Posts Tagged ‘zeno poems’

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The decorating theme at one of my schools this year is books, so I chose to depict one of my favorite books, The Dot. I celebrate Dot Day every year with my students, but this year I adopted the whole school, sort of. I sent out an invitation to teachers to sign up to send 4 kids to my room at recess time. (I only have 4 chairs around a single table.) I had wonderful participation and have had so much fun working with a variety of grade levels. With the older kids I opened up sets of watercolors and set out paper plate dots. For the younger ones, I gave them a coffee filter to decorate with markers. I then sprayed them with water so that the ink spread for a cool looking result.

With my gifted students, I made Dot Zeno Zines. In the spirit of “making a mark and seeing where it takes you”, we drew a design on plain paper. Then we wrote Zeno poems. Zeno is a form created by J. Patrick Lewis that uses the sequence 8, 4, 2, 1, 4, 2, 1, 4, 2, 1 with each one syllable rhyming. I’m not sure which should come first, the first 8-4-2-1 sequence or the rhyming words. We’ve tried both ways. I let the kids struggle somewhat to just figure it out. Sometimes it’s hard to say what you want to say with so many constraints. It’s a process. Process can be messy and imperfect, but when you’ve puzzled it out, it’s rewarding.

Dot Day Zeno

Polka-dotted wings emerging
color-filled spots
red, green,
orange, purple
flying homeward

Mrs. Simon with help from Avalyn, 3rd grade

To see more student Dot Zeno poems, check out these Fanschool links:


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Brenda Davis Harsham is hosting Poetry Friday today.

We talked about descriptive poetry, writing so that your reader can visualize your topic.  I have the privilege of working with small groups of students, so I am able to collaborate with an individual student on a poem.  Chloe wanted to write about a swan.  I shared a poem from my book Bayou Song that was about the white ibis.  The poem was in a triptych form.  Chloe and I wrote a poem using the same form writing description from a photograph of a swan.  In the process, she learned the word cygnet, and we both learned that a swan tucks her cygnets under her wings.

Swan Triptych

It’s the way
white wings swim
in the crawfish pond.

It’s the way
mother swan protects
her cygnets
tucked into her wings

It’s the way
the beautiful swan
is reflected on the water.

by Mrs. Simon and Chloe

With Landon, we used metaphor dice.  The dice turned up “My soul is a silent trophy.”  I suggested changing trophy to garden.  He loved the idea and guess what? The line was eight syllables long, perfect for the first line of a zeno. (See more about zenos here.) I asked him, “What did you see in the garden?” He remembered a praying mantis hiding in a bush.  As we continued to discuss the word choices for this poem, we decided to break the rule about the one syllable words rhyming.  Sometimes when you try to rhyme, you lose meaning.

Garden Zeno

My soul is a silent garden
Praying Mantis
The small garden
is their

by Landon and Mrs. Simon

Collaborating with students on poems or even having students work together can result in rich conversations around word choice and produce a poem that all are pleased with.


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Poetry Friday round-up is here. Scroll down to link up with inlinkz.

Today I am hosting Poetry Friday.  What a joy to collect all the poetry goodness in the kidlitosphere. Scroll down to the inlinkz button to link up and to read posts.

This summer I participated in the Summer Poem Swap organized by Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference.  I recently received a delightful package from Laura Shovan, (And it arrived on my birthday! Serendipity!) Laura received one of my books in a blog tour give-away. She made a copy of the “Write it” for writing a zeno poem.  The zeno form was invented by J. Patrick Lewis.  The syllable count is a mathematical sequence, 8,4,2,1,4,2,1,4,2,1 with the one syllable words rhyming.

I was inspired to try my own zeno.  Last week Christie Wyman challenged us to write bird poems. I loved Linda Baie’s poem and gathered words from it to create my zeno.  Then I made a zine. Zine is a new term for a folded paper mini-book. (See this post that includes videos.) I will be giving a few workshops in September in which we make zines, so I wanted to make a sample Zeno Zine.

Morning birds surround me with sound.
Flying quartets
Sunrise music
of symphonic

Margaret Simon (c) 2018


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Find more Poetry Friday at Keri Recommends.

Find more Poetry Friday at Keri Recommends.

A few weeks into fall Carol Varsalona put out a call for submissions to her Finding Fall Gallery. I wanted my students to try some fall poetry writing. I pulled up an image gallery from NBC news. I think images make for richer, image-filled poetry. Many of the images were striking, and we had a hard time choosing just one to write to. So I allowed some students to keep their favorite frozen on the Promethean while others found the gallery on other computers. Kielan captured a list poem from different images and made a poem movie on Animoto. Emily remains the Zeno master with her Fall Zeno.

Sergei Grits / AP

Sergei Grits / AP

yellow,orange,peach,red,and brown

leaves are falling

this fall


rainy weather

scares the


because it melts

in fear


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Find more Poetry Friday at Teacher Dance with Linda.

Find more Poetry Friday at Teacher Dance with Linda.

Join the Chalk-a-bration at Betsy Hubbard's site Teaching Young Writers.

Join the Chalk-a-bration at Betsy Hubbard’s site Teaching Young Writers.

Halloween chalk

It’s Chill-a-bration Time! That’s Halloween language for Chalk-a-bration. Halloween language for Poetry Friday is “Poetry Freakday!” I hope you enjoy our Freaky chalk poems. My students chalked up the sidewalks and chilled up an Emaze presentation. It was a sunny day, so we added some spooky shadows to our chalk poems.

http://app.emaze.com/1012993/chill-a-brationPowered by emaze

A chilling chalk zeno by Emily

A chilling chalk zeno by Emily

Candy chalk choka by Nigel and Tobie.

Candy chalk choka by Nigel and Tobie.

Shadow poem by Reed.

Shadow poem by Reed.

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Find more Poetry Friday at Today's Little Ditty with Michelle H Barnes.

Find more Poetry Friday at Today’s Little Ditty with Michelle H Barnes.

Migrating starlings, over the southern Israeli village of Tidhar, on February 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Migrating starlings, over the southern Israeli village of Tidhar, on February 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

My students were mesmerized this week by the Wonder of the Week, Starling Murmurations. As I often do with these Wonder lessons, I asked them to choose 4 of the Wonder Words. Then we watched the video, looked at The Atlantic site, and selected a picture to write to. The above image was selected by Erin. Erin is a third grader. She has a confidence about her that I wish I had. She sat writing her poem and told me, “I am writing a staircase poem.”

“What is a staircase poem?”

“Look at the lines. They look like the steps on a staircase.”

I think Erin just created her own form.

Erin's journal

Ready, set, fly,
One bird takes flight,
another one and another one
until there’s a million in the sky
making an illusion of love as one goes by
washing over me.
Come along and see.
To believe is the key.
The key is to believe.
So graceful and startling,
a routine with meaning. Just
believe and you will see that anything
can be beautiful if you just put love into it.

–Erin, 3rd grade

I showed my students my poem movie from Spiritual Thursday. (You can see the post here.) I made the suggestion that they make a poem movie with their starling zenos. Some of my students are loving J. Patrick Lewis’s new form. A zeno is a great form for writing nonfiction poems. Enjoy these poem movies made using Animoto.

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Find more Poetry Friday at Miss Rumphius Effect.

Find more Poetry Friday at Miss Rumphius Effect.

As one of my students called out,”You love to connect us with authors.” They know me well, and they know that when I tell them we are going to learn a new poetry form, writing will happen, they will be supported, and it will be challenging. Last Friday, Michelle Heindenrich Barnes featured J. Patrick Lewis on her site. Pat put forth a challenge with a new form that he created called a zeno. The zeno is based on the hailstone sequence. This is the kind of math I enjoy. Math poetry: repeated syllable counts. My students were fascinated. They couldn’t wait to share with their math teachers. Matthew said, “I think I can use this in a magic trick.”

I have been playing with Emaze for presentations. I was so taken with the poems my students created in the morning group that I made an Emaze to teach my afternoon group. Later, I added some of their poems to the presentation. I encourage you to try this with your students. If you want to use the Emaze presentation, let me know.

Click the link below to go directly to the presentation.


writing secrets

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