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Poetry for Children

Module 6

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Responding to Poetry

A poem about a difficult or sensitive subject in children's lives
Introduction:  Moving away or having a good friend or loved one move away from you can be a very difficult experience for a person young or old to deal with.  Read or listen to the following poem.
Since Hanna Moved Away
by Judith Viorst
The tires on my bike are flat.
The sky is grouchy gray.
At least it sure feels like that
Since Hanna moved away.
Chocolate ice cream tastes like prunes.
December's come to stay.
They've taken back the Mays and Junes
Since Hanna moved away.
Flowers smell like halibut.
Velvet feels like hay.
Every handsome dog's a mutt
Since Hanna moved away.
Nothing's fun to laugh about.
Nothing's fun to play.
They call me, but I won't come out
Since Hanna moved away.
From If I Were In Charge of the World and Other Worries, Aladdin Books, 1981
Extension:  Ask your students if they have ever moved away from loved ones or friends or if they have ever lost a friend or loved one due to a move.  If you, the teacher, have ever moved, share your experience with the group.  Have class members share their stories too.  To further extend this lesson, have students write a letter to someone who lives at a distance that they haven't talked to in a while or that they miss such as an aunt, friend, cousin, or grandparent.  Mail the letters.
A free verse or unrhymed poem
Introduction:  The poem Bertha's Wish is written in a very simple format.  Basically, it is three sentences of wishes, and it ends with an element of surprise.  Listen to and look at the poem.
Bertha's Wish
by Judith Viorst
I wish that I didn't have freckles on my face.
I wish that my stomach went in instead of out.
I wish that he would stand on top of the tallest
     building and shout,
"I love you, Amanda."
One more wish:  I wish my name was Amanda.
From If I Were in Charge of the World or Other Worries, Aladdin Books, 1981
Extension:  See if you can write your own poem of wishes like Viorst has done.  Follow the same format of three sentences of wishes followed by a surprise ending.  Use your own name followed by the word wish as the title.
A poem written and published by a child
Introduction:  The poem you are about to experience contains references to the different senses, such as the sense of sight, taste, hearing, smell, and touch.  Pay attention to these as you listen to and read the poem.

Making Real Sense of the Senses

by Mattie J.T. Stepanek

Our eyes are for looking at things,
But they are also for crying
When we are very happy or very sad.
Our ears are for listening,
But so are our hearts.
Our noses are for smelling food,
But also the wind and the grass and
If we try very hard, butterflies.
Our hands are for feeling,
But also for hugging and touching so gently.
Our mouths and tongues are for tasting,
But also for saying words, like
"I love you," and
"Thank You, God, for all of these things."

From Journey Through Heart Songs, Hyperion, 2001

Extension:  Create a semantic map (clustering web) with the words "five senses" in the center circle and one branch and circle for each of the five sense coming off of the center circle.  Draw several branches and circles coming off of each of your five senses circles.  In these new circles write activities you like to do that involve the use of those senses.  Share with the class and display on a wall with the poem by Mattie Stepanek.
Two poems:  a classic poem and a contemporary poem that are similar in some way
Introduction:  Have you ever experienced fog?  What do you recall about experiencing fog?
Classic Poem
by Carl Sandburg
The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then, moves on.
From The Top 500 Poems, edited by William Harmon, Columbia University Press, 1992
Contemporary Poem
Fog Flub
by Douglas Florian
In the misty morning fog
I mistook Mother
For a frog.
From Bing Bang Boing, Puffin Books, 1996
Extension:  Compare and contrast the two poems above.  Consider as many ways they are alike and different as you can think of.  Don't forget to include a discussion of how they differ in tone.
An original poem you have written yourself
Introduction:  Repetition is a common technique used by many poets in their poems.  The poem below contains lots of repetition, but I think it is used effectively.  Read and listen to the poem below and notice the use of repetition.
The World is Pain
by Amy Nolan
When your daddy works two jobs
And he always scowls and screams
What good is there in crying?
When your momma cooks and cleans
But she don't hear you speak
What good is there in crying?
When you're nineteen and pregnant
But you know your man won't stay
What good is there in crying?
When he finally says "We're through"
And he's even found your replacement
What good is there in crying?
When you're hired for the wrong reason
And you ain't got no education
What good is there in crying?
When you become the teacher
And almost no one wants to learn
What good is there in crying?
When life makes you want to die
And you can't find a solution
What good is there in crying?
When the doctor says you're broken
And only pills can fix you
What good is there in crying?
When the pills numb your heart
And it's hard to move or be moved
You'll forget how to cry.
When your husband wants a baby
But you know the world is pain
What good is there in crying?
It'll make you feel better
if only for a while
...make you feel better
if only for a while ...
...if only for a while...
Extension:  This poem deals with painful moments in a life.  See if you can write a poem that either deals with painful moments or joyful moments and include repetition in your poem.  See if you can use repetition effectively in your poem.
Poetry book review:  A book of free verse poetry for children/YA published since 1995
What My Mother Doesn't Know
By Sonya Sones, Simon & Schuster Children's, 2003
What My Mother Doesn't Know is a novel written entirely in the form of free verse.  The main character, Sophie, is a typical teenaged girl with the typical concerns of a girl her age.  She is crazy about boys, has a difficult relationship with her mother, is fashion conscious and is concerned about bodily functions such as her period.  I found it gripping as she danced with the masked man at her school dance and while she participated in an online relationship with a mysterious man. This novel held my interest from beginning to end, and I am one tough customer when it comes to novels.  I liked it so much, that I even want to read it a second time.   It was that good!  Because it is written in verse, the extra white space on the page makes it a quick read, and I would recommend it for the struggling reader or an unmotivated reader.  I actually find this genre of the free verse novel preferable to traditional prose.

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