Friday, January 23, 2015

Buffy Silverman: It Takes a Thief


VBC17, Flickr Creative Commons

Oh my.  I may have a bit of a problem here. 

What is one to do when their contributing science sleuth is engaged in... thievery?

Scene from the 1959 French film, The 400 Blows (Les Quatre Cents Coups)

Buffy Silverman is here with a lesson in *safe* snatching.


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When I speak to students about writing poetry, I share one of my favorite tricks: learning to be a word thief! (I explain the distinction between plagiarism and lifting words—I don’t encourage students to steal entire phrases or sentences!) When reading for inspiration, I keep a pad of paper near me and write down interesting words.  Then I try to use those words in my own writing.  My thieving is not limited to poetry--often when I’m reading a novel in bed I come across words that I think will improve a poem, article, or story that I’m working on. I jot them down on a scrap of paper, and hope that I can make sense of my notes in the morning.

There are a few “word banks” that I draw on over and over.  One of my favorites is In the Tall, Tall Grass by Denise Fleming. My now 23-year old daughter ordered In the Tall, Tall Grass from a Scholastic flyer when she was in kindergarten.  When I first read this treasure trove, I knew that it was not going to stay on my daughter’s shelf for long (uh oh, more thieving…) Vivid verbs! Onomatopoeia! And the book features animals that are common in a child’s backyard—subjects I particularly enjoy writing about. 

Here’s how the book begins:
In the tall, tall, grass…
crunch, munch, caterpillars lunch
dart, dip, hummingbirds sip
strum, drum, bees hum
crack, snap, wings flap
pull, tug, ants lug
slip, slide, snakes glide

I so admire the simplicity and brevity of this text.  In the first 14 pages of this 32-page picture book I count 29 words.  Eighteen of those words are verbs that portray specific actions that a reader can see and/or hear (three verbs for each of six animals.) I’ve borrowed this book’s verbs many times to describe the animals that they are paired with in this text, and to describe other animals. The sounds and specificity of these words lead me to think of other strong descriptions.  They put me in a frame of mind where I’m better able to find the right words to paint my subject.

Another poem that I regularly pilfer is Joyce Sidman’s “Welcome to the Night,” the opening poem of Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night. Here are the first two stanzas:

Welcome to the Night

To all of you who crawl and creep,
who buzz and chirp and hoot and peep,
who wake at dusk and throw off sleep:
Welcome to the night.

To you who make the forest sing,
who dip and dodge on silent wing,
who flutter, hover, clasp, and cling:
Welcome to the night. 

I love the way this poem introduces the creatures that are featured in the book with their actions, and how it invites the reader to use the senses to explore the night. And of course, I love the words that describe the action! When I’ve read this poem to students and asked them to pick out a favorite word, their hands fly up.

What are your favorite verbs from these gems? Dip, dodge, hover, cling?  Sip, hum, slip, glide? Try making a list of the verbs and nouns in these two poems, or from other favorite poems and stories.  Then see where these words lead you—you’ll be using fine marble to sculpt your masterpiece!

Pietro Magni- The Reading Girl (1856, National Gallery)


Buffy Silverman is the author of more than 60 nonfiction books for children, winning awards from Science Books and Films, the Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College, and the Society of School Librarians International.  She's also written over 100 articles, stories, and poems published in popular children's magazines, poetry anthologies, and educational resources.



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Joyce Sidman, who Buffy graciously mentions in her post today, also happens to be our spotlight author this month.  Have you been pondering Joyce's deeper wisdom challenge? This week's daily ditties included poems by Sydney O'Neill, Loree Griffin Burns, and Jan Gars. Believe it or not, there's only one week left to send me yours! See you back here next Friday for the end-of-month wrap-up celebration.

Tara Smith is undoubtedly wrapped up in today's Poetry Friday roundup! Please join her at A Teaching Life for a listing of this week's poetry finds.





Thursday, January 22, 2015

DMC: "What Do the Stars Know?" by Jan Gars




WHAT DO THE STARS KNOW?

What do the stars know?
     To sprinkle stardust on dreamers below
     The history of mankind long-ago
     How to set the night aglow.

What do the stars know?
     How to eulogize the hunter and his foe
     How to course lost sailors as they go
     To illuminate the canvas of Van Gogh. 


© 2015 Jan Gars. All rights reserved.


Joyce Sidman has challenged us to write a "Deeper Wisdom" poem this month. What's a Deeper Wisdom poem, you ask? Click HERE for details.

Send your wise words to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com, or use the contact form in the sidebar to the right. All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on January 30, 2015, and one lucky participant will receive an autographed copy of Joyce's gorgeous new collection of children's poetry:





Wednesday, January 21, 2015

DMC: "What Does a Seed Know?" by Loree Griffin Burns




WHAT DOES A SEED KNOW?

What does a seed know?
     I do not fear the ice and snow.
     I trust the urge to rest and stow.
     In the dead of winter, life only slows.

What does a seed know?
     The day will come again to sow.
     With earth and sun and rain I’ll grow
     and everything I need, I know.

© 2015 Loree Griffin Burns. All rights reserved.



Joyce Sidman has challenged us to write a "Deeper Wisdom" poem this month. What's a Deeper Wisdom poem, you ask? Click HERE for details.

Send your wise words to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com, or use the contact form in the sidebar to the right. All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on January 30, 2015, and one lucky participant will receive an autographed copy of Joyce's gorgeous new collection of children's poetry:





Tuesday, January 20, 2015

DMC: "What Does the Wind Know?" by Sydney O'Neill




WHAT DOES THE WIND KNOW?

What does the wind know?
     That daunting peaks will weather low.
     Roots resist the gusting snow.
     Updrafts lead to vertigo.

What does the wind know?
     To blow seeds off so they may grow.
     Falling leaves still do-si-do.
     Playful breezes make hearts glow.


© 2015 Sydney O'Neill. All rights reserved.


Joyce Sidman has challenged us to write a "Deeper Wisdom" poem this month. What's a Deeper Wisdom poem, you ask? Click HERE for details.

Send your wise words to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com, or use the contact form in the sidebar to the right. All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on January 30, 2015, and one lucky participant will receive an autographed copy of Joyce's gorgeous new collection of children's poetry:





Monday, January 19, 2015

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Haiku Garden: Jone Rush MacCulloch


"Winter Strikes Back" by Bryce Mullet, Flickr Creative Commons

Jone Rush MacCulloch is no stranger to haiku.  For the last three years, she has participated in Shiki Kukai, a monthly haiku challenge that's now in its 19th year.  Each month, people from around the world write haiku based on two prompts– a Kigo, or seasonal word, and a free form word. The haiku are then anonymously distributed to the community for voting. Points are allotted by each member for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place entries, and the results are posted.  What a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the practice of writing this form!

Today I'm delighted to welcome Jone to the Haiku Garden. Given the difficult task of choosing amongst several of her beautiful and thought-provoking haiku, I decided upon this one, which was born from the February 2014 free form prompt: "longing."

For me, it was love at first sight...


                         between
                         snowfalls
                         the robin's song

                         © 2014 Jone Rush MacCulloch. All rights reserved.


"Winter Robin" by Bryce Mullet, Flickr Creative Commons


...and still I'm left longing for more.

Besides having the voice of a poet, Jone speaks with expertise as a library media specialist/teacher, and many sing her praises as Poetry Chair for the Cybils as well. (Find out more about the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards HERE.) Did I mention that Jone also maintains three blogs? Her professional blog is called Check It Out: Life and Books in a K5 Library School Setting, her personal blog is Deo Writer, and Solace In Nature is her photography blog... oh yes, Jone is a talented photographer as well!

Thank you for taking a moment to share your talent
in the Haiku Garden, Jone.


In case you missed it, last week Joyce Sidman challenged us to write a "Deeper Wisdom" poem. You can find all the details HERE. So far I've featured poems from Katie Gast and Buffy Silverman, and today I must point you over to Reflections on the Teche, where Margaret Simon describes the deeper wisdom that she and her student poet, Matthew, achieved this week in the classroom.  I hope you'll consider sending me your poem. (Frankly, I can use all the wisdom I can get!)

You'll discover lots of wisdom in the poetry Irene Latham has selected to celebrate MLK Day. Those treasures and more can be found in today's Poetry Friday roundup at Live Your Poem.



DMC: "What Does the Snow Know?" by Buffy Silverman




WHAT DOES THE SNOW KNOW?

What does the snow know?
     To blanket the field with a whispery hush.  
     White’s the best backdrop for cardinal’s bright blush.
     Secrets are spilled in the tracks by the brush.

What does the snow know?
     Feeding a stream helps it ripple and rush.
     Beauty will fade and transform into slush.
     You’ve worn out your welcome when earth turns to mush.


© 2015 Buffy Silverman. All rights reserved.


Joyce Sidman has challenged us to write a "Deeper Wisdom" poem this month. What's a Deeper Wisdom poem, you ask? Click HERE for details.

Send your wise words to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com, or use the contact form in the sidebar to the right. All contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on January 30, 2015, and one lucky participant will receive an autographed copy of Joyce's gorgeous new collection of children's poetry: