Linda Kulp Trout

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Poetry Friday: Classroom Connection

I read so many wonderful reviews of J Patrick Lewis’ new book, The Underwear Salesman: And Other Jobs for Better or Verse I couldn’t wait to read it, and of course I loved it! As I read, the poems seemed perfect for teaching two very difficult literary elements, tone and mood. My middle school students frequently get them confused and have a hard time understanding the difference in the two so I try to review them several times each school year.

The poems in The Underwear Salesman work great because they’re short, fun to read, and each poem has a personality of its own. Middle school students love to role play so the unusual careers in the collection such as: “Bathroom Attendant” and “Cuckoo-Clock Repairman” gave them lots of room to get into character.

Here's what I did:

First, I modeled by reading the poem “Librarian” using a very uppity boastful tone of voice.

No one has more fun than I!
I’ve met Harriet the Spy,
Ferdinand the Bull, and Pooh.
(Eeyore says, “How do you do?”)

You can read the rest of the poem here: Poetry for Children.

After the laughter stopped, students identified the tone I used, and then they identified the mood they felt as they listened to the poem.

Next, pairs of students selected a poem from The Underwear Salesman and wrote it down in their journal. I gave each pair an index card with a “secret” tone word on it. After practicing reading their poem using the assigned tone, they read their poem aloud to the class.

I divided the class in half. One group focused on tone, the other focused on mood. Using a resource list of tone and mood words, the groups identified the tone and mood of the poem. When students began pointing out that someone speaking in a boastful tone could make listeners feel hurt or angry, I knew they got it!

We had a lot of fun with this lesson. Next time, I think I’ll try having students read the poem then choose the tone they think the person who does that job might use instead of assigning a tone.

If you’re looking for a fun way to teach tone and mood, give The Underwear Salesman a try!

Want to know more about J Patrick Lewis?
Read an interview with him over at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Check out J Patrick Lewis' website here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Poetry Friday

As a kid, I loved amusement parks. The Merry-Go-Round was one of my favorite rides, but there was something mysterious about those horses that made me wonder what they might be thinking. Today a student told me she got a carousel music box for her birthday, and I started thinking about those horses again. So, I wanted to write her a poem. This is what I have so far.

All day long
carousel ponies sleep
dreaming of wild open ranges
grazing green meadows
galloping across mesas
until dark—

and then the music begins...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Poetry Friday: Happy Birthday, Lee Bennett Hopkins!

In honor of Lee's upcoming birthday, April 13, I'm sharing a review of a collection of autobiographical poems, BEEN TO YESTERDAYS. This collection was first published in 1995, and continues to be one I use in my classroom.

The emotion packed poems follow young Lee through his eventful and often painful adolescence. The very first poem in the collection is my favorite because it is a reminder that a picture might be worth a thousand words, but a picture doesn't always tell the truth.

from "Smile

for the camera."
the photographer
as we posed.
all dressed up
in our best
Sunday clothes.

"Smile big now.
Smile wide.
The five of you
look like
birds of a feather

How many of us have appeared "like birds of a feather" for a photograph when things were actually falling apart?

I especially love the conversational tone of the poems, perfect for reminding us that some conversations are never forgotten such as when your parents tell you they're getting divorced. My mother was very angry when my father left us. I wish she would've softened the blow a little the way Lee's mother did in "Since."

But he's still
your Daddy.
He always will be.
He's still a good man.
Still part of me.

It's important to know
that he'll always
love you,
your sister,
your brother,
and Grandma too.

BEEN TO YESTERDAYS is always popular with my middle school students because they can identify with the topics Lee writes about. They have experienced: divorce, trying to figure out who they are, missing an absent parent, and the death of a loved one.The poems reach out to young people, even boys who claim they don't like poetry.

This is also an excellent collection to teach students about using voice in their writing. I use the poem,"Another" about overhearing parents argue and "the/dreaded/word—/divorce" as a prompt for my eighth graders to write about an overheard conversation. Kids overhear much more than we're ever aware of. Their poems retelling conversations range from hiliarious to deeply moving.

About writing the collection, Lee says, "I still marvel at my creating BEEN TO YESTERDAYS: POEMS OF A LIFE (BoydsMills Press) published over fourteen years ago…so long I almost forget writing it.The book received great national attention including being an SCBWI Golden KiteHonor Book and winning the Christopher Medal which was presented to me by James Earl Jones! But – I couldn’t attend the affair in NYC due to a prior commitment to a friend who had asked me a long time prior to speak at a dinner meeting in South Carolina! As I was eating spaghetti all I could think of was Mr. Jones. My agent, the great-late Marilyn E. Marlow accepted the award for me…and never let me forget the moment!

…YESTERDAYS continues to be read and read and used in all kinds of programs from youth groups to Al-Anon groups. The small book has touched so many; I never knew the power of the words could have gone on so long."

If you've read BEEN TO YESTERDAYS, read it again. I discover something new every time I read it. If you haven't read it yet, you're missing out on a great one!

The final stanzas in the poem, "To" make a perfect ending for the collection.

this world
a whole lot

I grow up,

You sure have, made the world a whole lot brighter,Lee! Happy Birthday!