I don’t much like the word assignment--it sounds like chalk dust tastes. And exercise? I think of jumping jacks and sit-ups. No thanks! Springboard, now that sounds challenging to me, who never learned how to dive off of one but always wanted to. There waits beneath you the shining surface of water and the depths, and depending on how good the springboard is and how hard you jump off it, you can soar for awhile before arcing downward. So, I will call what follows some "springboards" for teachers and their students to leap off of and see where they end up.
Although the poems I’m using were written by 5th graders, they could be used as springboards by older--and younger---students. Every class that emails student poems,using the comment link below, will get a personal response. AND, to the class that sends the most poems, I will send a prize! Please make sure that you identify yourself, your teacher, and your school.
While I am away for the next two weeks, I will set my blog to moderate the comments, which means they won't show up right away but will be saved for me to read when I get home. Then I will be able to give my personal responses at the time the poems go up on the site after I return on October 22.
I am using several short poems by students at Supply Elementary School, in Supply, NC, where my friend Marty Mentzer has been mentoring a group called the Basketball Poets for several years. (More about this fabulous after the poems.) Marty says, “My new group of poet ( 5th grade) this year have started off well." I'll say! Each poem is followed by a photo of the student poet.
1. This poem recently won second prize in the student category in the NC Poetry Society’s contest. (See post above this one.)
inspired by Langston Hughes
by Alyssa Miller (age 10)
Bring me all the sun’s small sunbeams
Bring me all the warm memories
so I may wrap them in a soft pink cloth
where only worthy eyes can see
Try beginning your poem with “Bring me” and ask for something that is not really able to be carried in the usual sense--the wind, for example, a song you really like, or how your pet’s fur feels when you stroke it, and then do something with it, as in Alyssa’s poem, where she compares the small sunbeams to memories (something else that’s not tangible, yet very real) that she then wants wrap in a soft cloth.
2. Here is a poem called “A Poem’! I like it because it has a lot of energy and it tells us something important about poetry, that it helps us LOOK and see all sorts of things we might not see otherwise. Even better, it urges us to learn the words of “a poet you know,” and to learn them so well, which she repeats like the woodpecker’s drill, that they work magic, making the bark on the tree soft as the sky. Wow! And that woodpecker. Did you know a woodpecker can sigh? I didn’t, but I love the thought of it and how poetry can make that sigh heard “mile after mile.”
by Mariah Cashman
Look up, look down
Look all around.
Go here, go there
Learn the words of a poet you know.
Learn them so well, so well, so well
Learn the motto
As if the bark on the tree
Was as soft as the sky.
And when the woodpecker sighs
It's heard mile after mile.
Now, try this. Go out looking, up, down and all around and find something you think is interesting. If you have a camera you can take a picture of it, or you can draw it. Then write a poem about it, trying to use all five senses to describe it.
3. Let’s stay with Mariah’s poem for our third springboard. Find a poem you really like. It could be from anywhere. Maybe you’ve found one you like in one of your school books. Or you could read back through this blog and find one you like. Try to memorize some lines from it, or the whole poem. Read it aloud and listen to how it sounds. Then write a poem to that poem, telling it why you like it so much.
by Cardarius Gilbert
Ok, this could be fun. Take the letters in the word poetry and write six line poem, one word per line that has p-o-e-t-r-y somewhere in the word, as Cardarious has done. A spin-off--try to write a poem with ear-splitting rhymes and rhythm! Go for it! Make a poem that really grabs your attention when you read it out loud.
This is my dog Ace below; he has a passion for my daughter's guinea pig. See how alert he looks? What makes you want to sit up and pay this much attention?
5. Love your sister
by Thomas Lovett
Love your sister
like never before.
Love her like you
Love her like
she's the only one.
This poem takes on that hardest of emotions to write about without sounding all sweet and shmaltzy---LOVE. But, love your sister? I sure didn’t love my brother when I was growing up. We got into a lot of fights. Maybe if I’d read or written a poem like this one, I would have been nicer to him. Think of someone you have a hard time trying to love or even just get along with and write a poem for that person. You could even mention some of the things you don’t like about that person but try to see those things in a new light. Or, just admit, hey, I don’t like some of these things, but so what? Nobody’s perfect, and I’m going to try care about this person as much as I care about myself.
(This year's Basketball Poets)
Left to Right
Bottom Row: Devin Pritchard, Tristan Snook, Ian Niggles, Kendall Andrews, Alayna Miller,
Garrett Britt, Anthony Bell
Middle Row:Dreshaun Stanley,Mariah Cashman, Tyler Carlisle, Alyssa Miller, Summer Freeman, Carlos Santes, Melanie Negrette, Cardarius Gilbert
Top Row: Mrs. Marty Mentzer,Devin Fesperman, Tristan Murphy,Nicholas Melendez-Kelly,
Thomas Lovett, Tremaine Johnson,Jay Inman, Mitchell Barfield, Principal Dr. Dwight Willis, Brittni Watson
ABOUT THE BASKETBALL POETS:
"Basketball Poets" is the brainchild of Mrs. Marty Mentzer, who teaches physical education at Supply Elementary School in Supply, NC. When she was asked to tutor students at the school five years ago, she introduced poetry to the children with the book Love That Dog, by Newberry Award-winner Sharon Creech. Since then, Basketball Poets has developed into a club in which membership is earned and highly prized. For admission students must write their own poems and give them to the teacher on the first day of school. The first 25 are accepted. The fourth- and fifth-grade sections of Basketball Poets meet separately, once a week for 40 minutes. The sections come together for performances, in which they present their own poems and work by others. In addition to the title poem of the book the club began with -- "Love That Dog" -- the current repertoire includes "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" and "The Pasture," by Robert Frost, "Love That Boy," by William Dean Myers, "The Red Wheelbarrow," by William Carlos Williams, and the two poems presented here. The students' favorite poem is "The Tyger." Mrs. Mentzer's is "El Dorado."
The Basketball Poets won a $5,000 Innovation Grant from the National Education Association in 2004 and a $1,000 Bright Ideas Grant in 2005. The national student magazine Weekly Reader featured the group last April 2006. According to Mrs. Mentzer, besides being wonderful poets and performers, the club members "are also awesome basketball players."
(The 06 Basketball Poets)
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