It’s always helpful to repeat books, songs, and rhymes, with students — especially younger learners. It makes concepts more “sticky,” and the kids enjoy participating in activities that they’re comfortable with. So in this session we revisited the topic of scarecrows, mixing some old resources with some new ones.
The students briefly saw a scarecrow at the end of There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves, so for this lesson I wanted to choose a book in which a scarecrow had a more prominent role. I decided on Otis and the Scarecrow by Loren Long so that we could “plant the seed” of becoming a more compassionate friend as well. When the farmer places a scarecrow in the field, the other residents of the farm are put off by his scowl and decide to leave him alone. Only Otis looks past the surface, and his response is a gentle lesson in empathy.
After sitting still for a story and a discussion, it’s time to get up and move. I wrote a simple poem made up of rhyming couplets which included the body parts of a scarecrow and taught it to the students along with some simple motions. We stood up and repeated it a couple of times until everyone was reasonably good at performing it.
The scarecrow pieces on the chart match the scarecrow pieces the students were given. Click to enlarge.
Then I gave each student a sheet of blank construction paper and a set of colored cut-outs of each of the scarecrow parts from Free Kids Crafts. (There’s also a black-and-white version available that kids can color themselves.) The children used the pieces to put together a picture of a scarecrow as we repeated the poem.
Our lining up activity was to have each child name and point to a body part that a scarecrow has. Some of the things I do may sound very easy, but the majority of kids at my school are at-risk students so I usually start simple and then build up to more complex concepts. I’ve found it’s a good way to allow all of the students to experience some success. I also try to include lots of hands-on manipulatives and I bring in real items for them to handle, like the scarecrows you see at the top of this post which came from my local craft store.
I’d love to hear what scarecrow activities you use with your students. Please leave a comment and share!
I try to offer a variety of poetry-writing activities in the library in honor of National Poetry Month in April.
Magnetic poetry is always fun, and it can be inexpensive too if you make your own set. You can buy 9×13 cookie sheets at the Dollar Tree, and sets of adhesive magnetic squares or printable magnetic sheets for less than $10 online or at office supply stores. Just print out the words you want to include, cut them apart, and (if using the magnetic squares) stick them to the magnets. Better yet, allow your students to choose, type, and print the words and assemble the kit as a Makerspace activity!
You can also take advantage of some online magnetic poetry sites for kids. One that I like is the Kids Magnetic Poetry Kit site.
Students can click and drag words from a kid-friendly word bank into their workspace, and then refresh the word bank to get more words without losing the words they’ve already selected. They can also include type in a title and author name before saving and sharing. I usually have my students copy their created poems onto their own paper so they can add any missing words since no word bank will have every word they want to use, and illustrate them if they choose to.
Until I sat down to create my first book spine poem (a unique poetry form made popular by Travis Jonker of 100 Scope Notes) I didn’t really know what was involved in creating one. Now that I’ve written one myself, I’ve learned that there’s more going on with book spine poetry than meets the eye!
I’m sure the creative process is different for everyone, but in my case wandering around the library staring at row after row of titles (my first approach) DID NOT result in a stack of books that formed a poem.
Wandering around the library and catching sight of The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder did spark the idea for my poem, but once I settled on a topic it took at least a dozen OPAC title searches to come up with a list of 15 or 20 promising books. (I searched for snow, cold, frozen, winter, snowfall, blizzard,sleet, icy, windy, storm, snowfall, chilly, and spring, and those are just the words I remember looking up.) Then I went and found each book on the shelf, and finally I arranged and rearranged them to create my poem.
The Long Winter by Lori June Click to Enlarge
Think about that: Choose a topic. Develop a search strategy. Perform the searches. Write down the titles and call numbers. Locate the books on the shelf. THAT’S AN ENTIRE LIBRARY SKILLS LESSON DISGUISED AS A FUN POETRY WRITING ACTIVITY! I am getting a jump on National Poetry Month and trying this with my 5th graders this week. Here are some photos of some of the students stacking and arranging their books:
Have you done spine poetry with your students? Please leave me a comment; I’d love to hear about it!
I often use this blog as a place to “think on paper” and reflect on different aspects of my job. As the 2014-2015 school year draws to a close, I’m scratching my head and wondering where the year went! Robert Browning tells us that our reach should exceed our grasp, so I suppose it’s okay that I had more plans than I was able to implement this year. But in looking back over the ideas that did come to fruition, here are some of my favorites:
This year I celebrated International Dot Day: Make Your Mark with all of our 5th graders. I shared the book The Dot by Peter Reynolds on the Promethean board via Tumblebooks, and we discussed the importance of trying new things and giving yourself permission to experiment with new things. We then used Microsoft Paint to create digital dot art, which I displayed in the library and online.
Our 2nd graders practiced their research skills and their technology skills with our African American Biography Timelines. They learned how to use Encyclopedia Britannica Elementary (part of the SC DISCUS suite of databases) to gather facts and photos, then synthesized their information into an online timeline using the ReadWriteThink timeline tool.
We discovered some budding poets through our Found Poetry project with 4th grade. We examined various nonfiction print sources to create word banks of important facts, then used the elements of poetry to communicate the information in more lyrical ways.
The Quest teacher asked me to lead an Hour of Code with the gifted and talented students at my school and the other elementary school she serves. We used a Scratch project, and the kids astounded themselves with their results! “Wow, I’m really good at this!” (Those types of comments are music to my ears!)
My LOOK! NEW BOOKS! new book preview for teachers this year included a QR Code twist! Many of the new books on display in the library contained bookmarks with QR codes that teachers could scan to access additional teaching resources for using the books in the classroom. I created the codes with QR Code Monkey, which I really like because it allows you to upload a logo or photo as part of your code.
I created several technology tutorials for teachers using the free screencasting tool ScreencastOMatic. When I can’t provide assistance in person, a screencast video is the next best thing!
What did you try this year that was a hit with students or teachers? Tell us about it in the comments!
My 4th grade teachers were looking for some new poetry ideas for their students this month, so I suggested introducing them to Found Poetry. I was introduced to found poetry by author/poet Kami Kinnard at my state school librarians conference last spring. It basically involves reading nonfiction text on a topic, pulling out the important words and facts to create a word bank, and then using one of the elements of poetry (repetition, alliteration) or forms of poetry (free verse, haiku) to create a poem.
Teachers are bringing their classes to the library next week to research weather using books, magazine articles, online encyclopedias, and websites. Then some classes will create weather “shape poems” (their idea, which I love!) while another will use a “free verse” approach.
I recommended the following books as good examples of shape poems:
Flicker Flash by Joan Bransfield Graham explores light in all its forms, from reading lamps to moonlight to flashlights to campfires. (Hover over the image above to see clickable links for additional resources for this book.)
Doodle Dandies: Poems That Take Shape by J. Patrick Lewis (former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate) takes a more eclectic approach to the subject matter – with poems ranging from sports to seasons to animals – as well as with the mixed-media illustrations. (Hover over the image above to see clickable links for additional resources for this book.)
And I just discovered a book that explains Found Poetry in a kid-friendly way:
I celebrated the First Day of Spring with 1st grade in the library today!
I read excerpts from two books that offer colorful descriptions and vivid details to get the students thinking about spring :
A New Beginning by Wendy Pfeffer
This book uses poetic language and form to celebrate all the signs of new life that spring brings. “Leaf buds uncurl on bare branches. Frogs leave their winter hideaways, hop to the nearest water, and lay eggs.”
A young girl mired in the cold of winter looks forward to all the delights that spring will bring. “When spring comes, Grandma and I will walk to the high pasture to pick wild strawberries that glisten like rubies.”
Then I asked the students to think of one springtime word to share so that we could create a word picture about spring: something they look forward to doing in the spring, or a word to describe spring. As students called out their words, I typed them into Wordle. We then experimented with different fonts, colors, and layouts until the students were satisfied that we had caught the essence of spring.
Author/Poet Kami Kinard shares her poem “Tick-Tock Tick” from the anthology Nasty Bugs (poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins) during her Creating Poetry in Your Library workshop at SCASL Conference 2014.
She has perfected a process of poetry writing with students that combines research with writing to enable even the youngest student to create non-fiction poetry. Kids use short magazine articles (such as those found in Ranger Rick and National Geographic for Kids) as a springboard for poetry writing by isolating the important words from the article and then using one or more of the principles of poetry (repetition, rhythm, alliteration, etc) to rearrange those words into a poem!
This activity encourages close reading of the text and improves comprehension. (Hello, Common Core!) You can also have students reading from a variety of sources including newspaper articles and books, and older students can handle reading and taking notes from more than one non-fiction source. Students can create a poem in a surprisingly short amount of time. Her SCASL session was only one hour, and she had time to share this technique with us, along with a couple of other poetry-writing ideas, and still allow us time to read an article and create a poem ourselves!
You will want to take a look at the blog she created for a poetry residency she did at Summit Drive Elementary School and see examples of these “found poems” that she guided students to create. I will definitely share this with my teachers — I think it will make a great collaborative project!