Gear up for Poetry Month: part 1

April is Poetry Month!  If you’re like me, you have good intentions, and then April just creeps up on you and you don’t give poetry the time it deserves in the spotlight.  Maybe I can help over the next few posts with some ideas.

One kind of poem you might like to try is called the “Fib.” I learned about it last year at about this time from Greg Pincus over at Gotta Book.  Though he didn’t create it as a poetic form he coined the term “Fib” poem because it’s based on the Fibonacci sequence of numbers.

The poem is six lines long, with a total of 20 syllables, in this order:  1,  1,  2,  3,  5,  8.  Like haiku, it’s short and sweet!  I tried it with third graders and it worked well.

You can read what the Poetry Foundation has to say about it and how its popularity exploded due to Pincus here.

Below are two I wrote rather quickly. The first is about my after-school beverage of choice, and the second is about my cat.  Enjoy, and give these a try with your kiddos!




Calms my nerves

With steaming goodness.

Black, white, green, herbal—take your pick!




Mellow now

Chase a mouse? Not him!

He’d rather snooze and snooze and snooze.

Winding down with some favorites

You know how sometimes we save the best for last?  While it’s impossible for me to ever choose a “best” book (because I love so many!) there are those tried-and-true special books that I return to often because they give me so much pleasure to read aloud and the kids seem to really enjoy them.

Esther Averill’s Jenny and the Cat Club is my go-to book for the end of the year for first grade.  It takes us three or four library times to read it and I’m always amazed by how well the kids listen to the story and retain the details even though a whole week goes by between chapters.  They love this collection of stories about Jenny, a black cat who lives with an old sea captain.  Jenny and a whole host of friends from the Cat Club solve problems and have adventures.  The book has a somewhat old-fashioned feel to it and is full of characters with great names like Romulus and Remus, Arabella, Macaroni, and Concertina.

Cynthia Rylant’s The Van Gogh Cafe is what I often read to the third grade at this point in the year.  It, too, takes three library periods to read.  It’s the story of a theater-turned-cafe in Flowers, Kansas where unusual things can happen, largely because of the theater magic in its walls.  It’s about grace and forgiveness and hope and compassion, and  it’s written in a way that makes these themes accessible to children.  Every chapter ends with a page-turner sentence and whenever I have to stop the kids say, “No!  Keep going!”

Queen of the Falls

My last book order of the fiscal year arrived about a week ago and I was immediately drawn to Chris Van Allsburg’s Queen of the Falls.  (The true story of the first person to ever go down Niagara Falls in a barrel–sixty-two year old widow Annie Edson Taylor.)  You can read what Fuse #8 had to say about it here.  It fit the bill for my third grade classes perfectly.

Most of the students had never been to Niagara Falls and I wanted them to get a feel for the beauty and sheer power of its cascading waters so I began with a four minute clip that I found on YouTube.  Others are available on WatchKnow. I asked them to imagine what it would be like to be inside some sort of vessel at the top and then plunge downward.  They were primed and ready for the book at that point!

There is a lot of text to the book and we actually didn’t finish in one sitting.  The great part is that you can stop at a fabulous cliff-hanger page–right as Annie Taylor is about to drop seventeen stories on what Van Allsburg describes as a “liquid avalanche.”  She whispers “Oh, lord” and then she’s gone… The daggers were flying when I closed the book and said we’d have to continue next time.  (My dark side loves when I can do that!)

I’m going to use the excitement that the book generated to do an author study of Chris Van Allsburg for the remainder of the school year.  His books are always great to spark discussion and always leave me feeling a bit unsettled.  It’s been a while since I read a lot of his work to kids.  Queen of the Falls is the perfect reason to return to it.