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Poetry for Children

Module 3

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Poetry Performance 

Module 3 will include the following types of children's poems:
*A poem with a refrain or chorus
*A poem that can be accompanied by movement
*A poem that lends itself to performance by two groups
*A poem ideal for linearound or solo reading
*A poem that can be sung, but is not already song lyrics
*A poetry book review:  a new, favorite book of poetry for children/YA published since 1995.

A poem with a refrain or chorus
Introduction:  For those of you who reside in north Texas, you can't help but notice this is a rather windy part of the world.  This poem could be shared as part of an introduction to an elementary lesson on the weather.  Or it could be performed outdoors on a windy day just for fun by young students.
The Wind
by Robert Louis Stevenson
I say you toss the kites on high
And blow the birds about the sky;
And all around I heard you pass,
Like ladies' skirts across the grass--
     O wind, a-blowing all day long,
     O wind, that sings so loud a song!
I saw the different things you did,
But always you yourself you hid.
I felt you push, I heard you call,
I could not see yourself at all--
     Oh wind, a-blowing all day long,
     Oh wind, that sings so loud a song!
O you that are so strong and cold,
O blower, are you young or old?
Are you a beast of field and tree,
Or just a stronger child than me?
     Oh wind, a-blowing all day long,
     Oh wind, that sings so loud a song!
From Favorite Poems for Children, Barnes and Noble Books, 1993
Extension:  This poem could be performed in a number of ways.  One suggestion is for the teacher to read the main lines and for the students  to read the refrain as a group.
A poem that can be accompanied by movement
Introduction:  This poem lends itself to movements and sound effects.  Before performing the poem with a class, the teacher could review how to make the sounds mentioned in the poem such as chirping like a cricket, hooting like an owl, and croaking like a frog. When those lines are read in the poem, the students can provide the sound effects.  Motions can also be reviewed and practiced in advance, such as tapping toes and bouncing booties.  Students can also pat their chests for the thumping heart part and make hand motions like a flapping fish for that part.
Swamp-Stomp Rock and Roll
by Brod Bagert
I have heard a lot of things
(I am almost eight years old),
But the coolest thing I ever heard
Was swamp-stomp rock and roll.
The summer sun had almost set
When we began to walk.
Grandpa said to listen,
So I tried hard not to talk.
Where the river meets the swamp
Granpa sat me on a stump.
Big trees, like ghosts, stood all around,
And my heart began to thump.
First I heard a cricket ...
Then there was a pair ...
Then a thousand more joined in
And chirping filled the air.
The summer night was turning cool
With fog as thick as smoke.
An old screech owl began to hoot
And frogs began to croak.
The night was full of fireflies
Flashing blue and green.
It was the greatest light show
Human eyes have ever seen.
Gators groaned, muskrats squealed,
Fish began to flop.
My toe it started tapping
And I couldn't make it stop.
My bootie started bouncing
And my foot began to stomp.
How my body loves to boogie
To the music of the swamp!
From Giant Children, Dial Books, 2002
Extension:  If a teacher really wants to take this poem to the next level, she could have the students bring flashlights to class and cover them with blue and green cellophane.  A student could be in charge of flipping off the light switch, and the class could flicker their flashlights and pretend to be fireflies during that part of the poem.  It could be a lot of fun for the kids.  Of course they would have to perform the poem several more times to get even more enjoyment out of it.
A poem that lends itself to performance by two groups
Introduction:  This is a fun poem that can be performed by two groups.  It would be fun to divide up kids in a classroom and have one side of the classroom perform the left side of the poem and the other side of the classroom perform the right side of the poem.  It would create an interesting sounding effect.  Of course, you may have to explain what a metronome is to kids if they are young.
Ping Pong Poem
by Douglas Florian
Like a
From Bing Bang Boing, Puffin Books, 1994  
Extension:  This poem could be used in conjunction with a PE lesson on the game of Ping Pong.  For a simplified demonstration, a Nerf Ping Pong set could be purchased and set up on a regular table or the teacher's desk instead of using a genuine, cumbersome Ping Pong table.
A poem ideal for linearound or solo reading
Introduction:  This poem would be great for kids to perform on the last day of school before summer vacation.  I am sure they would be brimming with enthusiasm on this day of the year more than any other when it comes to this poem!
Summer Song
by John Ciardi
By the sand between my toes,
By the waves behind my ears,
By the sunburn on my nose,
By the little salty tears
That make rainbows in the sun
When I squeeze my eyes and run,
By the way the seagulls screech,
Guess where I am?  At the . . . . . !
By the way the children shout
Guess what happened?  School is . . . . . !
By the way I sing this song
Guess if summer lasts too long:
You must answer Right or . . . . . !
From A Jar of Tiny Stars, Boyd Mills Press, 1999
Extension:  I think it would be even more fun for the kids if everyone in the entire class filled in the three missing words (beach, out and wrong) loudly and in unison.  Of course you may have to practice it a couple of times to be able to perform it smoothly as a group.
A poem that can be sung but is not already song lyrics
Introduction:  This poem can be sung to the tune of "I went to old Kentucky, my old Kentucky fair.  I met a pretty lady with a ribbon in her hair..."  I don't know if any of you know this tune, but I used to sing it in kindergarten.  It also goes to the Brownie Troop Song for those of you who were a Brownie.  That song goes like this, "I have something in my pocket.  It belongs across my face.  I keep it very close to me.  In a most convenient place.  I know you wouldn't guess it if you guessed a long, long while, so I'll take it out and put it on, it's a great big Brownie smile."
Booger Love
by Brod Bagert
I love this little booger,
All shiny green and black.
You can hold it for a minute,
But I want my booger back.
It stays right where I put it,
It sure knows how to stick.
And if it gets too dry . . . ?
It just needs a little lick.
I can hold it on my finger,
I can flick it in the air,
I can stick it underneath a desk,
Or underneath a chair.
I can make a ball and roll it
Just to see which way it goes.
I love this booger anywhere . . .
Except inside my nose.
From Giant Children, Dial Books, 2002
Extension:  Because this poem deals with a rather crude subject matter, some parents of young children might be upset that this poem was shared in a classroom setting.  It might be preferable to save this one for a niece or nephew or your own child during family time.
A poetry book review since 1995
This Place I Know:  Poems of Comfort
poems selected by Georgia Heard
Available from Candelwick Press, 2002
This Place I Know:  Poems of Comfort is the best children's poetry book I have come across so far while taking this graduate course in Children's Poetry at TWU.  It differs from many of the children's poetry books I have read in that the tone and mood of the poems is a bit more deep, somber, and serious than much of the poetry that is published for children.  But to balance the more serious mood is a theme of hope which permeates the collection. 
This collection of 18 poems by esteemed poets such as Gwendolyn Brooks, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Wendall Berry, and Lillian Morrison was gathered by Georgia Heard to offer children and all of us some comfort and hope after the tragic events that took place in New York City on September 11, 2001.  
The poems are complemented by there own colorful illustrations created by 18 different renowned picture book artists including Peter Sis, William Steig, Matt Tavares, and Petra Mathers.
The poems in this collection are noteworthy not so much for the poetic elements they are made up of as they are for there enduring and sometimes profound messages. 
"The Peace of Wild Things" by Wendell Berry reminds the reader of the peace and freedom that can be had from spending time with nature.  An adorable illustration by Kevin Hawkes accompanies the poem.  It is an image of a boy and his dog laying together in a row boat on the lake, gazing up at the clouds and birds overhead.
My favorite poem in the collection is one called "Strengthen the Things That Remain" by Nancy Wood.  This poem is filled with images of nature such as rainbows, grass, thunder, clouds, trees, rocks, bees, bears, mountains, oceans, eagles and fish but it packs a powerful message:  That life goes on no matter what happens.  Nature persists no matter what.  We are reminded that "spring comes after winter's misery."  This poem offers us hope in the face of adversity.
Another poem with an important message is "Hold Fast Your Dreams" by Louise Driscoll.  This poem reminds us to always keep a spot in our heart for our dreams.  Reaching for and working towards accomplishing our dreams can give us peace and hope in times of adversity.
Georgia Heard published this book of poetry because "Poetry has always offered comfort and consolation during sorrowful times."  This book is a worthwhile read and would surely be a book worth revisiting if it were a part of your permanent collection. 
***For a complete bibliography of works referenced in this module, click on the bibliography link at the top of this screen.