Friday, July 31, 2009


With only two weeks before school starts, there's so much to do to get ready! I'm always looking for time savers, and I just found a great one in J Patrick Lewis' new collection, COUNTDOWN TO SUMMER: A Poem for Every Day of the School Year. It is an excellent choice for teachers who want to bring more poetry into their classroom.

My first thought was that this would be a wonderful gift for new teachers who don't yet have files of resources. What a fun way to encourage them to share daily poems with their students!

But new teachers shouldn't have all the fun. This collection is an excellent resource for all teachers. The poems in COUNTDOWN TO SUMMER are perfect for daily warm-ups. Kids will love watching the days decrease with each daily poem.

The 180 poems are short and contain lots of teaching points. For example poem 172 begins:

Eid ul-Fitr

The new moon is rising.
Ramadan has passed,
Holiest of holy months
When true believers fast.

Gathering at the mosque,
Borne on wings of prayer,
Quitting fast to feast,
A festival affair

I teach in a school where many religions and cultures are represented. Wouldn’t this poem make a great discussion starter or writing prompt for students to share some of their own customs and traditions? In addition, kids are learning about a culture they probably aren’t very familiar with. Other poems about Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Chinese New Year, Easter, St. Patrick, etc., will also provide students with cultural mini-lessons.

Another time-saving feature of the collection is the poems are written in many different forms: concrete poems, epitaphs, quatrains, acrostics, riddles, limericks, haikus, and even an abecedarian. I teach many of these forms so I’m always looking for examples kids will understand and relate to. For example, I think poem 175, “Reading Harry Potter Under the Sheets” is perfect teaching quatrains and rhyme scheme. The first three stanzas:

I’m quarter-past Chapter One
Of the last of Harry’s feats.
This flashlight’s my midnight sun.
I burrow under the sheets.

Book Seven’s supposed to be
The last of the Rowling run.
Gazillions can’t wait to see
Who’s defeated and who’s won.

Will Voldemort get his due?
Will Ron or Hermione die?
Or Hagrid? Is Hagrid through?
Now who will it be and why?

This poem will definitely get my middle school students’ attention!

An abecedarian isn’t a form I’ve taught in the past, but with this example, I think my students would be able to write one of their own. Poem 174 begins:

The Librarian

After school one day I was talking to Mr.
Butterwinkle, the school librarian.
Can you
“Easy,” he said. “But
First I think you should
Go to the Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, and…

Note: (You can read more abecedarian poems from a Miss Rumphius’ poetry challenge here.)

J Patrick Lewis has provided busy teachers with a time-saving resource. Like the poems, the illustrations by Ethan Long are lively and fun. I can’t wait to share COUNTDOWN TO SUMMER with my students. This collection will be a delightful addition to any classroom and especially enjoyed by children in grades 3 and up.


  1. Thanks for joining the Poetry Friday gathering this week and for your in-depth review of Pat's wonderful book-- which I loved too. Keep on...

  2. Linda,

    You start the school year early. Enjoy what remains of your summer vacation!

  3. Sylvia, thanks for stopping by. Pat's books are always so much fun to read, and this is one I can use everyday!

    Elaine, Yep! We start early, but we get a long spring break (about a week), and we usually have about 5 snow days (but not last year)! Thanks for stopping by.