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News from our Boys only Book Club: April is National Poetry Month

April 15, 2010

Chers Amis,

Did you know that April is National Poetry Month?  Did you know I am still leading a boys only book club?  With all the talk about the house you probably couldn’t tell I am still homeschooling Pippin.  I have been meaning to post more about school and I even toyed with organizing an on-line boys book club where I would post assignments and ideas for our book or genre of  the month and then host something like a link party or carnival of blog posts by participating families.  That has not materialized to date (neither have formal plans for the kitchen, sigh.) I did want to share a bit about what we will be doing this month in case you would like to play along and join us. Here is what I sent our growing group of boys for April. (Girls love poetry and literature too, I just have one boy at home these days and no girls. Sniff.)

This month we will be writing and learning about poetry. Do you have a favorite poem or poet?  Do you read poetry with your children? Do you include poetry in your reading lists?  Poetry can be majestic, epic, bewildering, moving, and often hilarious.  Like candy, it comes in small packages. You can taste several types , pick out you favorites, and discard the rest J  That is what you should try to do this month, have a poetry smorgasbord – a little of this, a little of that.

I would like each boy to pick either a poem or a poet that they like and bring a copy of the poem to our next meeting to share.  Don’t tell them at first that they will be bringing this or they will gravitate to the easy and silly.  If they prefer, I can do the reading aloud.  If they do insist on a crazy poem, they must also bring something a bit more meaty or it will be all Shel Silverstein and that is like a whole meal of Twinkies and cotton candy – fun for the  first few minutes, but you regret it later.

On the writing/assignment front, I would like them to experiment with writing several different types of short poetry.  Notice the word “short”.  I know you will hear groaning.  Sorry, but they are very smart boys with excellent vocabularies and imaginations.  Poetry is a great fit!

Here are a three types of which  I would like to see them write at least one:

1. Haiku – three unrhymed lines usually with 17 syllables arranged in lines of 5,7, 5 syllables.  They usually describe scenes in nature and may mention or allude to a season.  I have uploaded two worksheets, haiku_pattern and picture_thisto help with writing a haiku. I found these online but can’t find them again. You do not have to use them, but one helps you build a word bank sorted by syllables that will be useful or all poetry writing, and the other helps specifically with haiku.

Pippin wrote his about toad tongues.  First we picked a topic – toads. Then he dictated a list of words and phrases related to toads, colors, textures, actions, when and where you see them, what they do, what they eat, how they move, etc.  I made him give me rich words, no weak word like big, fat, etc.  Then we used them like bricks to cobble together  the rough outline of the haiku.   “Soft pink strands of gum” he said referring to their tongues.  What do their tongues do? Catch bugs, what do the bugs do, what sounds do they make, describe the bugs.   He did the thinking and I captured his ideas on paper.  Then he rewrote it and drew a simple picture of a toad catching a fly.  Did he complain?  A little at first, but then he was very pleased with the result.

Soft pink strands of gum

Flying through the air catching

Buzzing bugs – Toad tongues

If they would prefer to write about people instead of nature, no problem.  Here is a great one I found in “A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms” by Paul Janeczko

“First day, new school year,

Backpack harbors a fossil…

Last June’s cheese sandwich” By Kristine O’Connell George

2. Acrostic – acrostic poems are descriptive poems in which the first letter of each line spells out the subject of the poem when read downward.  You can use either single words or multiword phrases.  Here is  a worksheet to guide them in writing an acrostic. The key is for them to pick a topic, person, action, or place that they feel strongly about.  Anything is fine!

Here is a link to the site ReadWriteThink that helps “generate” an acrostic using the word bank the student provides on their topic.  The on-line aspect may make it more fun.

3. Concrete or Shape – These poems use words arranged on the page to show the shape of the subject of the poem.  Our favorite book on Concrete poetry is .A Poke in the I: A Collection of Concrete Poems by Paul Janeczko

We also liked Technically, It’s Not my Fault: Concrete Poetry By John Grandits. Be Creative!


PS- Here are a few examples of concrete poetry I found on-line:

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