Friday, April 5, 2019

Classroom Connections with Janet Wong


A Suitcase of Seaweed & MORE

Janet Wong, Author

YUZU, an imprint of Pomelo Books
(February 28, 2019)

ISBN: 978-1937057336

For ages 10 and up

Purchase at


A Suitcase of Seaweed was published in 1996 by Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon and Schuster) as thirty-six poems plus three prose pieces. IA Suitcase of Seaweed & MORE, you’ll find 50 new pages containing snippets of story about the inspiration behind the poems, extensions of the themes, and prompts to get readers thinking about their own identities. Wong’s “Advice for Writers” will inspire them to write their own books, too!


Click on images to enlarge.


Read Janet Wong’s spotlight interview
on Today's Little Ditty HERE.
Janet Wong is a graduate of Yale Law School and a former lawyer who switched careers to become a children’s author. Her dramatic career change has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CNN’s Paula Zahn Show, and Radical Sabbatical. She is the author of more than 30 books for children and teens on a wide variety of subjects, including writing and revision (You Have to Write), diversity and community (Apple Pie 4th of July), peer pressure (Me and Rolly Maloo), chess (Alex and the Wednesday Chess Club), and yoga (Twist: Yoga Poems). A frequent featured speaker at literacy conferences, Wong has served as a member of several national committees, including the NCTE Poetry Committee and the ILA Notable Books for a Global Society committee. Her current focus is encouraging children to publish their own writing using affordable new technologies.


Why is bringing poetry into the classroom important?

Why is it important to have snacks? They're a quick pick-me-up for instant energy—and they make us happy. Poems are the same way!

How might your book be incorporated into an educational curriculum?

The prose pieces and writing prompts that go with each poem make it easy, I hope, to share a poem—and use it in a lesson—anytime a moment presents itself.

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

For each of the poems in the book, including the two shared above, you'll find prompts to get students thinking and talking—or even writing. (Click on the images for easier reading.)

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

Don’t wait for pre-planned time slots to share poetry. If you’re teaching a subject and you suddenly remember that there’s a poem for that, jump up, grab the poem, and read it aloud. You can even use a poem for an impromptu 30-second indoor recess!

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

When I’m at schools, very often a kid will come up to me and give me a poem. Just shove it into my hand or put it in my suitcase without saying much (if anything). Usually these are very serious poems about the death of a family member or feeling alone. I'll scribble a quick note on the poem and return it to the student as a way to say, “Yes, you are right: poems are here for all your thoughts and feelings. Keep it up!” I think we’d make progress in our national mental health if every student wrote a poem each day that they immediately tore to shreds—a poem of release. Knowing that we’d have to tear it up would make us feel safe to say the things we really need to say.


Twitter: @janetwongauthor

Many thanks to Janet for participating in our Classroom Connections series for National Poetry Month, and for providing me with TWO copies of A Suitcase of Seaweed & MORE for randomly selected TLD readers!

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


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.

Please join Karen Edmisten for this week's Poetry Friday roundup.


  1. Good Morning Janet and Michelle. What a wonderful, positive and encouraging post. I need this book for my students. I couldn't agree more with the idea of having poems handy for unexpected moments. When I was a Cub Scout Mom, I had a pack of cards with jokes, riddles and games to do on the spot during those transition/wait times. Poetry can be the same...poetry IS like nourishes us. I'm always encouraging poetry. It's such an essential building block. I'm thrilled to see this book re-issued with more! Many congratulations on continued success in poetry to you both.

  2. I have loved this book for a long time! The poem "Sisters" may be my favorite poem in the collection. I can just imagine the thrill and encouragement of Janet's words to that child... because hasn't she given similar words to all of us? Thank you, Michelle, for continuing your good works to the world and featuring Janet today! xo

  3. Am loving this series and it's good to see Janet's book featured today (probably my favorite of her poetry books). I love how she's added backstory to all the poems in this new edition. Had to smile at her answer to the first question: yes, snacks!! (No need to enter me in the giveaway as I already have a copy).

  4. I love Janet's story, know that poetry does help children, and adults, heal in ways they may not even predict. And I liked hearing about those poems written, the release & then the tearing up. In my poetry groups, after some writing together, I suggested that there are deeper feelings they might want to write and not share, only for themselves. Then we took the poems outside and burned them! These were middle-school aged kids, safe with fire & I had a fire pan for it. It was powerful for all of us, me, too. I love the earlier 'Suitcase', will love this new one, too, I'm sure. Thanks, Janet and Michelle.

  5. I've loved this book for a long time too. I also love the idea of writing a poem knowing it will be ripped to shreds.

  6. A Suitcase of Seaweed is a long-time favorite of mine too. So glad to read about this new edition with prose and prompts--like seemingly everything Janet and Sylvia do, this is so teacher/classroom friendly!

  7. I love the idea of writing notes on kids's poems and returning them. I'll bet they really appreciate it. Thanks for a great post.

  8. Quite a story packed into your poem "Quitter" to your coach–perhaps it's to your parents too. I appreciate reading the backstory in the newly released "A Suitcase of Seaweed & MORE" it adds extra layers in between your lines. Thanks Janet and Michelle for all here!

  9. I love the poem/snack analogy. And also the idea of writing a release poem every day. Thanks!

  10. Quitter is so poignant. I'm cheering for the narrator. Thank you for sharing a bit from Janet's book. I enjoyed her interview as well.

  11. Somehow I didn't know about this book. It sounds like the new edition offers all sorts of wonderful extras. I, too, love the idea of writing a release poem each day. How liberating!

  12. Janet is such a wonderful cheerleader for poetry every day! I had a student just this week express the kind of feelings you would want to tear up and throw away. Instead I called her mother for a conference. Sometimes poetry helps the student screaming to be heard. Thanks, Janet, for all you do to keep the kids screaming and laughing and playing with poetry.

  13. There can never be too many ideas from the amazing poet, poetry advocate and inspiring Janet Wong. I love her ideas and encouragement for all of us. Being the granddaughter of an immigrant her ideas resonate. Great post, Michelle.Janet Clare F.

  14. Omgosh! I LOVE the format of this book! The personal stories and prompts you have included alongside each poem are perfect to use at the beginning and/or end of class. I also could use individual entries to help my students brainstorm ideas for their own writing or even use them to guide entire lessons! Thank you so much for providing us the opportunity to win a copy of A Suitcase of Seaweed and MORE! This book would really help bring my lessons to the next level. Keep up the awesome work and thank you, again! :-)
    Twitter: @tarafarah7

  15. It's so encouraging to see books like this today! Would have loved to have had it back in the day when when I was teaching in a multicultural classroom in inner city LA. Or when subbing in South Central LA in 1972. A great book to inspire kids to write their own stories and poems!!