Monday, March 26, 2007

Poetry Break #9 - That Tragic Night

Setting the Stage: A copy of the poem will be displayed on chart paper or an overhead projector in front of the class, who will be seated on the floor. The librarian/teacher will distribute silk flowers (preferably tulips) as props.

Introduction: Talk about how it feels to freeze or forget your words or otherwise disappoint everyone when your "big moment" comes.

Inviting Participation: After reading the poem aloud at least once, the teacher/librarian should invite individual readers to read the regular text stanzas, while the whole class reads the italicized text (the refrain) in chorus.

Read the Poem:

The Tragic Night

Bloom! Bloom!
I was supposed to bloom
When the lights shone
On my side of the room!
I was a tulip,
In our class spring play,
My part was to bloom,
When lights shone my way.
All of the flowers
Were curled up so tight,
On one side of the stage,
In the dark of night.
Bloom! Bloom!
I was supposed to bloom
When the lights shone
On my side of the room!
I waited
For those lights to say,
Flowers, bloom,
It's a splendid day!
I didn't open my eyes
Or even take a glimpse,
But it took so long that
My whole body grew limp.
Bloom! Bloom!
I was supposed to bloom
When the lights shone
On my side of the room!
I started to hear
Such a soft, dreamy tune,
Then I fell asleep,
In my flower costume.
And that's when the lights shone
On my side of the room.
All the tulips
So slowly rose,
Stretched their petals,
Began to grow,
Filled a garden
In perfect rows.
One dumb flower
Stayed tucked up tight,
Didn't hear the sounds,
Didn't see the lights,
Didn't bloom at all,
That tragic night.
Bloom! Bloom!
I was supposed to bloom
When the lights shone
On my side of the room!

Dakos, Kalli. 1993. The tragic night. In Don't read this book whatever you do! Poems about school. Illus. by G. Brian Karas, 37-39. New York: Alladin Paperbacks.

Extension: Read the book The Rainbow Tulip by Pat Mora. Discuss the similarities and differences (mostly differences) in the two students' performances as tulips.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Poetry Book Review 8 - American History, Fresh Squeezed

Carol Diggory Shields. 2002. American history, fresh squeezed! Illus. by Richard Thompson. Brooklyn: Handprint Books.

The purpose of this book, according to the poet, is to tell the stories in history that she wished she’d paid attention to in 6th-grade history class, but to condense them. “Why can’t you learn about the Boston Tea Party in 17 lines? Or the Louisiana Purchase in 10?” she asks.

What follows are 45 poems about American history arranged chronologically. Some are funny (see “The Pilgrims” on page 9), some are just silly (see “The Purchase” on page 17), and others are more serious and reflective of the sadder events of our nation’s past (see “Trail of Tears” on pages 22-25), while some clearly have a mnemonic purpose (see “Presidents on Parade: Part I” on pages 26-27). All reinforce the purpose of the book to tell stories about the people who make up our history and to do it in a way that covers the major details and doesn’t get lost in the minor ones.

The book is made more enjoyable by the pen-and-ink drawings of Richard Thompson, which appear either on the page opposite each poem, or below them. I enjoyed, for example, the sketch of a tourist-trap kiosk set up in the middle of the woods and owned by the Carnarsie Indians that accompanies the poem “Manhattan,” about how the Dutch paid these Indians for Manahttan Island, but it turned out that they didn’t own it.

At the top of each two-page spread runs a timeline with generally accurate (though sometimes humorously written) events shown in the years in which they occur. For example, on pages 8 and 9, it shows “1607: First permanent English colony is founded at Jamestown, called ‘Jimtown’; 1609: English colonists prepare to leave Jimtown; 1611: Colonists decide to stay following first tobacco harvest; 1620: Before going ashore, Pilgrims check to see who they look, using the Mayflower Compact.” After this point in the book, though, most of the events actually did happen.

In addition to being arranged in chronological order, the poems are also listed in an index by title at the back of the book. Next to each title is a parenthetical explanation of what it is about. This would make it easier to find a poem about a specific event, instead of having to search through all the poems in the era in which it occurred.

This was a very enjoyable book, but no poetry book review would be complete without a sample of the work contained therein. The following poem from pages 44-45 is entitled “Poor You” about child labor in at the turn of the last century:

“Poor You”

Oh poor, poor you!
All that homework you must do,
And then there are the chores—
Feed the dog, sweep the floors.
Don’t you wish that you
Lived in nineteen-oh-two?

Only three short months in school!
(Now that sounds really cool),
And throughout the other nine,
You’d be working in a mine,
Thirteen hours every day
(No summers off
or time for play).

Or maybe you’d rather chill
By working in a mill,
Tending a huge machine
That spits dirt and grease and steam.
Dawn to dark, rain or shine,
Each day you’d earn one thin dime!

Don’t you wish that you
Lived in nineteen-oh-two?

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Poetry Break #7 – Poems for Spring

Setting the Stage: Show a short slideshow with a multi-media projector of pictures of rain falling in various places on various people.

Introduction: Ask students to think about whether or not they like the rain. Tell them we are about to read a poem about rain. As they listen, they should try to predict whether the poet will say he likes the rain or not. (Pause before the last line and ask students for their opinions on this.)

Read the Poem:

“April Rain Song”

Let the rain kiss you.
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops.
Let the rain sing you a lullaby.

The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk.
The rain makes running pools in the gutter.
The rain plays a little sleep-song on our roof at night—

And I love the rain.

(Hughes, Langston. 1960. April rain song. Rpt. in Hull, Robert, ed. 1991. Poems for spring, 30. Illus. by Annabel Spenceley. Austin, TX: Steck-Vaughn Library.)

Extension: Now tell students that we are going to pretend we all hate it when it rains. Point out how Langston Hughes didn’t say, “The rain sounds like a lullaby,” but just said, “Let the rain sing you a lullaby.” Ask them each to come up with a sentence that could tell something you hate about rain, but do it in a creative way that will surprise the reader. After writing, compile the sentences to make a group/class poem about hating the rain.