I have been putting a lot of focus on nonfiction reading and writing lately in my kindergarten classroom. My students just pour over the animal books...the farming books...the car and tractor books...all of them! The also had a really good time taking a cue from nature and our playground and writing poetry. So, logically...my next thought was, hey, maybe we should write nonfiction poems!
First, I put a stack of nonfiction on each table. I gave them time to just look through and think about what things they knew a lot about already and what things they would like to learn more about. Next, I read a variety of nonfiction poetry. (They loved these!) My plan was going well so far!
Next, I told my students that I wanted them to choose something to write about; either something they already knew a lot about or they could pick something they wanted to learn about. I told them to think about the poems we had been reading and the books we had been looking at. Next, I called each one over to my "secret talking spot" and privately asked each child what topic they had selected to write about. I wrote them all down and told the kids to keep their topics a secret until tomorrow...I didn't know if they could do that or not but I figured they could at least last the few minutes until I had the chance to talk to each one of them. I just didn't want everyone to choose the same topic just because a friend picked it! It worked! I had a small handful of boys who all chose to write about sharks, but they have all been genuinely interested in sharks since they first laid eyes on the books I have in the room, so I figured that would be ok. Everyone else picked different topics.
After school that day, I consulted my own classroom library, the school library and my collegue's library in order to find a book or two for each child on his/her topic of choice. Again...another success! I found some great books!
The next day I told the kids what I had in mind and they were dancing in their seats; hardly able to wait to get their hands on the books I had carefully selected for them! I passed out their books, their topics revealed to their friends, and we set to work. My little sweeties spread themselves out around the room...laying on the floor, curled in the bean bag chairs, sitting at tables, lounging on the rug. They had their research books open and their notebooks open. They had their pencils at the ready and they dug in for all they were worth. I'm not sure I have ever heard the quiet buzz that developed in the classroom that day. They were all engaged in reading their books, writing down things they learned in their notebooks and sharing the best stuff quietly with the person next to them. It was just amazing! Take a look!
Our next step would be the writing portion. I debated long and hard about whether I should ask them to try to write a nonfiction poem or a nonfiction book about their topic. Choice won. I told the kids that I wanted them to use their research from the day before to write about their topic but I let them choose whether they wanted to write it in poem form or book form. Most of them picked book form, but a few brave little souls picked the poem form.
Again they draped themselves around the room and again they spread out all of their precious materials...there were kids, reading books, notebooks, booklets and sheets of paper from wall to wall. It was glorious! Here are just a few works in progress:
H is writing about farming.
R is writing about frogs.
M is writing about different animal coverings. Just look at that peacock!T is writing about sharks!
C is writing about alligators!
They worked hard during our writing workshop time and when I announced that it was time to clean up, many stunned, worried faces turned to look at me. They had no idea they had been working for so long! I reassured them that they would be able to finish the next day and they carefully put away all of their materials.
I'll post their writing next week when they finish! I'm looking forward to it!
In my last post, I began the story of my kindergarten students' poetry journey. Last time, I shared the prewriting process, taking a walk around the playground and writing a picture/word list of the things they saw, and then the beginning writing stages when they began to take those lists and turn them into poems. Click here to read the full post.
After the kids created their poems in their notebooks, I asked them to come read them to me. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself while I waited ever so patiently to hear their poems. I very calmly sat at my table with my laptop and invited them to come over whenever they were ready. And so it began! They came over one by one and began to read. I sat there in a state of awe and typed until my fingers hurt. They finished reading my their poems and then went straight back to their private workspace and began to write more! What? Most of my sweeties wrote two or three poems! Some spent some time illustrating their poems. Some went back to their lists and drew some pictures to go with their words. It was quiet, they were working hard, they were smiling, they were enjoying themselves! AND SO WAS I!!!
Later that afternoon, I printed out their poetry. I shared it with a fellow teacher and we celebrated together! I shared it with my classroom helper (who wasn't there when we were writing) and we got a little misty-eyed as we talked about what special things the class had done. There were definitely some surprises!
Here are some of the typed poems:
The next step was to figure out how to have the kids share their work with the class to celebrate together. I decided that I would have the kids pick their favorite poem and then we would share that one with the class. We will go back and share the rest another time. I went the easy route and used the document camera for the presentation of their work. I put each child's poem on the document camera and we read them. We celebrated the interesting things the kids included in their poems. My little rockstars noticed alliteration, onomatopoeia, repetition and interesting words in their classmate's poetry. They made positive comments, they clapped, they smiled, they laughed and they encouraged each other. It was amazing!
But, it was all going so well, I couldn't just stop there. So...it was time to illustrate.
A couple of weeks ago, I had taken a big step for myself and used one of my poems with my students. I didn't tell them at first that I was the author, but I put myself out there. In order to show them how we could illustrate our poems, I pulled my butterfly poem back out. Read it here. I read it aloud again and we started talking about what I could draw that would best illustrate the poem...an easy task considering they did the illustration work for this poem last week! Next, I taught my students how to use a black marker to draw an outline for a picture and then use watercolor paints to finish it off.
After they knew the basics, we spent a long time talking as a class and then with a buddy to decide what would be important to include in their own illustrations. Then we got down to work with our markers and our watercolors. Here are a few samples:
They were all so awesome I was just blown away. Now, my students love art and projects of any kind, but the amount of time and care and concentration that went into these works of art was just phenominal! Way beyond their usual work ethic. They were putting their little hearts and souls into their work; a teacher's dream!
What's next? Well, I think it's time to create a hallway display, don't you? I'm planning to mount their pictures and poems side by side on black paper. I also think this project is worth laminating because I can't imagine a parent out there that won't want to keep this project around for a long time. Come back soon to see how we wrap up this project and what we are starting next. Oh the places we will go and that plans that I have for them!!!!
Ok, let's be honest here. I'm not proud of it, but I have a confession to make. For years, I have steered clear of having my kindergarten students write poetry. On occasion, there have been those few bright stars that have stumbled upon writing poetry on their own. When these opportunities have come up, I have bent over backwards to encourage them in their journeys and shared their work with the class; the "teachable moment," as they call it. However, I have never stood before my kindergarten sweeties and intentionally said: "Class, today we are writing poems!"
Now, this is not to say that I haven't "done" poetry with my students. We have read poems and I have intentionally exposed my students to beautiful words and poems throughout the years. I believe, at least in the last couple of years, I have helped my students build an appreciation of poetry. But...reading poetry is a whole different thing than writing poetry, now isn't it?
The good news? I have grown and changed. I have come to the realization that yes, my kindergarten students can write poetry. And...not only can they write poetry, but they want to write poetry. They enjoy it!
So, that left me with only one question. How in the world do you teach a five- or six-year-old to write poetry? Well, maybe I'm crazy or maybe I'm brave or maybe I just copied others, but what I decided was that the best way for me to teach my students to write poetry, was to just close my eyes and jump!
We started right after spring break. I began by reading poems related to school, something we had a shared understanding of. Then, I took a trip to the library and found lots of great children's poetry books. My favorite one, and my students favorite one, is called Come To My Party and Other Shape Poems by Heidi Roemer. (Check out the link and you can take a peek inside the book!) My whole plan was to just fill all their little ears with poetry, immerse them in poetry so they could get a feel for it.
Next, taking a cue from a very smart fellow blogger...we hit the playground. We walked around the mostly abandoned garden area, explored the hillside, looked at the woods and the sky and, of course, blew away some dandelion fuzz! As we explored, we wrote down what we saw in our writing notebooks. I told the kids to write the words and/or draw the pictures of what they were seeing, make a list, just to help them remember when we went back inside. I really wasn't sure how this would go, but here is what I saw in those precious notebooks:
Pretty great lists they made!
Then it was time for the big moment. I told them that now they were ready. They had the poems inside of them already and all they needed to do was close their eyes, think about what they saw outside and just write! It would come out and it would be great!
So they did!
I sat at the table with my laptop and the kids came and read me their poems. The only support I offered was to type what they read to me. They are amazing! Check out a couple poems in their first draft form:
Next, we will be printing out the typed poems, sharing and celebrating with the class and illustrating them. Check back soon to see the next installment!
"Pete the Cat was walking down the street in his brand new white shoes." Can you tell what I've been reading and listening to lately? Not only do my own children love this story, Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes, but my students are CRAZY about it! Not only am I listening to it multiple times every night at my three-year-old's request, but I'm asked repeatedly throughout each and every day at school for this song or book. So much so, that I have downloaded the songs to my desktop so that my daughter can start the music herself and so that I can easily click my mouse and bring music and smiles to my classroom.
I've heard the song and read the story so many times that I catch myself singing it while I'm making dinner, when I'm in the shower, as I am rocking my baby girl to sleep. In fact, it's been so much a part of my life, that recently I wrote my own version...based on my own snazzy new shoes.
Mrs. S was walking down the street in her brand new white shoes. Mrs. S loved her white shoes so much, she sang this song:
I love my white shoes, I love my white shoes, I love my white shoes, I love my...oh no!
Mrs. S stepped in a large pile of...crayons! And what color were her shoes? Plaid! Did she cry? Goodness no! She kept walking along and singing her song:
I love my plaid shoes, I love my plaid shoes,I love my plaid shoes,
I love my....
Well, you get the idea, but you might be wondering where I am going with all this?
I've been working up to writing poetry in my classroom. I've been reading poems - all different kinds. I've been filling my students ears (and hopefully their hearts too!) with poetry. I've even used my own poem (a huge first for me)! My kids are loving it! Today, after we had shared a boisterous singing session, I showed them a fun little secret...shhhh...don't tell...did you know that songs are poems too?
You know what happens next, right? We had to check that out a little bit. So what did we do? Yep, we listened to "I Love My White Shoes", we listened to "Circle of Smiles" from Reading A-Z (our second favorite song), and we listened to "Yellow Bus" by Rick Charette (a new favorite song).
I'm working up to empowering my kindergarten kiddos to write their own poems. I'm taking inspiration from ANYTHING that might work. I'm reading poems about animals, school, butterflies, and even dragons, nursery rhymes and songs; ANYTHING that will fill up their little ears with the rhythm and harmony of poetry. And I just keep being patient and keep reminding myself that I have to fill their poetry buckets before they can dish out their own poems. I keep reminding myself that they have it in them already - they just need to reach in and find it. I keep reminding myself that it is new and it might get messy, but, as Pete the Cat says:
"No matter what you step in, keep walking along and singing your song because it's all good!
Lately, it seems, I've been more involved in the discovery of great books! It's almost like they are landing in my lap! I have had several conversations recently with collegues about books, read about new books that people are recommending on blogs I read and had the pleasure of experiencing new books with my own children.
So, what am I reading?
At school, my students and I have been reading and studying David Shannon. Of course, we have read and enjoyed many of his David books (No David, David Goes to School, David Gets into Trouble, David Smells), as well as many others. During this study, I have come across a few of Shannon's titles that were new to me. Alice the Fairy, Good Boy Fergus and A Bad Case of Stripes have all become new favorites for my students. We are looking forward to reading How Georgie Radbourn Saved Baseball tomorrow!
At home, our tastes are quite varied! My nine-year-old loves nonfiction, biographies, and "science-y" books. This week we have been reading a biography about Martin Luther King, Jr., the Encyclopedia of Planet Earth, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever.
My six-year-old, on the other hand, loves picture books! Her favorites this week were Mo Willem's Pigeon books and Elephant and Piggy books, her new nonfiction favorite Penguins, and her nursery rhyme treasury book that she's been reading to her little sister.
Then there is my three-year-old, who doesn't have the love for books that my older two children have (insert large Mama sigh here). She enjoys listening to stories on occasion but only when it is her idea. When she's in the mood, she loves all of the Anna Dewdney Llama books (Llama Llama Mad at Mama is the all time favorite), Pinkalicious and Easy Street by Rita Gray (I'm pretty sure it's the clay figures and artwork in the book that she is drawn to since she isn't much into machinery in any other way).
And not to leave anyone out, I'm also reading baby board books! My seven-month-old has just begun to enjoy books. Of course, she mostly enjoys eating them! She has several nursery rhyme books and touchy feely books that she is enjoys (and nibbles) right now. But, most of all, she enjoys a book called Toys - a simple board book with a different toy picture on each page and a bright red cover.
What is Mama reading? Well, not much. Most of the time, I get a few minutes of reading in at the end of the day...after dinner, clean-up, play time, bath time, bed time and school work....if I can stay awake long enough! Lately, I have been enjoying the newest Food Network magazine (I love finding a new recipe to try out!). I am also reading a professional book for a book talk with my grade level team at school. We are reading Talking, Drawing, Writing by Martha Horn and Mary Ellen Giacobbe. This is actually my second full reading of this book...although I have read some parts multiple times. It's amazing!