Monday, April 15, 2019

Classroom Connections with Leslie Bulion


Superlative Birds

Leslie Bulion, Author
Robert Meganck, Illustrator

Peachtree Publishing (March 1, 2019)
ISBN: 978-1561459513

For ages 7-12

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Explore the fascinating world of superlative birds―from the bee hummingbird, the tiniest bird in the world, to the peregrine falcon, the fastest creature on Earth.

Ever wonder which bird has the loudest voice? Which one builds the biggest nest or has the most feathers? Get to know all about the best and brightest―and smelliest!―denizens of the bird world with this collection of nonfiction science verse. You won’t need your binoculars to observe the superlative characteristics of these avian wonders.

Author Leslie Bulion includes a science glossary, notes on poetry forms, and resources for information about these extraordinary birds in the back of the book. Witty drawings by Robert Meganck add another layer of fun to this humorous and informative gallery of the world’s most accomplished birds. (from


Click on image to enlarge.

Text copyright © 2019 by Leslie Bulion. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Robert Meganck.
From SUPERLATIVE BIRDS (Peachtree Publishing Company).


Leslie Bulion has been writing poetry since the fourth grade and has been an observer of the natural world from the moment she could peer under a rock. Her award-winning science poetry collections include Superlative Birds, Leaf Litter Critters, At the Sea Floor Café: Odd Ocean Critter Poems, Random Body Parts: Gross Anatomy Riddles in Verse, and Hey There, Stink Bug, with more collections on the way!
Leslie’s graduate background in oceanography and experience as a school social worker inform her science poetry as well as her science-infused middle grade novels Uncharted Waters, The Trouble with Rules and The Universe of Fair. Leslie’s books have been honored by Bank Street College, NCTE, NSTA, AAAS, Parents’ Choice, and state reading lists. Her first book, Fatuma's New Cloth, was awarded the 2003 Children's Africana Book Award.

When Leslie isn’t on the move researching, scuba diving, and sharing poetry fun, she adventures closer to home in Connecticut with her husband, Rubin Hirsch.


Why is bringing poetry into the classroom important?

I'm not a classroom teacher so I'll speak to this BIG question from my perspective as a life-long poetry learner:

Hearing poetry introduces learners (like me!) to the rich music, deep emotionality and playfulness of words and language. Poetry can introduce ideas and subjects outside of a learner’s own experience with an intrinsic artistry of expression that speaks to the universality of the human condition. Poetry is human cultural nourishment.

Reading and reciting poetry aloud helps learners tune in to the music of their own individual poetic ear as they discover poems that resonate for them on a musical, emotional and subjective level. Repetition deepens the poetic experience. Also, it’s FUN!

Writing poetry allows learners to use language and space on the page to explore and express ideas, problems, and experiences with depth, inventiveness, and freedom.

Of course, exposure to all arts enhances creative problem-solving and other higher-order thinking, increases student confidence, promotes collaboration, helps students develop empathy, and more. Our brains and hearts on ART!

How might your book be incorporated into an educational curriculum?

Writing a science poem is a terrific cross-curricular opportunity for students to develop and communicate content mastery while enhancing literacy skills. It allows students to access other thinking and emotional pathways while working to assimilate material in a specific content area.

When I'm working on a science poem I play with words and ideas, writing and rewriting poems in different ways. Often I’ll find I need more information to know which combination of words and nuance is most accurate, and I need to return down the research rabbit hole. This deepens my mastery of the subject matter. As students work on writing science poems, they develop and demonstrate mastery using the rich language of newly-acquired science terminology, and enhance literacy skills through creative, poetic wordplay.

When my writing group tells me one of my poems leaves them scratching their heads, their questions improve my science communication! As students share writing through their peer editing process they improve their ability to communicate the science they’ve learned.

Any of the poems in Superlative Birds can be used as mentor texts with different content. I’m thrilled that teachers use my other books in this modeling way as well. The poetry glossary in each book provides specific information about the poetic forms and use of poetic device for teachers and students.

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

Superlative Birds Classroom Activity: Write a Superlative Bird Poem!

·      Discuss the meaning of the word “superlative” as it relates to the characteristics of birds highlighted in Superlative Birds, such as beaks, feet, feathers, eggs, etc.

·      Invite students to create, describe and draw their own superlative bird. What is its superlative attribute or characteristic/s? How do these attributes help their bird thrive?

·      Songs have built in rhythm and rhyme patterns that make great poem mentor texts! Use the QR code on p. 21 or click “Arctic Terns the World ’Round” to play the song poem Leslie Bulion wrote using the rhythm and rhyme pattern of an old sea chantey.

·      Invite students to choose a simple song such as “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” or another song they know, and follow its rhythm and rhyme pattern to write a song poem about their own newly-created superlative bird.

·      Have a classroom sing-along!

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

Easy! Start each day or each week by sharing a short poem--teachers and/or students can make the selections. A simple reading, a few moments to share reactions, a re-reading, and move on. For quick, useful teaching prompts, “Take 5” ideas accompany each weekly poem in the Poetry Friday Anthology series at Pomelo Books, arranged by grade level. How about a cross-country tour sharing poems from National Geographic’s The Poetry of US edited by J. Patrick Lewis? Or poems from one of the many anthologies edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins—there are endless opportunities for poetry fun!

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

A favorite image I carry from one of my first student poetry workshops is of a quiet fourth grader who volunteered to read his new-penned poem aloud. From the first line it was clear he was reading us a love poem. I held my breath. How would the other fourth grade students react to this tender, soap bubble of a share he’d lofted among us? Well, they sent it soaring with applause and cheers! The words from his poet-heart had resonated in the hearts of his classmates. And we were writing science poetry about insects. I think the process of honing and tuning his ideas into the music of a handful of words led this student-poet into the poem he needed to write.


Facebook: Leslie Bulion
Twitter: @lesliebulion
Instagram: lesliebulion

Look for Leaf Litter Critters (Peachtree, 2018): a poetic tour through the leaf litter layer with fascinating facts about the tiny critters who live there.

And coming up next: Amphibian Acrobats (Peachtree, 2020), illustrated by Robert Meganck. Poems and accompanying science notes celebrate frog, toad, salamander and caecilian showstoppers!

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

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


  1. Just popping in to say I DO skim and scan each day, but the banquet is so rich each day that I'll have to come back to do each marvelous post justice! THANK YOU for these incredible resources!

  2. What a fabulous theme for a collection. I will definitely have to find and read this!

  3. It's a wonderful post, so happy to see about Superlative Birds here, Leslie & Michelle. I'm sharing this book tomorrow and like Leaf Litter Critters, it is marvelous. I'm excited to hear that another book is coming next year!

  4. What a wonderful interview. Thank you so much! Whenever I share poetry with the students and staff of my school, my heart just glows a little brighter when the science teachers really buy into it. I love how you speak about understanding and communicating science concepts through poetry. It's so true! One way I asked students in reading classes to understand a poem was to illustrate one poem with a graphic novel template. It really was amazing to see what they understood from the poem when they put the words into graphic art. Thank you for stopping by today!

  5. Love the cover -- the birds looking us in the eye feels like they are engaging with us before we even open the book.
    Sweet story about the fourth grade poet. You never know what is going to happen when you get people writing poetry!

  6. I've met you, Leslie, at the Peachtree booth at NCTE. I loved sharing Leaf Litter with my kids and look forward to doing this writing activity with Superlative Birds. I live near many wonderful birds and appreciate the poetry of them.

  7. I will be looking for this book. It looks perfectly wonderful. I love the classroom exercises, particularly the second and fourth ones. Thanks for a fun post.

  8. Thank you for this terrific interview, Michelle & Leslie! I know my students will love this book!

  9. Love science nonfiction verse! Thanks so much for sharing!

  10. I am definitely eager to read this book and share it. Plus I am enjoying learning more from and about Leslie. She shares great teaching tips here. Janet Clar1e F.