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.


  1. Reading your post, I was proud of you, proud of your kids, and proud of Janet and Sylvia! Nicely done.

  2. So great to hear about you using the PFAs in the classroom! I can see that student had fun filling in the blanks of Janet's poem. :)

    1. He sure did! I'll share a few more students poems next week. Thanks for stopping by, Jama.

  3. The Poetry Friday anthologies sound so lovely. Sadly, we still don't have the series in our library. I'd probably pick up my own copies when I attend NCTE this November.

    1. Myra, they are a great timesaving resource! Maybe we'll get to meet in person at NCTE? : )

    2. Myra: Looking forward to meeting you at NCTE! (and you can get our books at the Richard C. Owen booth there)

  4. Yay PFA! Working magic in yet another way! Love the idea of adding to a "poetry frame." (borrowing, for sure!)

    Best wishes for a great year!

  5. Thanks, Mary Lee. Hope I get to see you at NCTE!

  6. So great to see the PFAs in action! Those students are lucky to have you as their teacher, Linda.

    1. Thanks, Michelle. I feel like the lucky one!

  7. As the parent of a 6th grader who is crossing town to attend a magnet program full of new faces, your work this week touches a chord in me. Thank you for being part of the transition for your student instead of part of the onslaught!

    1. Heidi- It is a tough transition for many kids, but in no time at all, they adjust. Of all the grades I've taught over the years, sixth grade is my favorite! I hope your year has had a great start!

  8. What a super idea, Linda! Thank you for sharing your student example with us!

  9. What a fabulous report, Linda! Not only are you inspiring students to read and write poetry, the exercise also serves as an ice breaker. Win-win-win! Wish I could be a student in YOUR classroom!

    1. Thank you for your support, Heidi!

  10. This is a wonderful post! I'm sharing!

    1. Thanks, Leslie! Let me know how it goes! : )

  11. Happy Back to School, Linda! Poetry Friday Anthologies are such a fabulous resource for teachers and students! Love the poems you've highlighted, especially Janet's "First Week of School" one - universal feelings. = )

  12. What a great lesson and classroom workshop, Linda. I love how your prompt gave A. the space to share some things about himself -- especially the things he's interested in trying this year.