Linda Kulp Trout

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Another New Year and Resources for Teachers

This week was the first week back for students.  There are five elementary schools that feed into our middle school. Lots of new faces for our sixth graders to get to know.  They come with a mix of anxiety and excitement.  All teachers know the importance of beginning the year with icebreakers to help build a sense of community in the classroom. Today, I'm sharing two that worked well with my students.

I teach six classes of Reading Intervention.  My students are not only struggling readers, most of them also have special needs. They don't like to read, and they aren't shy about letting me know it.  Short, high-interest texts work best for them.  The Poetry Friday anthologies compiled by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong have become my go-to resource. Having the elementary, middle school, and science editions make it easy to find just the right poem to complement my lesson.

This week I used two poems from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School edition. I made a power point presentation of "The First Week of School" by Janet Wong. The poem begins:

First week here: it's like a show.
Lots of kids that I don't know.
Where am I supposed to go?

Janet Wong all rights reserved. 

After reading the poem, I asked the  "Take 5!"  question: What are the best and worst parts of the first week of school?

This question gave students an opportunity to share their feelings about starting middle school.  My hope was to help them feel connected to their classmates by discovering that they were all feeling the same mixed emotions.  I heard a lot of, "Me, too!" comments so I think my objective was achieved!

The next day, I read aloud "Another New Year" also by Janet Wong.  My objective was to encourage students to think about trying something new this year.

I used the "Take 5" prompt: Brainstorm a list of in-school and after-school activities that are offered on your campus for students to consider.  Next, I gave them a poetry frame using parts of Janet's poem, but leaving space for students to write their own responses. My sixth graders really loved this activity,  and I love how they put their own spin on it!   Several of them volunteered to have their poem projected onto the screen and proudly read it aloud to the class.

Below is one of my favorite examples by a young man who claims he doesn't like poetry (the underlined sections were written by the student). I'll share more of their poems next Friday.

Another New Year

Another new year:
another new start.

I'm thinking I should
get to class on time.

And try to open
my locker

and not fall down
in the hallway.

For fun I could learn
to do visual arts.

(Pull friends into
a homework group
or theatre group?)

Our chess team
is meeting today.

I guess I could join.
I'd need to practice.

I'll play every night
till I go to sleep.

This is the year
I do my best!

Isn't that great?  The Poetry Friday anthologies make it easy for me to motivate students to read and write poetry, AND to practice much needed listening and speaking skills. With all the demands on my time, I am extremely grateful to Sylvia and Janet for compiling these teacher-friendly, student-friendly volumes.  More of their fantastic resources (including pocket poem cards and poetry movies)  from the Poetry Friday series can be found here.

Jone is hosting Poetry Friday this week, be sure to Check It Out.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Heidi Bee Roemer on Inspiration and Writing Poetry

I've been thinking about all the great resources in our Poetry Friday community. We are so fortunate to be among wonderfully talented poets who generously share their time and experiences.  Today I want to tell you about a poetry class I took several years ago and share an interview with an excellent teacher, author, and poet Heidi Bee Roemer.

The ABC's of Writing Poetry for Children is a correspondence course that is different from most others because it is self-paced. This feature was very attractive to me because with teaching full time and being a grandma, life is busy!  Knowing that I had control of how long it took me to finish the course let me focus on enjoying the lessons without rushing through. The class is a one-on-one exchange with a tremendous amount of feedback and support from Heidi. The 5 DVDs and a 65-page workbook were informative, and it was helpful to have both resources to refer back to as needed.

Heidi has all the qualities of a great teacher. She is warm, patient, encouraging, and inspiring. Best of all, with over 200 published poems, she knows poetry! When I decided to write this post, I asked Heidi if she would mind answering a few questions, and she graciously agreed.  Heidi's passion for teaching is evident in her responses.

Where do you find inspiration?

 My inspiration comes from memories, music and observing children, to note just a few. But consider this: babies learn about the world through their five senses. A writer who zeros in on that will find buckloads of ideas! As you go through your day, be aware of things that might spark a flame…
Visually -- an illustration, a TV commercial, a child playing at the beach--or anywhere!
Audibly-- silly sounding words, children talking, city noises, nature sounds, popcorn popping, fireworks, etc.
Tactically--sticky glue, the cool fluidity of water, softness of a pet's fur.
Taste--the startling sourness of a lemon, the creamy sweetness of ice cream.
Smell--cookies baking, the smell of rain.

When writing for younger kids, you might include alliteration--beep beep! splash! poppity-pop! When writing for a slightly older audience, sprinkle in a few metaphors. And when an idea strikes you, jot it down immediately! If you don't, it will probably slip away.

Once you have an idea for a poem, what is your writing process?

Good question! After choosing a topic, I brainstorm for ways to present the poem. Sometimes poets get stuck writing the same style of poem over and over. Boring. Try something new! Experiment!

I might write my poem in first person point of view, as reflected in my title, "I Love to Eat Lemons".  Second person p.o.v. : "Do You Like Lemons?" Third person is also a possibility: "Lulu Loves Lemons!"  In this instance, I chose the latter because I love the playful alliteration.

Knowing various poetry forms also gives writers options. Terse verse, which is often employed when writing for the very young, uses short, clipped rhymed lines that rhyme. Verla Kay has written numerous historical picture books in this form. Her newest is CivilWar, Drummer Boy. Here's the opening of her must-read book, OrphanTrain:

Horses clip-clop.
Streets unclean.
Typhoid fever.

 Parents coughing.
Shaking chill.
Stomachs aching.
Deathly ill.

Harold, David,
Frightened eyes.
Lucy rocking,

An apostrophe poem addresses a person or thing that cannot hear or respond. Pretending to talk to a kite, a pet, or favorite toy is something that comes naturally to children. Douglas Florian, one of my favorite poets, uses the apostrophe form in many of his poetry collections. Here's a snippet from "Daddy Longlegs," from Insectlopedia.

 O Daddy,
Daddy O,
How'd you get
Those legs to grow

So very long
and lean in size?
From spiderobic

Exercise? …

 A parody of a familiar nursery rhyme is always a favorite. A mask poem is another fun form. ("A mask poem is ME pretending to BE something I'm not!") I used both forms in my poem that begins, "I'm a little jump rope, red and white…" It's based on the Mother Goose rhyme, "I'm a Little Tea Pot."

Whether you're trying to sell your poems to children's magazines or writing a poetry collection, use a variety of lively poetry forms to keep your young readers engaged--and to snag the attention of your editor!  

Meter is one of the hardest things for most writers to master. How do you decide on which meter to use?

Sometimes the meter seems to picks itself! If I've captured the first few words of the poem, they may set the pace for what follows. Other times I make a conscious decision on what meter to use.  If the poem is about something exciting, I might use anapest which is the same meter as in "'Twas the Night Before Christmas."  Listen to the beat: ta ta TUM ta ta TUM ta ta TUM ta ta TUM. Wouldn't this meter be a good match for a poem about a galloping horse?

The classic narrative poem, "The Raven", by Edgar Allan Poe, is predominantly troche. (TUM ta TUM ta TUM ta TUM ta….) Paired with Poe's somber words, the rhythm effectively accentuates the poem's increasingly sinister sound.

Try to mimic the rhythms you hear in published poems. Better yet, learn the various meters and apply them to your own poems for more variety in your work.

Do you write in a notebook or on the computer?

I use the computer a lot to research, but I also go to the library every week and bring home books. When I started gathering information for home building (construction) for a writing project, I exceeded the library check-out limit of 100 books, (I never knew they had a limit!) and had to put back a few. I proceed by jotting down ideas in a notebook, but when the ideas really start flowing, I have to turn to the keyboard because my handwriting gets too messy! (I've found that illegible notes aren't very helpful.) I type much faster than I can write. I also prefer to do revision on the computer for the same reason.

  What new writing projects do you have in the works?

I enjoy writing poems for children's magazines, particularly Highlights, High Five, and Hello, plus the "bug" magazines, Babybug, Ladybug, and Spider. Keeping my poems circulating to a variety of magazines increases my chances of getting a sale. Currently, I'm working on a rollicking rhyming picture book about road construction (Well, it's not quite at at the "rollicking" state yet. It still has a long way to go!)  I also started a poetry collection about the construction trades, (carpenter, brick layer, painter, etc). Both are geared for primary grades. Wish me luck!

In addition to writing for magazines and anthologies, Heidi has writes nonfiction, fiction, song lyrics, and articles.  You can read poems from her award winning book Come to My Party and Other Shape Poems here.

For your viewing pleasure, check out Heidi's poem, "Food Fest" from the
Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School which is featured in  Renee LaTulippe's fabulous poetry video.  You can watch it here.

A special thank you to my friend and teacher,
Heidi Bee Roemer for being my guest here on Write Time today. For more inspiration, be sure to visit the multi-talented Irene at Live Your Poem for today's Poetry Friday!