Do you have a favorite poet? Poem? Well, the fourth grade had an opportunity to work with Ted Scheu, the Poetry Guy, for April, poetry month! For three days, April 29, 30 and May 1, each class met with him three times, and twice as a whole grade. At our first meeting as a whole grade, he told us a little about himself.
“… [I] taught for a bunch of years, grades K through 5, in Shelburne, Vermont. And I loved it…mostly. But I was so busy as a teacher that I wasn’t able to find time to do any writing. So I left my full-time teaching job in 1998, so I could express my kid-voice in my writing.”1
He’s published 5 books of poetry and shared his love of poetry with us.
The first time he visited our classroom, he showed us how couplets work. Couplets are two lines that rhyme. For example,
Lion without teeth
Sword without sheath
Clouds without rain
Shots without aim
Below is a poem using couplets by one of our classmates.
Can You Imagine?
A flag without a pole
Soccer without a goal
Stars without night
Sanyah without light
A hamburger without meat
Music without a beat
The sun without being sunny
Easter without a bunny
Lemon without tea
You without me
On his next visit, we learned about non-rhyming poems. We had all brought things from nature to class with us. Nothing alive or recently alive though. Everyone was going to write a non-rhyming poem about their object. They were “What Am I?” or “What Is It?” poems. Shells were “boats” or “cinnamon rolls”. Rocks were “rocket ships” or “drills driving down into the earth”. For instance, “I am a cinnamon roll melting in your mouth.” Some people thought it was easier not to rhyme, and others thought it was easier to rhyme.
Which am I?
Am I an old man’s mouth?
Or a necklace to royalty?
A speckled slug sluggishly rolling
as slow as a rock.
A fairy earring
dotted with a leopard coat.
A small sea creature am I,
burdened with the heavy thought of the sea.
I am the feeling of music,
the smell of salt.
The empty spaciousness of everything.
A mouth puckering at
the thought of death.
A disapproving cave with the mouth turned
I am here.
I am there.
Which am I?
Which am I?
The last time Mr. Scheu visited our classroom, he explained to us how descriptive poems give the reader an image of what you are writing about and how you feel. In our writer’s notebooks, he had us write a descriptive poem about a hobby or sport, anything, that you thought you were the best at, far past anybody else. Your poem had some specifications: the first was that the name of the poem had to be “When I…” and the rest would be the subject of your poem. The other thing was that the title had to be one of the lines in the poem. One example is,
When I play the piano,
my hands are limitless and free
This gives the reader an idea of how the writer feels when they play the piano.
When I Play Soccer
When I play soccer, before the game starts, I warm up.
My muscles turn to lions ready to attack.
Before I know it the whistle blows and the game has now begun.
I leap into attack mode and charge after the ball.
I trip, get hurt and fall over but I still do not give up.
Then my muscles feel clumsy, my heart feels strong and that’s when I begin.
The game turns upside down, the opponents are tired and there is nothing they can do.
We both don’t know what is going on as I shoot and pass the ball.
I feel the freedom inside my veins as I come to a one versus one.
My brain is tired, my muscles are tired, but my heart is what I trust.
At the end of his third day, he met with the whole grade again in the library. At least 5 students in each class were invited to share their favorite poem they wrote with him. Following the sharing, he read a poem for two voices with one student. The poem contained an unexpected twist at the end. This is one of many that he’s working on for a new book of poems for two voices. The students enjoyed their time with him, and their newfound love of poetry. And how appropriate for his visit to be during Poetry Month!
Reported by Anissa and Esme