Poetry Friday: “A Sliver of Liver”

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This afternoon, while her mother was having her conference with her teacher, a first grade student came into my room to say hello. We chatted for a few minutes, then she looked around and said, “It’s kind of messy in here.” Out of the mouths of babes, right? I told her I agreed, it was kind of messy. But the mess is really organized chaos on top of shelves and shelves of books. I have a terrible time getting rid of books. And even though I did manage to shed a few when I moved into a smaller space over the summer, I still have a lot of books. Is that really such a bad thing?

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I don’t think so. Because so many of those books are treasures that are now out of print. Including Poem Stew, “a feast of hilarious poems about food” selected by Kenneth Cole and published by HarperCollins in 1981. This book was a favorite of my third graders, but I don’t use it too much anymore as I work mostly with first graders. This year, I see a group of fourth grade students and needed a poem for them with -er endings. And I found just what I was looking for in my well-worn copy of Cole’s rib-tickling collection.

“A Sliver of Liver”
by Myra Cohn Livingston

O sliver of liver,
Get lost! Go away!
You tremble and quiver
O sliver of liver–
You set me a-shiver
And spoil my day–
O sliver of liver,
Get lost! Go away!

Of course the kids loved this. When one girl said she wouldn’t eat liver if her mother served it for dinner, another student immediately noticed that “dinner” had an -er ending. Then they were off, thinking of other words and coming up with ideas with their own foods they wish would “Get lost!” They’ll be writing poems about these foods next week. Stay tuned for the results!

Please be sure to visit Brenda Davis Harsham at Friendly Fairy Tales for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

 

Poetry Friday: Whispers

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The third week of school is coming to an end. Routines are falling into place, schedules have been ironed out, and most of the tears have dried up. Throughout these hectic weeks, it’s been challenging for me to get my act together at home and find time for writing. I’ve been jotting notes like mad, and keep telling myself that I’ll have time today, I’ll get up early…. You know how that goes!

This Myra Cohn Livingston poem captures the feeling I’ve had as thoughts and ideas keep whispering to me.

Whispers

Whispers

tickle through you ear

telling things you like to hear.

Whispers

are as soft as skin

letting little worlds curl in.

Whispers

come so they can blow

secrets others never know.

This would be a perfect poem to share with young writers as they also settle into the routine of writing every day and learn to keep their eyes and ears open for ideas waiting to be put into words.

Be sure to visit Renee at No Water River for today’s Poetry Friday Round Up.

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.

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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.

Buildings

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:

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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.)

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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.