Friday, February 20, 2009

Module 2- Book Review- Jazz


Myers, Walter Dean, and Christopher Myers. 2006. Jazz. New York: Holiday House. ISBN 0823421732


The poetry of Jazz is music to the eyes. What it lacks in humor, it makes up for in heart. There are strong and powerful emotions experienced in Jazz. These poems make the reader want to break out in song and dance. Even “Good-Bye to Old Bob Johnson” will have one thumping along:

The drums are solemn as we walk along
The banjo twangs a gospel song
Let the deacons preach and the widow cry
While a sad horn sounds a last good-bye
Good-bye to old Bob Johnson

The poetry is balanced as Myers uses a variety of verse and structure from rhyming to free verse as in “Jazz:”

Start with rhythm
Start with the heart
Drumming in tongues
Along the Nile

Jazz is well organized and uniquely designed. There is a brief introduction 2-page introduction to the history of Jazz. A glossary of Jazz terms and a Jazz time line conclude the text. Myers uses cursive to place emphasis on certain words and sounds. The acrylic paintings complement the poems and help to bring them to life (not that they are in need of help). Appropriate for children the only downside is the book is too short. Myers leaves the reader wanting more tapping their toes to the cadence and beat.

Module 2 - Poetry Break #2b

Poetry Break #2b

Introduction: An interesting activity when recesses has been canceled or during homeroom time. Talk to your class about games children played before the information age such as “red light, green light,” “musical chairs,” “orange battle,” “I spy,” “duck, duck, goose” and “jacks.” End by sharing the poem “jacks.”


by Valerie Worth

The way
Jack nest
Together in
The hand,

Or cupped
Two palms,
Jingled up

And thrown,
Land in a
Loose starry

Seems luxury
Without the
Further bliss

Of their

[From: Worth, Valerie, and Natalie Babbitt. 1994. All the small poems and fourteen more. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.]

Extension: Follow up by sharing the following poems also by Valerie Worth: “marbles,” “kite,” and “kaleidoscope.” These are objects children use to play with. If you have these artifacts bring them in to show and tell with the class.

Module 2 - Poetry Break #2a

Poetry Break #2a

Introduction: Begin by starting a discussion with the class about their pets at home or pets they would like to own. Shift the conversation and ask them to imagine outlandish and silly pets. Ask if anyone would like to have a dragon as a pet. Then begin reading the poem “A Fire-Breathing Dragon.”


A Fire-Breathing Dragon
by Douglas Florian

A fire-breathing dragon
Would make a precious pet—
It’s great for grilling hot dogs
And drying clothes all wet.

It gladly guards the house and yard
From burglars in the street.
On winter nights how it delights
To warm your frozen feet.

It eats unwanted guest for lunch
And munches noisy neighbors
Insistent salesmen at the door,
A hungry dragon savors.

A dragon is a noble beast,
A perfect primal pet.
The only trick
Is when it’s sick,
Don’t let it eat the vet.

[From: Bing bang boing: poems and drawings. By Douglas Florian, Harcourt Brace, 1994]

Extension: Break out the crayons, pencil colors, markers, watercolors, construction paper, and glitter; have the class bring their envisioned dragons to life. You may prefer to supply a dragon template for younger children. Students can also create their own dragon poem as an alternate activity.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Module 1- Book Review- My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States

Hopkins, Lee Bennett, and Stephen Alcorn. 2000. My America: a poetry atlas of the United States. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN 0689812477


This anthology, a collection of poems celebrating America, ignites the imaginations of the young by delighting the senses. The poems are vivid and diverse yet balanced in quality. They vary in length ranging from a few sentences short to several verses long. They also differ in mood and tone from the silly and light-hearted “Idaho” by Kaye Starbird to the serious and dramatic Alabama Earth. Works from know poets (Florian, Hughes) as well as lesser known poets (Hubbell, Shields) are represented. Some of the poems are written in verse with rhyming schemes such as Anne LeMieux’s “Gulls and Buoys:”

Gulls swoop, gulls soar,
Flocking, flying, gulls galore,
Gulls wheel, gulls wing,
Clamorous chorus, gulls sing.
Gulls squawk, gulls screech
By the buoys, on the beach.
Gulls gather, gulls together,
Raucous caucus, birds of a feather.

While other poems are abstract and penned in free verse like “Cactus” by April Halprin Wayland:

“Don’t dare come near’”
it says

with spike

with spear

with crossbow
poised to pierce…


Hopkins’ My America is well organized and designed. The poems are group according to region (i.e. The Great Lakes States, The Southwest States). Beautiful casein paintings accompany and compliment each poem. The wonderful casein maps introduce the states of each region. A few brief facts on each state are also presented in the introduction. My America is a treasure to share with others.

Module 1- Poetry Break #1b

This poem is perfect to share with your students when they appear to be tired and out of focus. Stop the current lesson and take a break with “Rope Rhyme.” The poem’s excitement and energy will rejuvenate the class.


Rope Rhyme
by Eloise Greenfield

Get set, ready now, jump right in
Bounce and kick and giggle and spin
Listen to the rope when it hits the ground
Listen to that clappedy-slappedy sound
Jump right up when it tells you to
Come back down, whatever you do
Count to a hundred, count by ten
Start to count all over again
That’s what jumping is all about
Get set, ready now,

[From: Honey, I love, and other love poems. by Eloise Greenfield, Crowell, 1978]

Repeat for good measure. Students can form two large groups, each taking turns reading alternative lines. Ask them about some of their favorite playground past-times.

Module 1- Poetry Break #1a

This poem is a little silly and fun. Read as nice break in between lesson or after lunch or recess. Read it twice and then have the class join in on the third reading.


Mr. Cook
by Douglas Florian

Mr. Cook’s in love with books—
He piles them wall to wall.
On breezy days they gently sway,
And with a sneeze they fall.
He reads all day, great novels and plays,
Reciting to Mrs. Cook.
But as he feared, she’s disappeared.
And who knows where to look?

[From: Bing bang boing: poems and drawings. By Douglas Florian, Harcourt Brace, 1994]

Pair this poem up with another Florian poem such as “Pages” or “Book Crooks.” Ask the children if they like to read and what some of their favorite books are and why. Share your favorite books, if appropriate.