Friday, January 12, 2018

writing from research: 2nd grade poems

As last year, one of our big projects in 2nd grade is researching and writing informatively about "special places," which I link with our geography objectives by narrowing (or broadening!) to habitats or ecosystems.  This year our information brochures covered forests, both temperate and rain, grasslands and coral reefs.  To close our project, we read selections from Forest Has a Song by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, Rejoice! by Mendon Center Elementary 3rd Grade and Water Sings Blue by Kate Coombs to inform and inspire our habitat poems.

As always, I know that our Poetry Friday and Writing Workshop have been effective when just about all my 7- or 8-year-olds can strike out on their own poetry paths, making empowered decisions about what and how to express their learning in poetic form.  Enjoy--there's more to come!

Animals in the Trees
by Max R.

deer hide
between the trees
porcupines claw
and climb the trees
wolves run far
through the trees

                       Rainforest is Sea
                               by Caleb BA

                       Amazon rain forest
                       big big rainforest
                       is an ocean of trees
                       flowers are corals bees
                       are polyps jaguars are
                       sharks swimming
                       in the sea

The Tree Men
      by Xavier AB.
by Xavier

the trees are tall
like a man is inside
the tree   the trees
are green as the
grass         and the
yellow    light green
dark green
in the tropical rain forest

Animal Cultures
by Eric E.

Jaguars with spots,

lurking for prey,

snakes with patterns,
slithering around the tree tops,
toucans with sharp beaks,
spying with their bright blue
or green eyes on other

   by Elena F.

Anacondas slither through
the Amazon River
just looking for
       food and

    when they find

  their prey they
  squeeze their
prey and swallow
            it whole

Pretty Polyps!
   by Kathy AG.

In coral reefs polyps
are soft and small and amazing animals.
They pile up together to
look like a beautiful plant.

Rainforest Animals
      by Henry D

Sloths are sleeping
monkeys are swinging
jaguars are pouncing
for prey    mouse opossums are
being hunted by tree
boas     they try to get away
from the wide
deep jaws

Sharp Animals
by Ines W.

In the forest, porcupines have
sharp quills showing
In the forest, woodpeckers have
sharp beaks pecking bugs
They poke predators.

   by Tyler P.
Jaguars are lurking for their prey.
The Amazon River is in their way.
The jaguar turns and runs away
from their prey.

Eels Electric
      by Arya J.

Eels  long black eels
like a long skinny rope
with electricity it will shock
anyone with its long
sharp electric strong
teeth to swallow prey.
Sharks’ Teeth
      by Arya J.

Sharks   big teeth
short tail   catches
prey with its big
sharp teeth
Watch out!!!!!!!

Bats Eat Fruits
   by Sophia ZD

bats eat
bats eat
 poop out          seeds
            poop out
 seeds         grow more
    plants for others.

Wow, right?

The Poetry Friday round-up today is with Jan at bookseedstudio, where she and Martin Luther King Jr. remind us that like "each log or tree has a difference," each of us has a difference that sounds in our various voices.  Go hear!

Friday, January 5, 2018

rekiddifying for the new year

Happy New Year! May it actually be so, for all of humankind (kind being the operative word).

I've been doing a lot of writing for my adult self lately, and while that's going well (in the sense of being challenging and revealing and effective), in reading for Cybils judging I have remembered that I also write for kids, supposedly.  So that will be my focus this month.

sweeping the snow

swinging the broom   swinging the broom
      powder clouds and sprays

dragging the broom   dragging the broom
     white lines slide and stay

pounding the broom   pounding the broom
      lightness leaps away

spinning the broom   spinning the broom
      snowdust-flow ballet

draft (c) HM 2018

The round-up for this new year beginning is at Reading to the Core with Catherine, who's featuring the important book by Irene Latham and Charles Waters called Can I Touch Your Hair?

Thursday, December 28, 2017

art of losing: welcome to the round-up, and tree cycle

Welcome to all on this last Poetry Friday of 2017!  If you are new to our Poetry Friday tradition, please let Renee at No Water River explain it all to you, and to old friends--I greet you with virtual hugs.  You all know how valuable this community is.

At this time of year there is a tree in my house, just as there is likely a tree in yours.  Even if you are not Christian (and perhaps especially if you are pagan), you may have a a special tree residing indoors right now: cut or living, evergreen or white PVC, electrified or candlefied--and is a menorah is a tree of sorts as well?  It's my favorite thing at this time of year to come down early, switch on the lights, and come to in the glow of our indoor tree, which gives its life for our celebration of the rebirth of the sun and the hope of spring--noel noel.  I'm never tired of this poem.

[little tree] | E. E. Cummings

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower

who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see          i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly

i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don't be afraid

look          the spangles
our little tree
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,

put up your little arms
and i'll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won't be a single place dark or unhappy

then when you're quite dressed
you'll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they'll stare!
oh but you'll be very proud

and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we'll dance and sing
"Noel Noel"

I have always been a tree-hugger.  This poem is from Squeeze and can be dated to approximately 1972; below is my daughter visiting the very cedar mentioned in the poem in 2006 (click here to see it on a map).

How to Run Away | Heidi Mordhorst

Take money.  Pack light.  Coast your bike
down the fastest hill in the neighborhood.
The one by the Baptist church is good.

Claim a weeping willow:  plunge through
hanging curtains to find a private room.
The swish of long leaves keeps you company.

Or lie under a cedar with triple trunks
capturing air and space above you.
Its needles make a pungent carpet.

Or climb a dense magnolia.  There are
leathery leaves to hide you from enemies,
fuzzy grenades to lob through the branches.

Then go shopping.  You don’t need much:
saltines, peanut butter, a carton of milk.
Your finger makes a perfect knife.

Now move in and build your nest.
Hang your bag on a twiggy hook.

Stay.  Eat.  Read your book.
Stay until you know they’re worried.
Stay until you miss your brother.
      Stay until the shadows cool your mood.

Then pump your book, your bag, your bike
back up that hardest hill
toward home.


I'm always watching the trees in my yard, those close by in my neighborhood, the ones across the field from my 2nd-floor classroom.  Joyce Sidman captures their essential wisdom in this poem from Winter Bees (2014)  which we can't get enough of.

What Do the Trees Know? | Joyce Sidman
Illustration by Rick Allen

What do the trees know?

To bend when all the wild winds blow.
Roots are deep and time is slow.
All we grasp we must let go.

What do the trees know?

Buds can weather ice and snow.
Dark gives way to sunlight’s glow.
Strength and stillness help us grow.


So as always I was communing pretty closely with the trees when my spouse surprised me the other morning with a report on the 80-foot tulip poplar we share with a neighbor.  "It's confirmed unhealthy and we need to take it down before it falls on our roof," she said, and there I was crying into my son's lunchbox.

Dec. 27
one of our trio of tulip trees, 18??-2018

"All we grasp we must let go All we grasp we must let go All we grasp we must let go."  I repeat
and repeat what the trees know, but this tall tulip that hugs our patio, shades our outdoor table,
drops honey-bearing nectar on us all May, that stood here long before the patio, long before
the house indeed (coincidentally born the same year as I), that stood in a wood I can
 barely imagine, unmapped, unloved, not a feature but a creature of an unpeopled
landscape—this  tall
tulip with its  straight
trunk   unlimbed   to
30  feet, is  precious
to me. I should speak
for  this  tree, save  it  
from  our ill human
meddling,  but  good
sense, this tree's own
deep-rooted  wisdom
counsels me: stillness.
Bend, give way; strength
and stillness, stillness helps us grow.

draft (c) HM 2017

May it be so with the eternal internal conflict:  when to stand strong in resistance, when to bend, when to let go?  The rooted stillness itself becomes the greatest challenge. 

But, once let go, there may be another kind of rebirth: to wit, craft worked upon the fallen tree.  My brother lost an American black walnut tree some years ago and finally reclaimed the wood in the form of several gorgeous pieces given as gifts this Christmas.  The wheel of the tree at the turning of the year.

Looking forward to seeing what portents you all have for the New Year!  Leave your link below, and as the French say, neatly avoiding any religious sentiment at all, 

meilleurs voeux a tous pour la nouvelle année!!