Poetry Friday: A Splot, Buildings, and A Windmill

When I taught third grade, The Big Orange Splot, by Daniel Pinkwater, was always a favorite. This is the improbable story of what happens after an errant seagull flies over Mr. Plumbean’s house and drops a can of orange paint on the roof. Because “all the houses were the same” on their “neat street,” the neighbors assume that Mr. Plumbean will get right to work repainting his house. But he waits a little while. He thinks about the splot. When he finally does paint his house, it’s not at all what the neighbors had in mind. When asked what he has done, Mr. Plumbean simply replies, “My house is me and I am it. It looks like all my dreams.” At first the neighborhood thinks he’s nuts, but after a while they start to see the wisdom of Mr. Plumbean’s mantra. Eventually the houses aren’t the same at all and Mr. Plumbean’s neighbors dreams are revealed through their houses.


Kids loved the wackiness of Mr. Plumbean and his house, and were intrigued by the other houses in the neighborhood. I began collecting photos of unusual houses and buildings to display on a bulletin board when we read this story.  Then I found this poem, the perfect complement to the pictures.


by Myra Cohn Livingston

Buildings are a great surprise,

Everyone’s a different size

Offices grow long and high

Tall enough to touch the sky.

Houses seem more like a box

Made of glue and building blocks

Every time you look, you see

Buildings shaped quite differently

One year during this unit, a poetry contest was announced in the Trumpet Book Club order. (Trumpet either was or became part of Scholastic.) We had been reading and writing poetry since the start of school, so I shared this with my students and encouraged them to enter. I don’t remember specifically telling anyone to write a poem about a building, but the bulletin board did inspire some of them. Several students did submit poems to the contest and we were all thrilled when Allie’s poem was chosen to be included in this anthology:


A Windmill

by Allie Mandeville

Windmill dancing in the breeze,

With a swift, turning ease.

The windmill makes a squeaky sound

As it’s turning round and round.

Spinning once, spinning twice,

The sound of spinning

Sounds so nice.

And as the wind makes it turn,

The windmill looks so very stern.

The windmill looks so beautiful.

The windmill looks so nice.

But don’t you think

It must be full of mice?

(Thank you, Allie, for permission to share your poem.)

The picture that inspired Allie’s poem. Photo by Brad Stanton

I was reminded of all this recently when I found a copy of the anthology at a local book sale. I’m sure that if I were teaching third grade today I would still put up bulletin boards of interesting photos related to what we were reading and learning about. I know I would still be teaching writing using a workshop model. I would allow students to choose topics and subjects that interested them, not limit them to prompts provided by the state or some other distant textbook publisher. 

I would do all this and more to help them understand that the world is full of possibilities. I would do this so they could write poems that are full of all their dreams.

Be sure to visit Sherry at Semicolon or Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme for the Poetry Friday Round Up.

8 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: A Splot, Buildings, and A Windmill

  1. An orange splot, a poem about buildings, and Allie’s windmill poem: What a nice trinity! Pictures are a great way to prompt writing. I think I’ll borrow your bulletin board idea. Getting my classrooms ready, school starts soon.


  2. Tried to comment earlier-wordpress said there was an error? Love the Big Orange Splot-my 4 year old granddaughter has taken it for her own! And great idea to pair it with Livingston’s poem, plus thanks for sharing about Allie’s poem. What a wonderful thing to be published!


  3. I read The Big Orange Splot with my kids so many times. They loved it. Thanks for sharing Allie’s clever poem!
    I like the “woulds” at the end of your post. “I would do all this and more”- yes!


  4. “I would do all this and more to help them understand that the world is full of possibilities. I would do this so they could write poems that are full of all their dreams.” –Good reminders!! Now I’m off to find this book…why do I not know it?!?!


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