Posts Tagged ‘teaching poetry’

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

I read Beautiful Hands to my youngest students, 1st-3rd grade. The question “What will your beautiful hands do today?” is the theme of this short and inspiring book by Kathryn Otoshi and Bret Baumgarten.

The story of this book is both sad and joyful. From a Bookology article by Nancy Bo Flood:

Beautiful Hands was done for Bret Baumgarten, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. When we found out, it was at stage 4. It was heartbreaking. He and I both wanted to do a book for his children, Noah and Sofie. I found out every day he would hold his kids’ hands in his and ask them, “What will your beautiful hands do today?”

I wanted everyone whom Bret loved to be in this book. We arranged for his family and friends (mine too!) to make handprints as part of the illustrations in the book, so that they could participate and be a part of this narrative. Over 100 people’s handprints are in the rainbow at the end of the story. So many people loved Bret, we didn’t know where to put our grief. The book became a positive way to remember the message he wanted to impart most: love, creativity, compassion, and our connection with one another.

Kathryn Otoshi

With my youngest students, we practiced using acrylic paints.

1. You must put on a t-shirt to avoid stains on your clothes. (I provide old t-shirts.)

2. Mrs. Simon will squirt the paint. It comes out fast and can splatter.

3. We only have primary colors, so how do we make other colors?

4. Which illustration do you want to make?

5. You can only use hands, no paintbrushes. We used the paintbrushes to apply the paint to their hands.

Here are some samples of final works of art.

My Painting

by Carson

Sunflowers bloom.
My heart booms!

Clouds float in the air.
My hands show that I care. 

Carson is brand new to poetry writing. He gets very nervous about it, so we have to use some breathing techniques while I prompt him with sentence stems. We worked on making lists of rhyming words. He wrote “Clouds float in the air” with little prompting. And selected the word care from our list of rhyming words. All I said was, “Look at your hands in your painting. My hands…?”

“Show that I care!” shouted Carson. We celebrated with a high five and a glowing smile. When I typed it and let him tape it to his artwork, he was as proud as Vashti from Peter Reynold’s book, The Dot. ( If you don’t know about Vashti yet, you must go Google The Dot right now.)

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

On Fridays with my 6th grade gifted kids, we unpack a poem. We discuss everything from form to figurative language, assign tone and theme, and write a poem in response. This is my favorite lesson of the week. The Promethean Board with the annotation tool makes it even better.

Yesterday we focused on Irene Latham’s spring poems. She posts a video each week designed for homeschoolers, but it works for me, too. This week we watched this video:

Using Irene’s Art Speak Padlet, we located the poems she highlighted and selected one to unpack. My first group chose “because every day is a symphony in spring.” So many things to see, imagery, personification, word choice, rhyme…

When yellow rings,
green cannot await
its return.

As white fades
in discord,

yellow rings.
Once again

as purple, pink
orange, and red
splash the fields.

Jaden, 6th grade

When green season 

the rainbow comes out
from every direction
and all around

Red triangles grow with yellow spots
on green string,

orange sky falls
and the orange sky rises.

Yellow lights
shine through the heavy white marshmallows,

green spikes
poke out of the ground.

The sky’s blue
falling down in may,

with purple and pink petals
that have been waiting for 
this season. 

Green season, 
green season,
full of delight
and color.

Katie, 6th grade

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During this monthlong survey of poetry, there is trouble.

So many decisions to make.

What should I teach today?
Line breaks,
literary elements,

I want to say stop to
sing-song rhymes
and simple forms.

Then one turns to another and says,
“Let’s write a rap abecedarian.”

Like the messiness of art class,
the instructor must allow
for paint splatters and stains,
for stalled-out cinquains
and skip-to-my-loos.

Poetry is hard.
Poetry is easy.
There are rules in poetry.
There are no rules:
Let the poem find its way.
This is the trouble with poetry.
This is the joy of poetry.

–Margaret Simon

Follow the Progressive Poem to  Charles Waters.

Follow the Progressive Poem to Charles Waters.




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