Saturday, September 4, 2010

A slant of poetry...

As a 30-year veteran teacher of English at the high school level, I was genuinely surprised to learn that middle school students think a poem must rhyme to be called a poem. We all had a meeting of the minds this week in discovering types of poetry together and that a library class can feature poetry.

It was not even necessary for me to explain a poetry lesson in a library class. As one girl pointed out to the dismayed boy who considers poetry somewhere between Sasquatch and Jaws (it's gonna getcha!!) that the library has ALL kinds of books, including poetry! Good girl, Coco!

Actually, I have an ulterior motive (or several) in offering three poems for discussion on this second library lesson of the year. I'm going to do some oral reading to the middle school students, in fact, "Hate That Cat,"

To do it justice, I needed to introduce some of the poetry as integral units of the novel. Creech's novel is completely written in journal form by a young boy, possible fifth or sixth grade, very bright and utterly creative. Part of the assignments are his responses to poetry his teacher introduces. This happens to be one of the most joyous books I have ever read for many reasons: the character, the style, the content, the creativity, and the deep compassion and love the boy reveals toward his mother. 

Anyway, the poems are printed in the back of the book. However, in my oral reading, I wanted the students to have prior knowledge of those poems. (Note: Prior knowledge is one of the keystones for comprehension of what one reads.  And according to Mem Fox in "Reading Magic," reading aloud to students should continue all through school. Our ancestors listened to the tribal storyteller; such storytelling is ingrained and needs to be revitalized.  

Here's the first one: "The Red Wheelbarrow"
(Note: Many learned that the word is "barrow," not "barrel"-an interesting factoid.)

"The Red Wheelbarrow" by William Carlos Williams

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

Standard response: "That's not a poet--a poem is supposed to rhyme!"

Look at that red wheelbarrow! What does it look like? This:
or this:
It's that simple! "So much depends" upon how you see things, your imagination, your viewpoint  of simple things. Students came away with a new understanding of poetry, I think.

Or: "The Eagle" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls;
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

Fascinating observations on this traditional, but intense poem: An eagle is hunting; Zeus on his throne, throwing a thunderbolt; an old eagle dying and falling, and so on.

And the last, which is explanatory:

"Love That Boy" by Walter Dean Myers

Love that boy,

like a rabbit loves to run
I said I love that boy
like a rabbit loves to run
Love to call him in the morning
love to call him
“Hey there, son!”

This one was a given for middle school students.
Great discussions! Fun classes!

Next week: "Hate That Cat" by Sharon Creech--

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A favorite souvenir

A favorite souvenir
These are my two girls from Ireland!

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Books on my very ambitious TBR list (*denotes read)

  • *Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox
  • The Odd Women by George Gissing
  • The Zen of Fish by Trevor Corson
  • How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell
  • The Cod Tale by Mark Kurlansky
  • In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
  • *Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
  • Dag Hammarskjold by Elizabeth Rider Montgomery
  • The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet by Rabbi Michael L. Munk
  • Children of Strangers by Lyle Saxon
  • Spiritual Writings by Flannery O'Connor
  • Nightmares and Visions: Flannery O'Connor and the Catholic Grotesque by Gilbert H. Muller
  • The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor
  • Flannery O'Connor's South by Robert Coles
  • Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
  • Sylvanus Now by Donna Morrissey
  • *Vincent de Paul by Margaret Ann Hubbard
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
  • A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  • The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel
  • Readicide by Kelly Gallagher
  • *Ruined by Paula Morris
  • Say You're Not One of Them by Uwem Akpan
  • Wandering Star by J.M.G. Le Clezio
  • Silence by Shusaku Endo
  • *The Assault by Harry Mulisch
  • Kari's Saga by Robert Jansson
  • *The German Mujahid by Boualem Sansal
  • Western Skies by Joseph Conrad
  • *The Giver by Lois Lowery
  • *Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski

School Library Journal - NeverEndingSearch


A semester course in one book about the Soviet Union. Click on image for my review.