Posts Tagged ‘Mr. Al oak tree’

Poetry Friday posts are with Leigh Anne at A Day in the Life

Last week my students and I studied the poem “A Letter in October” by Ted Kooser.  In response, some of us wrote golden shovel poems.  A golden shovel is a poem that uses the line of another poem stretched out down the right hand margin.  The writer then fills in words to create a whole new poem.  This method of writing a poem forces the writer to use enjambment in an interesting way.  Today I am sharing two student responses as well as my own.


I lay still in my bed in the moonlit night

A sweet blowing breeze passes in

And out  filling my room with its

soft and warm thick

Scent of snow and hushed winter

Whispers wrapping me in a chilly jacket.

–Erin, 6th grade




 You are sitting. Watching
                          while birds fly around the
trees. The sun going down, light
fading. You hear kids walk
down the street. The sun is down,
everybody collecting the candy the
people are giving out. You look at the hill.
You see something, a pumpkin. You carve it.

–Andrew, 5th grade

Every day I drive by a mighty oak tucked between the frontage road and the highway, Mr. Al.  In South Louisiana, the oldest oaks are named and cataloged and cared for.  Mr. Al has had an interesting journey as he was transplanted by the state highway department about 3 years ago.  He is thriving in his new home.

Mr. Al in October.


An oak tree spreads its mighty wings then
beckons us to see
another way the
world can be. Light
dances with the leaves, a casual step,
strong and easy, bouncing out
the noisy beats upon.
-Margaret Simon

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Reds, golden autumn
pushes its way to winter
with silent leaf fall

–Margaret Simon

More about the haiku-a-day project here.

Find more celebration posts at Ruth's blog.

Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.



This week I grabbed the opportunity to take my students outside.  We met Mr. Jim Foret, a naturalist and professor from ULL, at Mr. Al, a 150+ year old oak in our community.

Mr. Jim has known Mr. Al for awhile.  He was instrumental in saving this amazing oak from being destroyed.  Once the blue-haired ladies from Garden Clubs along with the Optimist Club and many school children got involved, the legislatures listened and ordered LADOTD (Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development) to move this old oak from its original home to its specialized, protected home now.   Jim explained that the time was terrible to move the tree, but the progress on the service road was halted, so he had to be moved in mid-summer of 2011, a summer of no rain.

Jim figured out just the right amount of water to give Mr. Al.  For years, he paced and worried about Mr. Al’s survival and questioned his own resolve to save him.  And the sprawling, amazing oak made it, and has withstood the test of time.  “He will probably outlive all of you,” Jim explained to the children and parents.

Mr. Al is a community icon.  Boy Scouts have mulched him.  ULL students have planted prairie grasses.  And many others pass by and wave.  If you are traveling down Highway 90 away from New Iberia toward New Orleans, take a minute to say hello.  Loving care has saved this old grandfather oak, and loving care will sustain him.

I celebrate the history of the land.

I celebrate the gift of an oak and his master.

I celebrate exposing my students to nature.

Sketching a memory of Mr. Al.

Sketching a memory of Mr. Al.

Marveling in the shade of mighty Mr. Al.

Marveling in the shade of mighty Mr. Al.




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SOL #27

SOL #27

Join the roundup with Jone at Check it Out.

Join the roundup with Jone at Check it Out.

Mr. Al surrounded by children.

Mr. Al surrounded by children.

With our 6th grade students in the parish (district), we have been doing an enrichment Wednesday each month that we call WOW for Way Out Wednesday. This year’s theme has been wonder. One of the wonders of our area is this huge old oak tree named Mr. Al. A few years ago, Mr. Al was in the way of a planned service road next to the highway. Protesters were instrumental in getting Mr. Al moved to a safer location. He now overlooks an intersection of the highway, Highway 90 at Weeks Island Road.

This past Wednesday was a gorgeous spring day. We took the 20 students out to Mr. Al for a picnic. They sketched and wrote poetry. I coached the poetry writing with a suggestion that they look outside and write description, then look inside for a memory or inner feelings, then go outside again. Darian came to me with an idea. She was caught up on the directions, though. She told me she saw the whole area as a kingdom and Mr. Al was the king. I loved this creative response and told her, “Yes, this idea is using your imagination that is inside you.” She crafted this poem.

What a wonderful way to honor Mr. Al with writing and drawing. The time was peaceful and productive. A true gift to the students and their teachers.

A tree in the middle of nowhere,
As lonely as can be.
But the tree is not as lonely,
As the eye can see.
Ferns and flowers, moss and thorns,
Give the tree some company.

The hill is a castle,
Its rightful ruler on top.
A king greater than all kings.
King Al is protected by his guards,
The ants and spiky plants.
His loyal citizens obey his commands,
For they are the flowers,
purple, yellow, white and green.
His advisers–the fern, magnolia and evergreen,
Work together in harmony.

Long branches reach out,
As if to be holding up the sky.
Leaves more numerous than stars.

Mr.Al is a wonder of nature,
Nature of wonder .​

–Darian, 6th grade

Mr. Al 2

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Mr. Al

Renee is hosting Poetry Friday today.

Renee is hosting Poetry Friday today.

A found poem is a form of poetry using existing text and fashioning it into a poem. My students enjoy this kind of poetry because it seems easy; Just find some golden lines, put them together, and voilà, a poem!
“Poems hide in things you and others say and write. They lie buried in places where language isn’t so self-conscious as ‘real poetry’ often is. [Writing found poems] is about keeping your ears and eyes alert to the possibilities in ordinary language” (Dunning and Stafford, Getting the Knack: 20 Poetry Exercises.) For a complete lesson on Found Poetry, go to Read, Write, Think.

Watercolor painting of Mr. Al by Jerome Weber

Watercolor painting of Mr. Al by Jerome Weber

In May of 2011, an old oak tree was saved by a group of community members. At the time, I involved my students in writing letters to save the tree. It was moved with much effort and at a high cost. I pass this tree every day as I drive to school. A friend of mine is the arborist hired to care for Mr. Al. On Tuesday, the newspaper had an update on Mr. Al’s health. The title of the article was “Looking a Little Thin but OK, Mr. Al weathering it all.”

Weather forecasters predict severe storms.
One resident is not concerned.
Mr. Al, 120 years old,
is setting down roots
in his new home.

Weighing 800,000 pounds,
such a move can put significant
strain on his magnitude,
a pretty mean way to treat an old tree.

The stately oak looks thin
but this is normal for his type.
He’s catching up.

Come and sit by my roots,
invites Mr. Al,
and think the things that
an old guy thinks.
–Margaret Simon, all rights reserved

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