Monday, April 1, 2019

NPM: Writing Things to Do Poems: Post #1

Happy first day of National Poetry Month!
I'm going to start off April by talking about "things to do" poems. My first "things to do" list poem was published in Falling Down the Page: A Book of List Poems edited by Georgia Heard. It's titled Things to do if you are a PENCIL. Here it is:

Be sharp.
Wear a slick yellow suit
and a pink top hat.
Tap you toes on the tabletop,
listen for the right rhythm,
then dance a poem
across the page.

Things to do if you are a PENCIL is a good way to start off a classroom poetry lesson about list poems. Pencils are familiar objects found in every classroom. Before I share this poem with young children, I show them a giant-sized No. 2 pencil as a visual aid. I explain how I got my idea for writing the poem. I imagined that the pencil was a person. I imagined that its eraser was a pink top hat, the shiny yellow paint coating the pencil was its slick yellow suit, and the pencil tip were the toes it taps on a table. I thought the best thing a pencil could do was to write a poem--because I LOVE writing poems. (I tell children that the word sharp in this poem has two different meanings--pointy and keen of mind.)
In my picture poetry book THINGS TO DO, there are poems about two other familiar objects found in all schools: an eraser and scissors.

Prior to the classroom poetry activity, gather together a collection of classroom objects--such as a box of crayons, a book, a ruler, a pencil case, a chalkboard/whiteboard eraser, etc.--to show to and talk about with students.
Share and discuss the eraser and scissors poems in addition to the pencil poem.
Then have students choose an item in the collection that they'd like to write a "things to do" class poem about. Tell them to think about the object as a person and about the things they think it should do. List all of the students' responses on chart paper.
After that, lead the students in writing a collaborative class poem on chart paper about their chosen object using the brainstorming ideas that students provided. Read the finished poem together as a class. Make any changes that students may suggest.
Then have students go back to their seats and write their own "things to do" poems about one of the classroom objects you've shown to them--or any other object in the classroom that inspires them.
Later that day or the next day, have students share their poems with the class.

NOTE: One of the poems that I cut from the manuscript for my book THINGS TO DO is about a stapler. In the poem, I imagined that the stapler had jaws and teeth and could bite! Share this poem, too, if you like.
Things to do if you are a STAPLER

Click your metal jaws together.
Grip my papers
with your teeth of steel.
Then bite down hard
with all your might
and bind them together

I'm giving away an autographed copy of my book THINGS TO DO.  It won the 2018 Margaret Wise Brown Prize in Children's Literature and a 2018 Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor Award. It was also named a best children's book of 2017 by The New York Public Library and the Cooperative Children's Book Center. To be entered into the drawing for the book, all you have to do is to comment on any of my Wild Rose Readers posts that I publish from April 1st through April 6th. I'll announce the winner on Sunday, April 7th.


Bridget R. Wilson said...

I love list poems! I first discovered them while reading your blog several years ago.

Linda B said...

Your 'things to do' & the list poems from Georgia's book are poems that every child will love to write from, Elaine. Love that stapler that 'clamps down hard'!

laurasalas said...

I think I remember that stapler poem from your blog years ago, Elaine? Your TTDI poems are just genius. I read TTDIYAA Pencil to four groups of second graders yesterday, and you could see the light go on as they connected the lines to the pencil I was walking around with and pointing out parts or acting out lines. Kids (and I) totally LOVE that poem.

Elaine Magliaro said...

Unfortunately, my follow-up collection of "things to do" winter poems hasn't found a home with a publisher yet--even though two editors loved it.