Monday, April 1, 2019

Classroom Connections with Eric Ode


Otters, Snails and Tadpole Tails: Poems from the Wetlands

Eric Ode, Author
Ruth Harper, Illustrator

Kane Miller Books (March 1, 2019)
ISBN: 978-1610677479

For all ages (K-12)

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From raccoons to muskrats, frogs to heron, acclaimed singer/songwriter/poet Eric Ode offers readers of all ages a gentle, stunningly beautiful homage to all things wetland. Featuring New York Times bestselling illustrator Ruth Harper’s gorgeous artwork, Otters, Snails and Tadpole Tails is a picture book celebration of biodiversity, art, poetry and healthy ecosystem.


Click on image to enlarge.

Text copyright © 2019 by Eric Ode. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Ruth Harper.


Eric Ode (pronounced Oh-dee) is a national award-winning children's singer/songwriter and a widely published author and poet. A former elementary teacher, Eric has been invited to share his music and poetry programs with schools and at community events throughout the United States, in Germany, Japan, and in Guam. Otters, Snails and Tadpole Tails is Ode’s fourth published poetry collection.


Why is bringing poetry into the classroom important?

Poetry gives students permission and freedom to play with and experiment with language – to discover how words and images can spark on our tongues and ignite our imaginations.

How might your book be incorporated into an educational curriculum?

This book offers so many opportunities for diving into the natural sciences. There’s a poem about a dragonfly that offers an opportunity to talk about metamorphosis. Another poem about a shrew and a bat opens the door to discussing habitat and diet. Of course the entire collection naturally leads into discussions on the importance of healthy wetlands for migratory birds, prevention of soil erosion, filtration of toxins, flood control...

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


Use selected poems from Otters, Snails and Tadpole Tails as an opportunity to group animals. This can be done little by little, sharing one or two poems each day.
  1. Create a large, empty chart with columns for each animal group. (See possible groups below)
  2. Read a poem or have a student read to the class.
  3. As a class, discuss characteristics of the animal.
  4. Decide into which group the animal belongs.
  5. Add that animal’s name to that group on the chart.
POSSIBLE GROUPS (Older Students)
  • Invertebrates, Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds, Mammals, and Fish
  • Animals that go through metamorphosis
  • Insects/Not Insects
POSSIBLE GROUPS (Younger Students)
  • Mammals/Not Mammals
  • Birds/Not Birds
  • Animals with legs/Animals without legs

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

When the schedule allows, I love giving students an opportunity to discover analogous language, especially similes and metaphors. We use stations in a Lucy Calkins sort of way with items set out to pick up and hold and consider, and then we move into making connections. What does this look like? What does this remind you of? Watching students surprise themselves when they make a unique connection is always a treat!

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

Because students are exposed to rhyme so early in life through song and Mother Goose rhymes and rhyming picture books, they naturally want to incorporate rhyme into their poetry. The problem, of course, is that using rhyme effectively is tough! And so often their insistence on using rhyme in poetry throws all of those other beautiful writing tools out the window – word choice, analogy, imagery, assonance, alliteration... I strongly encourage educators to put rhyme on the backburner while exposing students to poetry and discussing poetic tools.



Many thanks to Eric for participating in our Classroom Connections series for National Poetry Month, and for offering a copy of Otters, Snails and Tadpole Tails to one randomly selected TLD reader!

To enter, leave a comment below or send an email with the subject "Tadpole Tails 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!

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


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.


  1. Ahhhhhhhh. So wonderful! Recently, I launched a poetry brackets style competition in my school. It's going great. A sixth grade science teacher approached me with excitement about how much fun it has been for her and her students. Her whole face was just full of happiness. I love how poetry can bring light and joy to topics in school. Thanks for your wonderful advice and insight, Eric. I'm off to explore your website.

    1. That sounds absolutely brilliant! Thank you for wanting to bring poetry into the school in such a fun way.

  2. Thanks for this interview, Michelle and Eric! I was reading this book this very morning! I appreciate hearing a little more about it and poetry in general. Happy National Poetry Month!

    1. Thank you for all you do, Jane! Truly! (We need to lead another workshop together soon, yes?)

  3. It's a grand start to your classroom connections series, Michelle. Thanks, Eric for the ideas and the beautiful nf poetry book/poems. Love the two poems you shared, that 'nuzzled in a fuzzy hug' and 'helmet home on her back'. I will share with former colleagues!

  4. What a lovely spread to share. I especially love the Fiddlehead poem--looking forward to reading this book!

  5. What a beautiful and important book to so carefully and whimsically introduce wetlands to children. Through reading, we come to love our world. Thank you Eric and Michelle! Happy Poetry Month! x

  6. Thanks for sharing Eric's book, Michelle - I love the attention to wordplay Eric gives his poems, as well as the thoughtfulness he gives his subjects. (by the way, I love "Fiddlehead!")

    1. Thank you for such kind words, Matt - from one wordsmith to another.

  7. Great practical tips!
    The illustrations suit the charming poems to a T.

  8. Wonderful poetry and wonderful ideas for building classroom connections!

  9. This book looks wonderful. Joyful and important.

  10. Connecting science and poetry is right up my alley. We are talking about all of the poetry elements this month. We Will add animals to our list of topics and read these poems. Thanks, Eric!

  11. This book looks wonderful; my personal collection of poetry books for young readers is going grow this coming month by following these posts! ❤️

  12. Loved the poems you shared. I will be looking for this book!

  13. I enjoyed this peek into what looks like a lovely book. Thanks so much for sharing it. I look forward to everything you have in store for us this month!

  14. What a rich post! And this book looks so wonderful. I can't wait to read it. Thanks!

  15. I'd love to share Eric's book with kids! As a substitute teacher, I get that opportunity with kids from K-6. They all know I love poetry!

  16. Oops! I messed up and didn't put my name on the above post! LOL!

    Once again...I'd love to share Eric's book with kids! As a substitute teacher, I get that opportunity with kids from K-5 (not 6). They all know I love poetry!

  17. I love poetry, and I love nature. Eric's book looks like a win win. Thanks for sharing, Heidi.

  18. Thank you for the interview, Michelle and Eric. What a fun book! I connected immediately with "Fiddlehead," as I have lots of ferns and was just checking yesterday on the fiddleheads and looking at the fronds that need to be trimmed off.

  19. I'm playing catchup with your posts, Michelle. What a tremendous series! I am bookmarking all of them for future reference. I've just returned from our campus vernal pool visiting our amphibious friends. This poetry collection sounds like a perfect addition to our year-long wetlands study. -- Christie @