Monday, April 22, 2019

Classroom Connections with Georgia Heard




TODAY'S READ

Boom! Bellow! Bleat!: Animal Poems for Two or More Voices

Georgia Heard, Author
Aaron DeWitt, Illustrator

Wordsong (March 12, 2019)
ISBN: 978-1620915202

For grades K-5

Purchase at Amazon.com
Purchase at Barnes & Noble
Purchase via Indiebound.org



SYNOPSIS

These poems for two or more voices explore the myriad sounds animals make—from a frog's jug-o-rum to a fish's boom! to an elephant's bark. Laced with humor, the poems are meant to read aloud and cover all major classes of animals: mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, insects, even a crustacean! Readers will learn how to estimate the temperature by counting a cricket's chirps and see how creatures make sounds at specific pitches and frequencies, so that they can be heard despite other noise around them. Extensive end notes provide more information on the animals and how and why they make the sounds they do. This is an ideal collection for parents and children to share, or for a fun, interactive classroom read-aloud.


A PEEK INSIDE

Text copyright © 2019 by Georgia Heard. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Aaron DeWitt.
From BOOM! BELLOW! BLEAT!: ANIMAL POEEMS FOR TWO OR MORE VOICES (Wordsong).


Enjoy this ribbeting riveting rendition of "We Don't Say Ribbet!" by students, Minnie and Gigi:



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Georgia Heard grew up in Virginia in a house on the edge of 100 acres of woods. She spent her childhood listening to an orchestra of birds, insects, frogs and other creatures in her backyard. She is the author of Creatures of Earth, Sea and Sky: Animal Poems, and has compiled several poetry anthologies for children including the Arrow Finds Its Mark: A Book of Found Poems and Falling Down the Page: A Book of List Poems. She is a founding member of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project in New York City where she also received her M.F.A. in Poetry from Columbia University.  She is the author of numerous books on writing including: Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School which was cited by Instructor Magazine as one of the “10 Books Every Teacher Should Read.”



CLASSROOM CONNECTIONS

Why is bringing poetry into the classroom important?

I believe that children are natural poets; they see the world with poet’s eyes and often speak using poetic words. Bringing poetry into the classroom nurtures what is natural in kids.

Perhaps the most important reason for bringing poetry into the classroom is that it helps children connect with how they feel, and, by reading a variety of poetry, kids connect with other people in the world which encourages empathy.

We should also bring poetry into the classroom because it can teach kids about writing in all genres. Grace Paley said that she went to the school of poetry in order to learn how to write prose. Here are a few writing craft tools that poetry can teach:
  • imagery 
  • voice
  • word choice
  • revision
And many, many other tools.

I love what’s written on your blog Today’s Little Ditty: “a poetry playground for the child in all of us.”  That’s exactly how poetry should feel—like a poetry playground.
 
How might your book be incorporated into an educational curriculum?

There are many wonderful ways to incorporate Boom! Bellow! Bleat! into the classroom—from performing poems in reader’s theater as well as in interactive read-alouds, to including Boom! Bellow! Bleat! in a nonfiction study of animals where students research and write their own animal sound poems for two voices with accompanying informational back matter, to how Lucy Calkins used one of my poems (“Forest Orchestra”) in her new Units of Study on Phonics to help kids play with and perform sounds, and learn phonics. Animal sounds are perfect for this!

This is perfect book to help children with reading fluency for ELA and ELL. For reader’s theater and interactive read-aloud, there is a performance key in the beginning of the book that tells readers how they might read the poems. The poems are colored coded and each reader, or group of readers, can choose one color of text to read (usually black or red) alternating with one another. Words in blue are spoken by all readers in unison. It’s a good sign when students in classrooms, after reading and performing Boom! Bellow! Bleat!, always ask, Can we read it again?

Although Boom! Bellow! Bleat! is a book of poetry it also incorporates a lot of nonfiction information. Many people don’t realize that writing poetry can involve research, and nonfiction information can be incorporated into poems. There is extensive nonfiction back matter on each animal and their sounds that I call Nature’s Notes. When students write their own animal poems for two voices they can learn how to transform information and facts gathered from research into poetry by close reading the poems in Boom! Bellow! Bleat!. They can include informational animal sound poems in a nonfiction informational piece.

Can you suggest a specific classroom exercise related to your book?

One specific classroom exercise using my poem “We Don’t Say Ribbit!” is when teachers and students create a frog pond chorus. Teachers can introduce the poem by reading the Nature’s Notes in the back of book explaining the difference between frogs and toads. Then they might divide the class into two groups: the frog group and the toad group. When the class reads the poem out loud the frog group will say, or perform, the frog sounds (written in black), and the toad group will say, or perform, the toad sounds (written in red). They will alternate calls between frogs and toads such as waaatwang, and yeeeeeoooow (which are actual frog and toad calls), and then the whole group will say the refrain together (written in blue): We don’t say ribbit! / We say…. You can turn the classroom into a frog and toad pond by standing in different parts of the room and performing the sounds. To add extra drama to the performance, sometimes I use animal hand puppets to perform the poems and ask students to join in with me.

What is a simple, practical tip for teachers when it comes to incorporating poetry in the classroom?

I suggest that teachers begin by reading a poem aloud to their students every day. It only takes a minute or two to read a poem—teachers might start the day (or the class) with a poem or end the day with a poem. Or have a daily poetry break. It’s important to read a variety of poems—from rhyming poems to free verse poems to poems for two voices—so students can get a taste of all kinds of poetry. Ask students to keep a poetry folder with the poems they really love, illustrate in the margins the pictures they see in their minds, and write what makes them love this particular poem. With this simple tip, I can guarantee that within a matter of a couple of weeks students will be asking for more poetry.

Can you recount a specific instance of when poetry impacted a student or group of students in a positive way?

A student in one of my classes was going through a tough time at home. He was the kid whose desk was in the corner, and he was always getting in trouble at school. When he started to read and write poetry he was able to connect with his feelings, and the poems he wrote were remarkable. He became the class poet. He created a book of his own poems and was so proud, he shared it with everyone who walked in the room. He had found something that he valued and that enabled him to be authentic. Poetry helped him find his voice as a writer.

When I teach poetry, stories like this frequently happen. The kids who feel they aren't good at anything, especially writing, often become the class poets. I’m not sure why that is—maybe because poetry is short and, therefore, more manageable than other kinds of writing, but I think it’s also because poetry is freer and kids are able to write what they think and feel, and it sometimes catches those who are falling through the cracks.


CONNECT WITH GEORGIA HEARD

Website:www.Georgiaheard.com
Twitter and Instagram: Georgiaheard1
Facebook: Georgia Heard Page  (georgiaheard1)




Many thanks to Georgia for participating in our Classroom Connections series for National Poetry Month, and to Wordsong for providing me with a copy of Boom! Bellow! Bleat! for one randomly selected TLD reader!

To enter, leave a comment below or send an email with the subject "Boom Bellow Bleat Giveaway" to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com by Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Winners will be announced on Thursday, May 2nd, so be sure to check back to see if you've won!


 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Check out the other Classroom Connections posts and giveaways on offer this month by clicking the names below!


Digital art © 2018 by Miranda Barnes,
based on a line from "Ghazal" by Tracy K. Smith.



TO FOLLOW:

The best way to keep up with the Classroom Connections series is by subscribing to Today's Little Ditty via email, which you can do in the sidebar. I will also be announcing the posts on social media. Like me on Facebook and/or follow me on Twitter (also in the sidebar) to stay informed that way. Catch up with Classroom Connections posts you may have missed by clicking on the "It's time to INSPIRE" icon in the sidebar, or by visiting my "Poetry in the Classroom" board on Pinterest.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Classroom Connections with Aida Salazar




TODAY'S READ

The Moon Within

Aida Salazar, Author

Arthur A. Levine Books (February 26, 2019)
ISBN: 978-1338283372

For ages 8 and up

Purchase at Amazon.com
Purchase at Barnes & Noble
Purchase via Indiebound.org






SYNOPSIS

Celi Rivera's life swirls with questions. About her changing body. Her first attraction to a boy. And her best friend's exploration of what it means to be genderfluid. But most of all, her mother's insistence she have a moon ceremony when her first period arrives. It's an ancestral Mexica ritual that Mima and her community have reclaimed, but Celi promises she will NOT be participating. Can she find the power within herself to take a stand for who she wants to be?


A PEEK INSIDE

Click on image to enlarge.

Text copyright © 2019 by Aida Salazar, from The Moon Within (Arthur A. Levine Books).



























ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aida Salazar is a writer, arts advocate and home-schooling mother whose writings for adults and children explore issues of identity and social justice. She is the author of the forthcoming middle grade verse novels, The Moon Within (Feb. 26, 2019), The Land of the Cranes (Spring, 2020), the forthcoming bio picture book Jovita Wore Pants: The Story of a Revolutionary Fighter (Spring, 2021) - Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholastic. Her story, By the Light of the Moon, was adapted into a ballet production by the Sonoma Conservatory of Dance and is the first Xicana-themed ballet in history. She lives with her family of artists in a teal house in Oakland, CA.





CLASSROOM CONNECTIONS

Why is bringing poetry into the classroom important?

Puerto Rican poet, Piri Thomas, said, “Every child is born a poet.” In our rush to educate for tests, we forget this truth, we forget to fortify our students with the tools to nurture this ability. We scrub away the introspection and invention that children inherently have as they grow and see the world from learning eyes. Poetry offers students a way to slow down, to look inside language, contemplate its meaning, its rhythm, its sound, or the way words are arranged on the page. Poetry allows us entry into the intimate chambers of the heart, to collect and examine emotion and to speak to the worlds that affect those emotions. When students are shown how to write poetically, to essentially remember this truth about themselves, we introduce a compelling way for students to build their creative expression, analysis, and understanding through the poetry they already carry.

How might your book be incorporated into an educational curriculum?

We are currently putting the finishing touches on a teacher’s guide for The Moon Within. It was created by Dr. Carla España and will soon be available on my website and on Scholastic’s website. It is titled Honoring Our Bodies, Connections with Our Ancestors, and Healing through Arts and Community. It offers several ways to incorporate the book—through poetry, social studies, science and literacy.   

[UPDATE: view and download the discussion guide HERE.]

Can you suggest a specific classroom exercise related to your book?

Here is an exercise I selected from the study guide for The Moon Within.  I chose it because it helps children think about metaphor in a very personal way.

Friendship

Re-read the poem “My Best Echo” (page 24). Think of a metaphor for one of your friendships. Write a poem using this metaphor—think about how you can incorporate aspects of the metaphor like sight, sound, smell, touch, and/or taste to help you think of descriptive phrases.

What is a simple, practical tip for teachers when it comes to incorporating poetry in the classroom?

I am a fan of fueling the multiple intelligences of children and so I use different strategies to introduce them to poetry. Below are several examples.

One of the most powerful tools I’ve used for reluctant readers is to listen to audio books or recordings while reading the text. This strategy allows readers to hear the rhythm, tone, and dramatization of a poem which can be fun or emotive. It deepens their connection to the text. Some of my favorites are Nikki Giovanni’s Poetry Speaks to Children and Hip Hop Speaks to Children. Shel Silverstein has a great audio recording of Where the Sidewalk Ends.

Read verse novels out loud as a group. Sometimes, they are written from different perspectives and readers can “play” different characters. Some great candidates for such an exercise are Margarita Engle’s historical fiction novels.

To teach children how to generate poetry there are two books that I would recommend. Juan Felipe Herrera, former Poet Laureate of the United States, has a fantastic generative writing book entitled Jabberwalking in which he provides readers exercises and funny inspiration to free their minds and their writing. Also, Rethinking Schools published a poetry teaching guide, Poetry of Resistance which offers a plethora of exercises to help children generate poetry that responds to issues of social justice.

Biography picture books focused on poets are a wonderful way to introduce children through a social / historical lens. Many of these books are told lyrically while at the same time show the struggles and triumphs of poets and the power they harnessed through their work. In this way there is a twofold benefit, an excellent way to introduce readers to a historical figure but also to a poetic device or practice. Some great examples are books like: Marti’s Song for Freedom by Emma Otheguy; The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton by Don Tate; My Name is Gabriela by Monica Brown; A Library for Juana: The World of Sor Juana Inés by Pat Mora; Ode to an Onion: Pablo Neruda & His Muse by Alexandria Giardino; and middle grade readers would enjoy Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan also about the life of Pablo Neruda.

Can you recount a specific instance of when poetry impacted a student or group of students in a positive way?

In 2016, a 15-year-old Black boy, Antwon Rose II, responded to a very common poetry writing exercise known as the "I Am" poem, given to him by his 10th grade teacher. The exercise (below) is used in classrooms across the U.S. to teach students how to get at the multiple ways of writing the self. His teacher asked them to write about an issue larger than himself and he chose police brutality. Two years later, on June 18, 2018, 17-year-old Antwon was shot and killed by police in East Pittsburg. His prophetic poem speaks to the fear and vulnerability that many black and brown boys face because society has deemed them a threat. His poem has inspired me and countless people who believe in working to change the world through poetry.


I AM POEM (Exercise)

First Stanza
I am (2 special characteristics you have)
I wonder (something of curiosity)
I hear (an imaginary sound)
I see (an imaginary sight)
I want (an actual desire)
I am (The first line of the poem repeated)

Second Stanza
I pretend (something you actually pretend to do)
I feel (a feeling about something imaginary)
I tough (an imaginary touch)
I worry (something that bothers you)
I cry (something that makes you sad)
I am (the first line of the poem repeated)

Third Stanza
I understand (something that is true)
I say (something you believe In)
I dream (something you dream about)
I try (something you really make an effort about)
I hope (something you actually hope for)
I am (the first line of the poem repeated)


I AM NOT WHAT YOU THINK!
by Antwon Rose II

I am confused and afraid
I wonder what path I will take
I hear that there's only two ways out
I see mothers bury their sons
I want my mom to never feel that pain
I am confused and afraid

I pretend all is fine
I feel like I'm suffocating
I touch nothing so I believe all is fine
I worry that it isn't though
I cry no more
I am confused and afraid

I understand people believe I'm just a statistic
I say to them I'm different
I dream of life getting easier
I try my best to make my dream true
I hope that it does
I am confused and afraid 


CONNECT WITH AIDA SALAZAR

Website: http://www.aidasalazar.com/
Twitter: @mimawrites
Instagram: @aida_writes
Facebook: @aidawrites

Look for two more books forthcoming from Aida Salazar:

The Land of the Cranes, a free verse middle grade novel, tells the story of 9-year-old Betita, who believes that she and other migrants follow an Aztec prophecy to fly as free as cranes. When her father is deported to Mexico and she and her mother are detained by ICE, she turns to writing picture poems as her own way to fly above the deplorable conditions that she and other cranes experience while they are caged. (Fall 2020, Scholastic)

Jovita Wore Pants: The Story of a Revolutionary Fighter is a biography picture book that recounts the life of a woman who dressed as a man and commanded a battalion of revolutionaries in a fight for religious freedom in the Mexican sierras during Mexico’s Cristero Revolution. (Spring 2021, Scholastic)




Many thanks to Aida for participating in our Classroom Connections series for National Poetry Month, and to Arthur A. Levine Books for providing me with a copy of The Moon Within for one randomly selected TLD reader!

To enter, leave a comment below or send an email with the subject "Moon Within Giveaway" to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com by Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Winners will be announced on Thursday, May 2nd, so be sure to check back to see if you've won!


 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Check out the other Classroom Connections posts and giveaways on offer this month by clicking the names below!


Digital art © 2018 by Miranda Barnes,
based on a line from "Ghazal" by Tracy K. Smith.



TO FOLLOW:

The best way to keep up with the Classroom Connections series is by subscribing to Today's Little Ditty via email, which you can do in the sidebar. I will also be announcing the posts on social media. Like me on Facebook and/or follow me on Twitter (also in the sidebar) to stay informed that way. Catch up with Classroom Connections posts you may have missed by clicking on the "It's time to INSPIRE" icon in the sidebar, or by visiting my "Poetry in the Classroom" board on Pinterest.



 
Jama Rattigan has rounded up a rousing collection of National Poetry Month activities, projects, and Kidlitosphere celebrations at Jama's Alphabet Soup.






Amy Ludwig VanDerwater has the latest installment in her story about John and Betsy at The Poem Farm. Join her for this week's Poetry Friday roundup.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Classroom Connections with Shannon Bramer




TODAY'S READ

Climbing Shadows: 
Poems for Children

Shannon Bramer, Author
Cindy Derby, Illustrator

Groundwood Books (March 5, 2019)
ISBN: 978-1773060958

For all ages

Purchase at Amazon.com
Purchase at Barnes & Noble
Purchase via Indiebound.org




SYNOPSIS

The poems in Climbing Shadows were inspired by a class of kindergarten children whom poet and playwright Shannon Bramer came to know over the course of a school year. She set out to write a poem for each child, sharing her love of poetry with them, and made an anthology of the poems for Valentine’s Day. Many of those poems appear in this original collection, which reflects children’s joys and sorrows, worries and fears. Some poems address common themes such as having a hard day at school, feeling shy or being a newcomer, while others explore subjects of fascination—bats, spiders, skeletons, octopuses, polka dots, racing cars and birthday parties.


A PEEK INSIDE

Click on images to enlarge.

From Climbing Shadows, text copyright © 2019 by Shannon Bramer, illustrations copyright © 2019 by Cindy Derby.
Reproduced with permission from Groundwood Books, Toronto. www.groundwoodbooks.com



From Climbing Shadows, text copyright © 2019 by Shannon Bramer, illustrations copyright © 2019 by Cindy Derby.
Reproduced with permission from Groundwood Books, Toronto. www.groundwoodbooks.com











































ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Photo: Linda Marie Stella

Shannon Bramer is an author of poems, plays and short fiction. She has published a number of poetry collections and chapbooks, winning the Hamilton and Region Best Book Award for suitcases and other poems. Her most recent collection, Precious Energy, has also been highly acclaimed. Shannon’s plays include Chloe’s Tiny Heart Is Closed (for young audiences) and The Hungriest Woman in the World. She lives with her family in Toronto where she visits classrooms regularly, sharing her love of poetry with students of all ages.


CLASSROOM CONNECTIONS

Why is bringing poetry into the classroom important?

A poem can be like an unexpected burst of laughter, or have the softness and delicacy of a sleeping kitten. Poetry helps us see the world (and each other) freshly. It teaches us to listen and to delight in listening. Sometimes students who have had trouble with writing find the exploration of poetry gives them a fresh start with words and language and I’ve noticed over and over again that when students become comfortable with poetry they gain confidence in all forms of writing. They feel empowered by the knowledge that what they want to try and write down is beautiful. Is important.

How might your book be incorporated into an educational curriculum?

The poems in Climbing Shadows could be used in early literacy programs as well as within the language curriculum at both elementary and intermediate levels. The subject matter of the poems is broad: the book explores everything from spiders and octopuses to birthday parties and complex feelings. The poems are highly accessible but are also written in a variety of styles, which means students and educators can use the poems to discuss and explore form and structure. One of my most important objectives in writing this book was to create a collection that students could look to that would not only deepen a child’s knowledge and understanding of what poem is—but that that the variety of work would help expand their sense of what a poem might be.

Can you suggest a specific classroom exercise related to your book?

The following writing prompts/discussion questions are related to my poem, "Darkness Looks Like My Mom," and will be included in the teacher guide/companion I am in the midst of creating!
  • In "Darkness Looks Likes My Mom" the mother is wearing a black dress and she’s travelling in the evening to go somewhere without the child. Write a daytime version of this poem. Where is she going when the sun is in the sky instead of the moon? Is she still wearing a black dress? Why or why not? Remember, you can’t get this answer wrong: It’s up to you!
  • Write a poem about someone going somewhere without you. Write a poem about going somewhere together. Who are you going with? Where are you going? 

What is a simple, practical tip for teachers when it comes to incorporating poetry in the classroom?

Here are my most successful tips:

–Teach poetry like teaching music; in tiny bits; exploring the use of fragments and smaller sections of longer poem before presenting it as a whole·  

–Encourage students to think of poems as structures they can build and experiment and play with and take a part; moving away from the idea of a poem as precious thing that can only be created in a moment of revelation or profound inspiration

–Postpone discussion of meaning until an appreciation for the shape, sounds, structure and feelings evoked by the poem are expressed and acknowledged.  I remind students that some poems are not meant to be perfectly understood right away—or ever—that what makes a poem puzzling might also be what makes it exciting to read

–Having students read poems and fragments of poems aloud to each other (or with smaller children, read lines of the poem aloud and have them repeat the poem back to you)

Can you recount a specific instance of when poetry impacted a student or group of students in a positive way?

A few years ago I had the opportunity to work with a small group of students in an inner-city school in Toronto. These students all had varying degrees of difficulty with learning. I worked alongside a wonderful teacher and we all wrote and read poems together several times a week for three months. The trust that grew among us as we shared the poems we wrote together was a tremendous gift. During some of our timed free-writing exercises they learned how to spot poems, like tiny threads of gold, hidden in longer, more prosaic pieces of writing. A few of them discovered that the way they wrote, when they weren’t worried about spelling or punctuation or “getting it right”—when they just allowed themselves to play with words and let their ideas and thoughts flow out without censoring themselves, was full of insight. It was wonderful, vulnerable, exciting writing. I brought in all kinds of different poems of varying styles and subjects. Every student connected with at least one poem, found one poem that made them want to try and write one of their own. We also created concrete poems using cards on the desks and the ephemeral quality of making a poem and then sweeping it all away to make a new one was exhilarating. It pushed the students to see that editing could be like that too. That you could write a poem and then write another version of it; that the process of creation could be as satisfying as the final result.


CONNECT WITH SHANNON BRAMER

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bramershannon
Twitter: @brokencloudco
Instagram: shannon_bramer

Look for her trilogy of plays (TRAPSONGS) forthcoming from Book*hug (Toronto) in September 2020.




Many thanks to Shannon for participating in our Classroom Connections series for National Poetry Month, and for offering a copy of Climbing Shadows to one randomly selected TLD reader!

To enter, leave a comment below or send an email with the subject "Climbing Shadows Giveaway" to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com by Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Winners will be announced on Thursday, May 2nd, so be sure to check back to see if you've won!


 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Check out the other Classroom Connections posts and giveaways on offer this month by clicking the names below!


Digital art © 2018 by Miranda Barnes,
based on a line from "Ghazal" by Tracy K. Smith.



TO FOLLOW:

The best way to keep up with the Classroom Connections series is by subscribing to Today's Little Ditty via email, which you can do in the sidebar. I will also be announcing the posts on social media. Like me on Facebook and/or follow me on Twitter (also in the sidebar) to stay informed that way. Catch up with Classroom Connections posts you may have missed by clicking on the "It's time to INSPIRE" icon in the sidebar, or by visiting my "Poetry in the Classroom" board on Pinterest.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Classroom Connections with Alice Faye Duncan




TODAY'S READ

A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks

Alice Faye Duncan, Author
Xia Gordon, Illustrator

Sterling Children's Books (January 1, 2019)
ISBN: 978-1454930884

For ages 5 and up

Purchase at Amazon.com
Purchase at Barnes & Noble
Purchase via Indiebound.org





SYNOPSIS

With a voice that is wise and witty, Gwendolyn Brooks wrote poems that captured the urban Black experience and the role of women in society. She grew up on the South Side of Chicago, reading and writing constantly from a young age with her talent nurtured by adoring parents. Brooks ultimately published 20 books of poetry, two autobiographies, and one novel. In A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks, Alice Faye Duncan celebrates Gwendolyn’s life and work, illuminating the tireless struggle of revision and the sweet reward of success.


A PEEK INSIDE

Click on image to enlarge.

Text copyright © 2019 by Alice Faye Duncan. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Xia Gordon.
From A SONG FOR GWENDOLYN BROOKS (Sterling Children’s Books).
























IX 
SING a song for Gwendolyn Brooks.
She whittles her sonnets with perfect grace,
Like Edna St. Vincent Millay and Robert Frost.

With slinky, sly, and see-line spunk,
Gwen swings the blues with her black pen,
Like guitar players at Theresa's Lounge.

Gwen paints poems with paintbrush words,
And Gwen takes home a Pulitzer Prize.

A Pulitzer Prize?

A PULITZER PRIZE!

                © 2019 Alice Faye Duncan, all rights reserved.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Alice Faye Duncan discovered the snappy-snazzy poems of Gwendolyn Brooks, when she was a child scanning the crowded bookshelves in her parents’ home. After Alice earned an English degree in college, she went to library school, and used every free moment writing picture book manuscripts as she also pursued a writing career. She is the author of multiple children’s books including Memphis, Martin and the Mountaintop (a Coretta Scott King Honor Medal), Honey Baby Sugar Child, and Twelve Days of Christmas in Tennessee. When Alice is not writing or researching new books, she serves as a school librarian in Memphis, Tennessee.


CLASSROOM CONNECTIONS

Why is bringing poetry into the classroom important?

Poetry pricks the imagination and inspires young people to embrace their emotions. Poetry acknowledges that our human feelings are important and so often poetry inspires students to pick up their pens and write.

How might your book be incorporated into an educational curriculum?

A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks is an aural experience. It is sheer music. It is high emotion.  It is FUN to read aloud because of my incessant and effective use of alliteration, assonance, rhyme and repetition. The nine poems that make up the biography demand to be spoken. The book SWINGS. While it also demonstrates for the budding writer—examples of a sonnet, examples of free verse and the rigors of the editing process.

Can you suggest a specific classroom exercise related to your book?

Gwendolyn Brooks was famous for looking out her kitchenette window, watching her neighbors and writing about their lives. Alliteration is a repeated letter or sound. And frequently, Miss Brooks used alliteration to give her poems a musical quality. For this exercise, recall one of your memorable or inspiring neighbors. Write a seven line poem that celebrates or praises your neighbor's life.  Include alliterative language in the 1st, 5th and 7th line.

What is a simple, practical tip for teachers when it comes to incorporating poetry in the classroom?

Require students to memorize poems. Like a balm or healing salve, the power of these memorized words will comfort them in trying times.

Can you recount a specific instance of when poetry impacted a student or group of students in a positive way?

Early in this current school year, I introduced one of my high school students to Gwendolyn Brooks' Collected Works. After reading the collection, my student informed me that her favorite poem by Brooks is "The Mother." This encounter with Gwendolyn Brooks inspired my student to write her very first poem. She is now working toward self-publishing a book of poems to share with her high school peers.


CONNECT WITH ALICE FAYE DUNCAN

Website: www.alicefayeduncan.com
Facebook and Twitter: @alicefayeduncan
Instagram: @alicefayewrites

Look for her forthcoming picture book, Just like a Mama, illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow (Jerry Pinkney's granddaughter) on Mother's Day, 2020.




Many thanks to Alice Faye for participating in our Classroom Connections series for National Poetry Month, and for offering two copies of A Song for Gwendolyn Brooks (one hardback and one digital) for randomly selected TLD readers!

To enter, leave a comment below or send an email with the subject "Song for Gwendolyn Giveaway" to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com by Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Winners will be announced on Thursday, May 2nd, so be sure to check back to see if you've won!


 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Check out the other Classroom Connections posts and giveaways on offer this month by clicking the names below!


Digital art © 2018 by Miranda Barnes,
based on a line from "Ghazal" by Tracy K. Smith.



TO FOLLOW:

The best way to keep up with the Classroom Connections series is by subscribing to Today's Little Ditty via email, which you can do in the sidebar. I will also be announcing the posts on social media. Like me on Facebook and/or follow me on Twitter (also in the sidebar) to stay informed that way. Catch up with Classroom Connections posts you may have missed by clicking on the "It's time to INSPIRE" icon in the sidebar, or by visiting my "Poetry in the Classroom" board on Pinterest.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Classroom Connections with Marilyn Singer



It's a Two-for-Tuesday doubleheader!


TODAY'S READS

Have You Heard About Lady Bird?:
Poems About Our First Ladies

Marilyn Singer, Author
Nancy Carpenter, Illustrator

Disney-Hyperion (October 16, 2018)
ISBN: 978-1484726600

For ages 6-11, but older kids and adults like it, too.

Purchase at Amazon.com
Purchase at Barnes & Noble
Purchase via Indiebound.org



SYNOPSIS 

A book of poems about all of the First Ladies, it includes prose back matter, which elaborates on these fascinating women.


I'm the Big One Now!:
Poems about Growing Up

Marilyn Singer, Author
Jana Christy, Illustrator

Wordsong (March 5, 2019)
ISBN: 978-1629791692

For 4-8 year olds.

Purchase at Amazon.com
Purchase at Barnes & Noble
Purchase via Indiebound.org



SYNOPSIS

A book of poems that celebrate growing up and milestones both large and small in a young person's life, such as learning how to whistle, riding the school bus alone, and becoming an older sibling.


A LOOK INSIDE

Click on images to enlarge.

Text copyright © 2018 by Marilyn Singer. Illustrations copyright © 2018 by Nancy Carpenter.
From HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT LADY BIRD?: POEMS ABOUT OUR FIRST LADIES (Disney-Hyperion).























Text copyright © 2019 by Marilyn Singer. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Jana Christy.
From I’M THE BIG ONE NOW!: POEMS ABOUT GROWING UP (Wordsong).


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Read Marilyn Singer's spotlight interview
on Today's Little Ditty HERE.

Winner of the 2015 Award for Excellence in Poetry, Marilyn Singer is the author of over one hundred books,  including six featuring young ballet student, Tallulah, and many poetry collections, such as Mirror Mirror (Dial/Penguin) for which she created the “reverso” form.  Her latest books are Have You Heard about Lady Bird?: Poems about Our First Ladies (Disney-Hyperion); I’m the Big One Now!: Poems about Growing Up (Boyds Mills); Hair! (Millbrook/Lerner); Who Are You Calling Weird? (Words and Pictures/Quarto); and Float, Flutter (Simon Spotlight). Coming out this fall: Who Named Their Pony Macaroni? (Disney-Hyperion); Gulp, Gobble (Simon Spotlight); and Wild in the Streets (Words and Pictures/Quarto). She co-hosts the Poetry Blast, which features children’s poets reading their work at ALA and other conferences. Avid bird-watchers and swing dancers, Marilyn and her husband live in Brooklyn, NY and Washington, CT with several pets.


CLASSROOM CONNECTIONS

Why is bringing poetry into the classroom important?

I believe that when we’re kids, we all like poetry—rhymes and songs and language that is sparkling and evocative. Good poetry surprises and enlightens. It sticks with us and moves us in ways that prose can’t (which is not a put-down of prose; it has to do with the compactness, imagery, words, and syntax that poetry uses). It helps with language development, with seeing things through different perspectives, with teaching us to listen, and, frankly, with opening our hearts. We lose the love of poetry through lack of practice and exposure and through over-analysis or disdain by the adults we know.

Teachers and parents can help us keep that love for poetry by offering it regularly and by showing their own affection for the genre. I find that some teachers (and parents, too) are scared of poetry. They think it’s high-falutin’ and difficult to understand.  I like to point out to them that there are many kinds of poetry and that there’s bound to be a type or even just a poem or two out there that will speak to you.

During a talk I gave to elementary school kids, one boy said he liked poetry because it was about feelings and he could express emotions in and through it. If that isn’t important, I don’t know what is!

Can you recount a specific instance of when poetry impacted a student or group of students in a positive way?

Well, I think I just gave an example above. Other instances come to mind, as well. I’ve given several Skype talks about my reversos, which are featured in Mirror Mirror, Follow Follow, and Echo Echo, all illustrated by Josée Masse and published by Dial/Penguin. A reverso is a poem with two halves—the second half reverses the lines of the first, with changes only in punctuation and capitalization, and it must say something different from the first half. The form seems to fascinate kids and adults alike. In classes I’ve spoken to, students generally write their own and read them to me. The satisfaction they get out of completing this difficult task—this literary game—is a delight to behold.

I also spoke to a poetry club at an elementary school and read a bunch of poems I’d written about frogs to show how a subject could spawn (pun intended) so many different types of poems and ideas about these amphibians. The kids gave me a big round of finger snaps, then read some of their work. A school with a poetry club? How fantastic is that!

How might your book be incorporated into an educational curriculum?

I think that a lot of my books can be incorporated into an educational curriculum. Teachers can use Rutherford B., Who Was He?: Poems about Our Presidents (illustrated by John Hendrix) and Have You Heard about Lady Bird?: Poems about Our First Ladies (illustrated by Nancy Carpenter), both published by Disney-Hyperion, to discuss history and to illustrate how prose and poetry can handle biography differently. 

For units on cultural diversity, Feel the Beat!: Dance Poems that Zing from Salsa to Swing! (Dial, illustrated by Kristi Valiant) and Every Month Is a New Year (Lee & Low, illustrated by Susan L. Roth) are good fits. My books for younger kids, such as A Stick Is an Excellent Thing (Clarion, illustrated by LeUyen Phan) and I’m the Big One Now (Boyds Mills/Wordsong, illustrated by Jana Christy), can help kids explore play and important, sometimes challenging, events in their lives and encourage them to write their own poems about these things. 

Can you suggest a specific classroom exercise related to each of your books?

For Have You Heard about Lady Bird?: have your class campaign for, then vote for favorite First Lady. 

For I'm the Big One Now: ask students to bring in photos, drawings, poems, or other material illustrating a special moment when they were younger—riding a bike, holding a new sibling, taking a trip, etc.

What is a simple, practical tip for teachers when it comes to incorporating poetry in the classroom?

Most importantly, teachers and students should get to know the many poetry books out there, and not just a few familiar ones. They should find poems they love, have fun with them, and definitely read them aloud. Poetry is an oral/aural form and it’s meant to be heard. They can stage performances and listen to audio books (Actor Joe Morton and I did audio books of all three reverso volumes for Live Oak Media, and there are many other wonderful audio books of poetry out there). And they should check out the article I wrote for School Library Journal about making poetry relevant and engaging:  http://marilynsinger.net/onwriting/knock-poetry-off-the-pedestal-its-time-to-make-poems-a-part-of-childrens-everyday-lives/. Lots of useful stuff there!

One favorite tip from the above article is this one: How about making poetry trading cards? It’s another way to fall in love with poems and the poets who write them. Plus, it’s easy to do. Start by asking your students to find a poem they like in an anthology. Then have them find a book written by the same poet and pick out another poem that appeals to them. Next, kids can copy their poems on blank cards and illustrate these with their own drawings or pictures from old magazines. Finally, it’s time to trade. If students don’t like the poems they receive, they can keep trading for another one.


CONNECT WITH MARILYN SINGER

Website: www.marilynsinger.net

Look for Who Named Their Pony Macaroni?: Poems about Pets in the White House (Disney-Hyperion), illustrated by Ryan McAmis, this fall!











Many thanks to Marilyn for participating in our Classroom Connections series for National Poetry Month, and to Hyperion and Wordsong for providing me with copies of Have You Heard About Lady Bird? and I'm the Big One Now! for two randomly selected TLD readers!

To enter, leave a comment below or send an email with the subject "Lady Bird Giveaway" and/or the subject "Big One Giveaway" to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com by Tuesday, April 30, 2019. Winners will be announced on Thursday, May 2nd, so be sure to check back to see if you've won!

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Check out the other Classroom Connections posts and giveaways on offer this month by clicking the names below!


Digital art © 2018 by Miranda Barnes,
based on a line from "Ghazal" by Tracy K. Smith.



TO FOLLOW:

The best way to keep up with the Classroom Connections series is by subscribing to Today's Little Ditty via email, which you can do in the sidebar. I will also be announcing the posts on social media. Like me on Facebook and/or follow me on Twitter (also in the sidebar) to stay informed that way. Catch up with Classroom Connections posts you may have missed by clicking on the "It's time to INSPIRE" icon in the sidebar, or by visiting my "Poetry in the Classroom" board on Pinterest.