Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Classroom Connections with Alexandria Giardino




TODAY'S READ

Ode to an Onion: Pablo Neruda & His Muse

Alexandria Giardino, Author
Felicita Sala, Illustrator

Cameron (October 9, 2018)
ISBN: 978-1944903343

For grades K-5

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



SYNOPSIS

A poetic, beautifully illustrated picture book inspired by Ode to the Onion by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (1904–1973). Pablo has a lunch date with his friend Matilde, who shows the moody poet her garden. Where Pablo sees conflict and sadness, Matilde sees love and hope. The story is less a biography of Neruda and his muse, Matilde Urrutia (1912–1985), and more a simple ode to a vegetable that is humble and luminous, dark and light, gloomy and glad, full of grief and full of joy—just like life.


A PEEK INSIDE

Click on image to enlarge.

Text copyright © 2018 by Alexandria Giardino. Illustrations copyright © 2018 by Felicita Sala.
From ODE TO AN ONION: PABLO NERUDA & HIS MUSE (Cameron Kids).














"Luminous onion," Pablo proclaimed, lifting the onion up high,
"sad things have always made me cry, but you have made me cry tears of joy!
For that, I will celebrate you as only a poet can. With an ode!"

© 2018 Alexandria Giardino, all rights reserved.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexandria Giardino's first picture book, Ode to an Onion, was inspired by the poet Pablo Neruda and is a Junior Library Guild Selection for 2018. Two more children's books are forthcoming in 2020. Alex lives in northern California, where she teaches creative writing and rides her mountain bike all over Mt Tam. In addition to her books for children, Alex's writing has appeared in the Village Voice Literary SupplementMs., Marie Claire, The American Poetry Review, and on air at KQED.







CLASSROOM CONNECTIONS

Why is bringing poetry into the classroom important?

Poetry is song and dance and feelings and sparkling perfect words, all at once. Poetry blows open possibilities, our imaginations, our hearts.

Kids know poetry already because they know music and they have feelings.

Poetry allows kids to have a new way to communicate their hearts to others.

Poetry creates magical ah-ha moments.

How might your book be incorporated into an educational curriculum?

Ode to an Onion can be used from kindergarten through 5th grade because it has a level of maturity within it.

In lower grade levels, the book can be used to talk about opposites and pairs, such as the feelings of sadness and happiness, light and dark, Matilde and Pablo.

In higher grade levels, it can be used to talk about odes and as a platform for writing them. It can be also used in combination with Monica Brown’s picture book biography of Pablo Neruda to teach about the great Latin American poet and his life.

It can also be part of a school’s gardening program, in which the kids can search for inspiration in their garden and write about what they found.

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

Writing Odes with Pablo

1. Pre-reading exercises:
  • define and discuss key terms, such as "ode," "poet," and "inspiration"
  • walk-through the story, What does the cover suggest to you? What do the colors and images suggest? Where will this story take place? How many characters do you see?
2. Read or give a quick run through Ode to an Onion

3. Reflect on the story by asking, what happened? How did Pablo feel in the beginning? What changed for Pablo? Why? What did he do to show his change?

4. Discussion and Idea Generation for Ode Writing
  • ask kids to share what makes them happy when they feel sad, list their ideas on a board
5. Show simple examples of two or three short odes

6. Ask kids to write down three things on their own sheets of paper:
  • something or someone that makes them happy that they want to celebrate in an ode
  • three adjectives that describe their topic
  • three reasons the thing or person makes them happy
  • a question they would like to ask of their person or thing that makes them happy
7. Time for writing odes  (See attached powerpoint: How to Write an Ode)

8. Share with a read-a-loud

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

Add music, sing songs, pay attention to the lyrics. Remind kids poetry is already everywhere, even in the songs they sing.

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

I have been teaching poetry to adults and children for twenty years. The instances pile up: so many moments when my students used metaphors and compressed combinations of words to convey tremendously big ideas and feelings.

Here’s one: a child used a poem to talk about loving a pet that had passed away. 

Another: kids in a bilingual workshop laughed as we played with Spanish and English words in our poems, which normalized the languages they speak every day and allowed them to communicate feelings by using their favorite words in each language.


CONNECT WITH ALEXANDRIA GIARDINO

Website: www.alexgiardino.com
Twitter and Instagram: @Alex__Giardino
Facebook: Alex Giardino

Look for two more books forthcoming from Alexandria Giardino:

The Good Song is about IZ Kamakawiwo’ole’s medley “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” (Cameron Kids, Spring 2020)

Me + Tree is the story of a girl and a tree stump that comes back to life because of the girl’s friendship. (Creative Editions, Fall 2020)




Many thanks to Alex for participating in our Classroom Connections series for National Poetry Month, and for offering a copy of Ode to an Onion to one randomly selected TLD reader!

To enter, leave a comment below or send an email with the subject "Ode to an Onion Giveaway" to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com by the end of TODAY, 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.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Classroom Connections with Helen Frost




TODAY'S READ

Hello, I'm Here!

Helen Frost, Author
Rick Lieder, Illustrator

Candlewick Press (March 20, 2019)
ISBN: 978-0763698584

For PreK-2nd grade and up
(Also ideal to welcome a new baby!)

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


SYNOPSIS

A sandhill crane hatchling makes its first wobbly stand, then takes its first steps and meets its brother. With their parents close by, the two chicks flap their wings and begin to explore before enjoying treats of bugs and snails. Someday they will fly with the majestic cranes overhead, but for now, Mama’s soft feathers make a good place to rest. The rhyming text is paired with Rick Lieder’s beautiful photographs, with endnotes giving further information about sandhill cranes’ family life and migration.


A PEEK INSIDE

From Hello, I’m Here!. Text copyright © 2019 by Helen Frost. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Rick Lieder.
Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Read Helen Frost’s spotlight
interview on Today's Little Ditty HERE.

Helen Frost is the author of four previous collaborations with photographer Rick Lieder (Step Gently Out, Sweep Up the Sun, Among a Thousand Fireflies, and Wake Up!), as well as the picture book Monarch and Milkweed and nine novels-in-poems for early, middle grade, and young adult readers. Among her awards for her children’s writing are the Lee Bennett Hopkins Children’s Poetry Award, The William Allen White Award, the New York Historical Society Children’s Book Prize, and more than fifty nominations to state book awards. She recently traveled to Macheros, Mexico, to see the monarch butterflies in their over-wintering grounds. In the summertime she raises monarchs at home in Fort Wayne, Indiana.




CLASSROOM CONNECTIONS

Why is bringing poetry into the classroom important?

Do you have a few hours? This is a big, important question.

For early readers, or not-yet-readers, the rhythm and rhyme of poetry offer an important element of predictability as they are trying to figure out what a word, phrase, or sentence might be. For slightly older readers, the delight of playing with language, in either reading or writing, keeps students engaged, not only with language, but with whatever the poem is about. As students become aware of patterns in poetry, connections can be made with patterns they discover in math, science, art, dance, and music. Especially for middle and upper grade readers, poetry is a “heart-to-heart” reading experience, allowing students to feel closer to others. Poetry has great value throughout life, in adding depth and meaning to experience—an early exposure, at home or in school, is a gift that will stay with them.

How might your book be incorporated into an educational curriculum?

Learn more about sandhill cranes: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Sandhill_Crane/overview

Science: Use as part of a lesson about migratory birds, or migration in general. For good starting points, see the above “All About Birds” website and Journey North: https://journeynorth.org.

Math: compare wingspans of different birds; calculate the distance between sandhill cranes’ winter and summer homes; estimate numbers of sandhill cranes in pictures such as this: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Sandhill_Crane/media-browser-overview/71547171

Art: make origami cranes (lots of instructions online)

Social studies: learn about traditions surrounding 1000 paper cranes, and share the story of Sadaku and the Paper Cranes (several good children’s books).

If you live near a sandhill crane migration, find another class on a different part of the migration and correspond with students in that class, to see when the cranes arrive and depart in different places, and in what approximate numbers.

Poetry: Using examples from the book, think about the sound of the rhyming couplets and write a rhyming couplet of your own.

For older children: write a riddle poem using one or more rhyming couplets.

For example:

It’s getting crowded inside this egg.
I can’t flap a wing or stretch out a leg.

could suggest:

It’s kind of smelly inside this shoe.
It’s hard to wiggle, so what should we do?
    answer: toes

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

It’s a very physical story-poem, which lends itself to dramatization.

Invite students to act it out, or create a dance of the story. If you have readers in your class, some students can be readers, while others are crane chicks and adults. One student can be the snapping turtle, others can be the cranes flying in the sky. (Send me a video! I promise not so share without permission.)

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

Have one or two (or ten or twenty) good poetry anthologies always at hand, and use any extra minutes to share a poem. No analysis, no lessons, just a reading and welcoming of any conversation that arises. Be sure students know that many poets who are included in anthologies also have books of their own, so if someone likes a poem, they can seek out more writing by that poet in the library.

A few recent anthologies that include my poems are:

The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog, Paul B. Janeczko, editor, Candlewick, 2019
The Poetry of US, J. Patrick Lewis, editor, National Geographic, 2018
The Book of Nature Poetry, J. Patrick Lewis, editor, National Geographic, 2015
One Minute till Bedtime, Kenn Nesbitt, editor, Little Brown and Company, 2016
Pet Crazy, Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, editors, Pomelo Books, 2017

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

This is about something very different than the kind of poetry that might be generated by Hello, I’m Here. I share it as a way of acknowledging that poetry and other kinds of writing have many different ways of influencing students of all ages, from the fun and playful to the deadly serious.

In 1998, as part of a community response to youth violence, I went into six high schools, five times each, to help 240 high school sophomores write about how they had been affected by violence. I compiled an anthology of 40 of the most poignant and well-written poems and stories. The book was titled Why Darkness Seems so Light

Fifteen years later, I received this email from a young woman who had been in one of the classes:

“i went to a higschool that you came to for this book i wrote something in  it that got put in the book is there a way to get a copy of it  again  would love to have one … i loved meetting you  thanks have a great day.”

She sent pictures of her husband and children, said that she was now doing well, and had forgiven the person she wrote about—her uncle, who had killed her aunt in her presence when she was six years old, by stabbing her 38 times. It was that specific number—38 times—that made her story so impossible to forget.

I did have some copies of the book and of course I sent one to her. In a few more email exchanges she told me how much that experience had meant to her:

“I want to thank you for what you did for  all of us in highschool i had no hope but you made me see that something good can come of something bad. … Thanks again for everything you   coming to our school had changed my life completly  and  i would not be where i am today if i had not written that story …”

I asked if it was the writing that meant so much, or if was the fact that I had chosen it for the anthology, and she replied:

“Writting the story was   I never shared that part of my life with anyone and it felt good to open up about what happened  i wanted to give the victims like me a voice you never know who this could happen to. When i wrote this i wanted people to see that there  is hope in bad situations. If my story touched or helped one person than it was worth it.”

I asked if I could share these emails and she gave me permission. I offer them here, exactly as I received them, as a tribute to all teachers and writers whose work impacts students. We may never hear from most students and readers, but I know absolutely that reading and writing, especially poetry, helps young people in profound ways.


CONNECT WITH HELEN FROST (and RICK LIEDER)

Website: http://helenfrost.net
Page for this book: http://helenfrost.net/item.php?postid=39

Rick Lieder’s website, with book trailer: http://bugdreams.com/hello/

Facebook page for “Beautiful Picture Books” (Frost-Lieder collaborations):
https://www.facebook.com/pg/StepGentlyOut/posts/

Facebook page for Helen Frost:
https://www.facebook.com/helen.frost.10https://www.facebook.com/helen.frost.10


Look for two more books forthcoming from Helen Frost:

Blue Daisy is a novel alternating voices in poems and prose, ideal for grades 1-3, with illustrations by Rob Shepperson (Holiday House, Winter 2020). It tells the story of two children and their relationship with a stray dog, as they make a big mistake and figure out what to do about it.

All He Knew is a novel-in-verse inspired by a true story, ideal for middle and high school, or sophisticated upper elementary (FSG/MacMillan, July, 2020). Set in the early 40’s, the story follows Henry, deaf and misdiagnosed as “unteachable,” as he is separated from all he knows at home and sent to live in an institution, where he meets Victor, a conscientious objector serving time as an attendant in the institution.




Many thanks to Helen for participating in our Classroom Connections series for National Poetry Month, and for offering three Frost-Lieder giveaways! One randomly selected TLD reader will receive a first edition of Hello, I’m Here, plus a copy of Sweep up the Sun. Two others will receive a hardcover copy of Sweep Up the Sun.

To enter, leave a comment below or send an email with the subject "Frost-Lieder Giveaway" to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com by tomorrow, 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 26, 2019

Classroom Connections with Allan Wolf




Before we begin today's interview with the fabulous Allan Wolf, just a few words as National Poetry Month draws to a close.

THANK YOU to the generous authors and editors who put so much time and care into these Classroom Connections posts! Nearly all of them have also offered copies of their books or arranged for giveaways through their publishers.

I know this month can be super busy for many of us, but if you haven't yet entered yourself in these giveaways (by emailing me or leaving a comment on the individual posts), please do so by Tuesday, April 30th! There's a list of links at the bottom of today's post.

And don't miss two more giveaway opportunities this coming Monday and Tuesday: Helen Frost's Hello, I'm Here (plus bonus books) and Alexandria Giardino's Ode to an Onion: Pablo Neruda & His Muse.

On a personal note, thank you also to the TLD readers who have been showing their appreciation throughout this month. Next Friday we'll be back to our regular Ditty of the Month Club format with a new Spotlight ON interview and DMC challenge. I'm looking forward to writing poetry with many of you again. :)


TODAY'S READ

The Day the Universe Exploded My Head: Poems to Take You into Space and Back Again

Allan Wolf, Author
Anna Raff, Illustrator

Candlewick (March 5, 2019)
ISBN: 978-0763680251

For 3rd-6th grade and up

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


SYNOPSIS

Ever wonder what the sun has to say about being the closest star to Earth? Or what Pluto has gotten up to since being demoted to a dwarf planet? Or where rocket ships go when they retire? Listen closely, because maybe, just maybe, your head will explode, too. With poetry that is equal parts accurate and entertaining—and illustrations that are positively out of this world—this book will enthrall amateur stargazers and budding astrophysicists as it reveals many of the wonders our universe holds. Space travelers in search of more information will find notes about the poems, a glossary, and a list of resources at the end.


A PEEK INSIDE

Click on image to enlarge.

Text copyright © 2019 by Allan Wolf. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Anna Raff.
From THE DAY THE UNIVERSE EXPLODED MY HEAD (Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA).























ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Two time winner of the North Carolina Young Adult Book Award, as well as Bankstreet College’s prestigious Claudia Lewis Award for Poetry, Allan Wolf is the author of picture books, poetry, and young adult novels. Wolf’s books for young people showcase his love of research, history, science, and poetry. His latest YA novel, Who Killed Christopher Goodman?, is based on the murder of a high school friend during the summer of 1979. His latest book of poems for kids, The Day the Universe Exploded My Head: Poems To Take You Into Space and Back Again, is now in bookstores, just in time for the 50th Anniversary of the Landing on the Moon!


CLASSROOM CONNECTIONS

Why is bringing poetry into the classroom important?

Poetry is one of the most useful tools teachers can have in their toolbox. Poems provide fun, engaging, easy-to-read mentor texts that can be re-read and reviewed and lingered over with ease. Poems provide a "showcase" of the many ways language (both poetry and prose) can relate information, ideas, and emotions. Poems encourage higher-level thinking through metaphorical language that cause the reader to better understand cause/effect, similarities, and differences. Poems can model extraordinary ways of looking at ordinary things. Poems can transform extraordinary things into ordinary language.

How might your book be incorporated into an educational curriculum?

To create the poems in my book I transformed informational text from my research into creative text in the form of poems. But the main information remains the same. Any fiction in the creative text arrises from the facts of the informational text. So you can start with facts and create poetry. Or start with the poem and go backward, gathering facts from the context clues a long the way.

The poem "Going the Distance" is a great introduction to the ways we measure distance through the passage of time. Teachers can incorporate mathematical calculations when determining distances within our solar system.

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

Research a specific planet or other celestial body (comet, asteroid, star, meteorite, galaxy, etc). Then use personification to write a poem in the voice and point of view of that celestial body. Or write a two-voice poem depicting a conversation between two celestial bodies.

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

Here are a few of my tried and true favorite tips:

Memorize a new poem to show your students how easily it can be done. Share a poem you really love, then explain WHY you love it. Your own modeling goes very far. Allow poems to introduce that day's topic of discussion or theme. Don't pick the poem apart, just share it. Never ask your students, "What does this poem mean?" Instead allow them to experience the poem in order to create meaning through authentic interaction with the poem. Have your students look for C.A.S.T (Character, Action, Setting, and Topic or Theme). Then transform the poem into a script for readers theatre or a fully staged production.

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

I was visiting a 6th grade Life Science class in Seoul, South Korea. Although English was not the students primary language, they were able to write poems to accompany an anatomy chart they were creating. They positioned poems directly onto the body chart. A poem about the brain was revealed, in "lift-the-flap" fashion. A poem about the intestines curled around the intestines. Etc. The poems were not graded for literary merit, but simply on whether or not they included 3 or more facts about the topic. The kids were so engaged, it inspired me to write my own book of anatomy poems, The Blood-Hungry Spleen and Other Poems About Our Parts.


CONNECT WITH ALLAN WOLF

Website: www.allanwolf.com
Twitter and Instagram: @allanwolf100
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/allan.wolf.370

Look for Who Killed Christopher Goodman? (Candlewick Press), Allan Wolf's latest verse novel based on the 1979 murder of a high school friend.











Many thanks to Allan for participating in our Classroom Connections series for National Poetry Month, and to Candlewick Press for offering a copy of The Day the Universe Exploded My Head to one randomly selected TLD reader! (US and Canadian addresses only.)

To enter, leave a comment below or send an email with the subject "Universe 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.




The incomparable Carol Varsalona has this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Beyond LiteracyLink.







Thursday, April 25, 2019

Classroom Connections with David Elliott




TODAY'S READ

Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc

David Elliott, Author

HMH Books for Young Readers (March 26, 2019)
ISBN: 978-1328987594

For ages 14 to adult

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






SYNOPSIS

Told through medieval poetic forms and in the voices of the people and objects in Joan of Arc’s life, (including her family and even the trees, clothes, cows, and candles of her childhood), Voices offers an unforgettable perspective on an extraordinary young woman. Along the way it explores timely issues such as gender, misogyny, and the peril of speaking truth to power. Before Joan of Arc became a saint, she was a girl inspired. It is that girl we come to know in Voices.


A PEEK INSIDE

© 2019 by David Elliott, from Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc (HMH Books for Young Readers)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Read David Elliott’s spotlight interview
on Today's Little Ditty HERE.

David Elliott is the author of over twenty picture books and novels for young people, including The New York Times bestselling And Here’s to You!. Other books include The Transmogrification of Roscoe Wizzle; Finn Throws a Fit; Baabwaa and Wooliam; the This ORQ series; and the poetry series On the Farm, In the Wild,  In the Sea, On the Wing and In the Past. His YA novel in verse Bull (2017) garnered six starred reviews and has been compared to Hamilton. Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc was released in March of this year. Before becoming a writer, David worked as an olive picker in Greece, a popsicle stick maker in Israel, and a singer in Mexico. He is a founding member of Lesley University’s Low Residency Program in Creative Writing, where he still teaches. Currently, David lives in New Hampshire with his wife and Dandie Dinmont terrier, Queequeg.


CLASSROOM CONNECTIONS

Why is bringing poetry into the classroom important?

Well, this is like asking why it’s important to bring math into the classroom, right? And I love that the question refers to bringing poetry into the classroom, rather than teaching it. Bringing poetry to young people is an act of love. If we’re not very careful, teaching it is like refusing to give a starving kid dinner until she can recite every ingredient that went into its preparation. There are so, so many reasons to get poetry into the ears and mouths and hearts of our younger citizens. Here is just one. Right now we’re all about STEM. It’s all STEM all the time. Hooray! We get it. STEM! STEM! STEM!

Yes, of course, we need great engineers, great doctors, great astronomers and mathematicians and coders. Nobody is arguing that we don’t. But if we’re going to get anywhere in this weary world we need engineers who can feel, doctors who can empathize with their patients, astronomers who can communicate the wonders of the universe to the rest of us, and mathematicians and coders who are firmly grounded in notions of what it means to be human. I can’t think of any better way to give our young women and men these skills than to sustain them with poetry. Carl Jung once defined a symbol as the best representation of that which cannot be represented. I think that’s an excellent definition of a poem. Of course, we can’t duplicate the experience of grief, or love, or jealousy, or rage, or astonishment, or confusion or any of it through metaphors, and syntax, and line breaks. But we can get close. And when we do, we get closer to all the human beings with whom we share the planet.

How might your book be incorporated into an educational curriculum?

I can think of many curricula where Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc might be an appropriate text. Medieval and European History, Women’s and Gender Studies, Creative Writing Classes. Mary Ann Cappiello, professor of language and literacy at Lesley University, did an excellent job of putting together a curriculum for a Women’s History and Gender Studies course. You can find it in School Library Journal’s “The Classroom Bookshelf.”  Here’s the link: http://www.theclassroombookshelf.com/2019/03/exploring-womens-history-and-gender-perspectives-through-voices-the-final-hours-of-joan-of-arc/

I’d love to see someone do a unit asking students to write their own biographies using the structure of Voices. First, allow the kids to get two or three of the forms used in the book under their belt. Then ask them to tell their lives through poems from the perspective of people who know them, as well as inanimate objects that mean something to them—bikes, helmets, barrettes, keyboards, violins, whatever. I might also ask them to pick one voice—in Voices, it’s Fire—that repeats throughout their biography.

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

WRITING A TRIOLET (TREE-o-lay)

French. Dates from thirteenth century.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
  • Eight lines
  • The first and second lines form an unrhymed couplet.
  • The end words of lines one and two set the rhyme scheme.
  • Lines 1,3,5,7 rhyme. As do lines 2,4,6,8.
  • Line one is repeated at lines four and seven.
  • Line two repeated at line eight. In other words, the first two lines of the poem are also its last two lines.
Lines can be any length, but rhyming lines are of the same length.

LET'S TAKE A LOOK
How Great My Grief


How great my grief, my joys how few,
Since first it was my fate to know thee!
Have the slow years not brought to view
How great my grief, my joys how few,
Nor memory shaped old times anew,
Nor loving-kindness helped to show thee
How great my grief, my joys how few,
Since first it was my fate to know thee?

     – Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)
YOUR TURN

Take a look at “The Arrow” on page 124 in Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc. Though it has been shaped to form a concrete poem, it is, in fact, a triolet. Following the guidelines listed in the bullet points above, write a triolet in the voice of an object from your own life.  What does it have to say about you?

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

When I was teaching I often began each session—no matter the content of the class—with a poem. We didn’t discuss it. I didn’t “teach” its meaning or say anything about its structure or the author. I simply read it, was silent for a moment, and then got on with the day’s lesson. Without fail if I forgot, the students—everybody from the shy girl sitting in the front row to the burly quarterback sitting at the back—complained, and bitterly. They didn’t know they needed it, but once they discovered they did, they craved it. Imagine what our country would be like if every day, every teacher from kindergarten through upper level graduate courses in cellular biology read one poem. Every class. Every day. We would be living in a different, a better country.

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

In all my school visits I try to write a communal poem with whatever group I’m talking to. Here’s a recent one. Almost all the language of the poem came from the kids, a group of kindergarteners and first grades. They were thrilled.

Owl

I was flying, hunting, searching for prey.
I work by night, I sleep by day.
I turn my neck: I see the mole,
I take it back to my treetop hole.
Hoo! Hoo! Hoo! Hoo!

Years ago, I was teaching a college level intro to creative writing class. When we came to the unit on poetry we read Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art.” I will never forget the expression on one of the student’s faces when we finished. She looked as if a light were shining on her, or, maybe, as if she had suddenly discovered that she was the light. That is one of my happiest memories, that little moment. And all we did was read the poem. We just read it.


CONNECT WITH DAVID ELLIOTT

Website: davidelliottbooks.com
Instagram: @davidelliott1234
Twitter: @davidelliott10

Look for BULL (click here to read the review on Today's Little Ditty), released last month in paperback.











Many thanks to David for participating in our Classroom Connections series for National Poetry Month, and for offering a copy of Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc to one randomly selected TLD reader!

To enter, leave a comment below or send an email with the subject "Voices 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 24, 2019

Classroom Connections with David Bowles




TODAY'S READ

They Call Me Güero: A Border Kid's Poems

David Bowles, Author

Cinco Puntos Press (November 27, 2018)
ISBN: 978-1947627062

For ages 9 and up

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





SYNOPSIS

Twelve-year-old Güero is Mexican American, at home with Spanish or English and on both sides of the river. He’s starting 7th grade with a woke English teacher who knows how to make poetry cool. 



In Spanish, “Güero” is a nickname for guys with pale skin, Latino or Anglo. But make no mistake: our red-headed, freckled hero is puro mexicano, like Canelo Álvarez, the Mexican boxer. Güero is also a nerd—reader, gamer, musician—who runs with a squad of misfits like him, Los Bobbys. Sure, they get in trouble like anybody else, and like other middle-school boys, they discover girls. Watch out for Joanna! She’s tough as nails. 



But trusting in his family’s traditions, his trusty accordion and his bookworm squad, he faces seventh grade with book smarts and a big heart. Life is tough for a border kid, but Güero has figured out how to cope. 



He writes poetry.


A PEEK INSIDE

© 2018 David Bowles, from They Call Me Güero:
A Border Kid's Poems (Cinco Puntos Press)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Mexican American author David Bowles has written fourteen books, including the Pura Belpré Honor Book The Smoking Mirror and Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky: Myths of Mexico (one of Kirkus Reviews’ Best YA Books of 2018). His most recent publication, They Call Me Güero: A Border Kid's Poems, has received multiple accolades such as the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award, the Claudia Lewis Award for Excellence in Poetry, the Pura Belpré Author Honor, and the Walter​ ​Dean​ ​Myers​ Honor ​Award​ ​for​ ​Outstanding​ ​Children’s​ ​Literature. His work has also appeared in a wide range of venues, among them Journal of Children's Literature, Translation Review, Rattle, and Huizache. In 2017, David was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters in recognition of his literary accomplishments.


CLASSROOM CONNECTIONS

Why is bringing poetry into the classroom important?

There are so many great things about poetry that make it perfect for young people. It’s a bridge between music and literature, and the playful way in which it shapes language lets kids see how beautiful, melodic, fun and impactful words can be. It is dense, condensed when compared to prose, occupying less space but saying more. As a result, it lends itself to being re-read again and again (something students should learn to do) and rewards close analysis. It can be read out loud, chorally, helping struggling readers and ELLs without shaming them.

How might your book be incorporated into an educational curriculum?

Well, nearly all upper elementary and middle-school English standards require teachers to cover the genre of poetry. Finding work that centers kids, that is culturally diverse, is important. They Call Me Güero is a great fit. Furthermore, the book explores Mexican American identity on the border in a way that shatters stereotypes. It would work well in any unit about the wide variety of American experiences, a perfect tool for showing that the border isn’t a post-apocalyptic wasteland full of bad people, but a rich, beautiful region where people live normally, healthy lives.

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

Using “They Call Me Güero” as a template, teachers could have students write their own poems about their nicknames, beginning with the prompt “They call me ____.” The poem would explore why the nickname was given and what it says about the student and the community they come from.

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

Be sure to tap into students’ prior knowledge, setting them up for success by selecting poems that will resonate with them on that text-to-self level.

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

Poetry really impacted me personally. As an 8th grader, I had a teacher named Bill Hetrick who pulled the lid off of poetry for me, revealing how incredibly powerful it was as a lens for understanding the world and my place in it. Later, when my dad abandoned our family thousands of miles from our hometown, it was poetry that helped me to survive the darkness: reading it, writing it.

Later, as a middle-school teacher, I had a group of boys who just didn’t respond well to the literature we were reading. So I brought in “Oranges” by Gary Soto, a poem in which they could see themselves reflected, adjacent to their own cultural experience as Mexican American kids. It was hugely successful. They identified with the boy in the poem. I was able to get them to try writing about their own lives, to find the “orange” in their own personal stories.


CONNECT WITH DAVID BOWLES

Website: www.davidbowles.us
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/david.oscar.bowles
Twitter and Instagram: @DavidOBowles

Look for The Chupacabras of the Río Grande: Unicorn Rescue Society Book 4 (co-written with Adam Gidwitz), published this month from Penguin.











Many thanks to David for participating in our Classroom Connections series for National Poetry Month, and for offering a copy of They Call Me Güero: A Border Kid's Poems to one randomly selected TLD reader!

To enter, leave a comment below or send an email with the subject "Guero 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.