Start the Year with Some Small Poems

Poetry has always been one of my favorite ways to get kids writing during the first weeks of school.  If you’ve done bio poems and are looking for an additional poetry activity, or just for something different, then this post is for you!

All the Small Poems and Fourteen More is written by Valerie Worth and illustrated by Natalie Babbit.  This book, which is destined to become a classic, was always a favorite of my students who were seeking to write vivid poems about one special item or place. Three poems will follow, at the end of this post, from All the Small Poems and Fourteen More.  I encourage you to read these aloud to your students.  Have students share what they pictured in their mind as you were reading the poems.  Talk about the rich descriptions, and other poetic tools (if you wish), Worth used to make her poem come alive for the reader.

Invite your students to write poems about something special from their summer.  It can be an artifact they bring in (which they’ll examine closely so as to take in all of the sensory details) or it can be something that captivated them during the summertime, such as a sandcastle they built, an animal they saw at the zoo, or a game they played with their family during on a rainy afternoon.  In order to get their minds going, you can modify this activity sheet to help your students think about the subject of their poem more intensely before they begin to write.

“Sidewalks,” “Barefoot,” and “Stars” from ALL THE SMALL POEMS AND FOURTEEN MORE by Valerie Worth, pictures by Natalie Babbitt.  Copyright (c) 1987, 1994 by Valerie Worth.  Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, LLC.

Sidewalks

Sidewalks wear out;

Some sunk squares,

Winter-cracked,

Even break:

Then their chunks

Tip Up

To trip old women,

Scrape the bare

Big toe, stop

Skates that rolled

Rits, rits, before,

And slow them

To step

Dit dit dit around.

pg. 72

Barefoot

After that tight

Choke of sock

And blunt

Weight of shoe,

The foot can feel

Clover’s green

Skin

Growing,

And the fine

Invisible

Teeth

Of gentle grass,

And the cool

Breath

of the earth

Beneath.

pg. 101

Stars

While we

Know they are

Enormous suns,

Gold lashing

Fire-oceans,

Seas of heavy

Silver flame,

They look as

Though they could

Be swept

Down, and heaped,

Cold crystal

Sparks, in one

Cupped palm.

pg. 123

NOTE: No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get the stanza breaks to show up in the second and third poems (above). Therefore, I highly suggest you consult the Worth and Babbitt book so you get the poems just right when you share them with your students.