Linda Kulp Trout

Thursday, May 27, 2010


I've wanted to blog about this book for some time, but keep getting sidetracked with other things. Well, here it is Thursday night and I'm knee-high in papers to grade and chores to do, but I wanted to share this book now so that teachers can put it on their summer reading list.

One of the best books I've found for teaching poetry is Betsy Franco's Conversations with a Poet: Inviting Poetry in K-12 Classrooms, Richard Owen Publishers, 2005. There's a lot to love about this book if you're a teacher or if you're someone who wants to learn more about writing poetry. One of the many things I love is that reading this book really does feel like you're having a conversation with Betsy.

Conversations with a Poet is divided into two sections. Section I is titled "Rationales and Practical Ideas for Teaching Poetry. It discusses teaching poetry from a poet's point of view. Many of our favorite children's poets (Lee Bennett Hopkins, Marilyn Singer, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Bobbi Katz, etc.) share information about their writing process and thoughts on poetry.

Here's a small sampling of what else you'll find in Section I: understanding rhyme and line breaks, revision, assessing poetry, and ways to present and publish student work. I especially love the chapter on the importance of teacher demonstration. I've never understood how someone who doesn't like to write could teach others to write. In my opinion, teacher modeling is essential. If you want them to write, you must write!

If you're a teacher, you're going to want to give Betsy Franco a huge hug! Section II is titled "Unpacking the Poetry Forms," and boy does she do a good job of showing us how to unpack them! This section contains 16 poetry forms with their historical information, characteristics of the form, everyday life parallels of the form, how the form meets objectives and curriculum standards, samples for various levels (primary, elementary, middle/high school), think throughs to get us in the mind of the poet, and a bibliography of other samples of the form. Didn't I tell you this book is a gem! Betsy knows how busy we teachers are, and she's given us everything we need to teach our students the joy of reading and writing poetry.

There is so much more I could say about Conversations with a Poet, but the timer on the dryer just went off, I have two cats demanding to be fed, and then there's those papers to grade (gulp!). This is a very quick overview. I wish I had this book when I first started teaching! I'm amazed at how many resources are packed in this one book. It's reader friendly, but most importantly, it's teacher friendly. Thank you Betsy Franco!

Friday, May 21, 2010


A month ago, my doctor called to say that my x-ray turned out abnormal. Within days, I was scheduled to see a surgeon who recommended a biopsy. It took a week to get the results. Then two more biopsies were scheduled. By that time, I was beginning to panic. Waiting for the results for each biopsy was excruciatingly difficult. The more time that passed, the more worried I became. Trying to keep my mind focused on my students each day was hard, but at least I was busy. I spent my evenings on the Internet reading everything I could about the diagnosis I feared would become a reality.

I couldn't sleep so I spent my nights with my dear friend, Poetry. I read and reread poems that brought me comfort and gave me hope. I read Trisha's interviews with children's poets. I read the original poems Greg posted over at GottaBook. And I looked forward to reading every post each Poetry Friday. Your poems, interviews and book reviews were a welcome escape.

Thankfully, the biopsies came back okay. I still need some follow-up tests in a few months, but I'm feeling so much relief, I just want to enjoy the present moment. I am so grateful for each of you for putting your heart into sharing your passion for poetry with us every week. I've been reading your blogs for years and feel like many of you are old friends. Your words touch me and make me smile. There's magic in the Internet and the way it connects us to one another. Poetry Friday is a perfect example of how we can make a difference in the lives of others we've never even met.

Last night when I was trying to decide which poem to share today, Jane Kenyon's wonderful poem, "Otherwise" came to mind. I love how she reminds us to enjoy life's simple pleasures and enjoy what we have right now.


I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

You can read the rest of the poem here.