait become
.............lacey snowflakes
...................fat santas
........pointy Christmas trees…
.............White, red, green– we are just paper.
....................we wait
.........quietly on a dark shelf,
.................of becoming…

Have fun with the persona poem. Invite the children to find an object (anything will work!) and have them write a poem from the its point-of-view. For those who cannot find anything have a box of found items for them to pick from. With this form of poetry the imagination can run wild as they begin to think like the object!

This poem is from:

Janeczko, Paul B. 2005. A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms. Illus. by Chris Raschka. Cambridge, Mass: Candlewick Press. ISBN: 0763606626.