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Poetic Inspiration from #NCTE13 + a Book Giveaway

The selections in this post are excerpted from WHAT THE HEART KNOWS by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski. Copyright © 2013 by Joyce Sidman. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
The selections in this post are excerpted from WHAT THE HEART KNOWS by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski. Copyright © 2013 by Joyce Sidman. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

If you’ve never attended the NCTE Annual Convention, then I’ll let you in on a little secret: wear comfortable shoes!  You’ll be on your feet hustling between sessions, walking around the exhibit hall, and hoofing it around the host city.  And even when you’re not on your feet, your brain is operating on overdrive since there are so many talented educators feeding you information about their research and their classroom experiences.  It’s all good stuff, but it’s exhausting!

Two sessions I rushed to on-foot at NCTE were poetry-related.  I hurried to both for fear I wouldn’t get a seat.  (In one of the sessions, I literally had two people sitting at my feet since it was so packed!) Each session inspired me to not only write more poetry (e.g., I tried my hand at a poem-slice and a not-so-terrific haiku in the past couple of weeks.), but to read more poetry (i.e., Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems is next on my to-be read list).

I promised I’d blog about more of the sessions I attended when I wrote my quick recap post of NCTE.  As promised, here’s are some important take-aways from two of the poetry sessions I attended in Boston.

1)  Keeping Poetry Central to Our Core

  • Maureen Barbieri chaired the session.  She began with a bold statement worth repeating to anyone who doesn’t think poetry has a place in their life (or in the lives of students):
  • “If you embrace poetry, then your life will have more in it than other people’s lives have.”
  • Georgia Heard reminded attendees that poetry isn’t something that’s saved for April.  In order to nurture a love of poetry, it needs to be studied over time.  Students who study poetry over a length of time  learn how to appreciate poems for more than what’s on the surface. Heard asserted, “Incredible transformations can happen when poetry is kept central to our core.”
    • Here are some questions Heard asks kids to answer when they’re studying a poem.  She has found their answers become deeper after they spend more time studying a poem a day for a given amount of time (e.g., a month).
      • What makes this a poem? 
      • What is this poem about?  What is the poet’s message (big idea)?
      • What tools do you notice the poet using to help show his/her message.
  • Heard reminded audience members that there are three layers of understanding in poetry, with the second of them being the most critical.  She stated:

Help students connect to a poem by guiding them toward finding themselves and their lives inside a poem.

    • When this happens, Heard contends, students will become more engaged.  Students will be able to relate poems to their lives, thereby allowing poetry to have an impact on them.  They’ll also be better prepared to do higher-level work with poetry (i.e., close reading and analyzing the craft of a poem) as they move on in school.
  • Tom Romano taught me a new term, copy change.  This is where students imitate poems by using them as mentor texts.  Then, when they publish their poetry, they thank the poet about what they’ve learned.  It doesn’t matter if the actual poet will never see this.  The attribution is key since it’s teaching them to credit poets who’ve served as inspiration, who’ve taught them from afar.  By copy changing, or imitating, poets stretch themselves thereby becoming more sophisticated poets themselves.
  • Linda Rief quoted poet Tom Kooser who said, “You have to read 100 poems before you write a poem.”  (This reflects the feeling many of us have about immersing our students in any genre of writing before asking them to write it themselves.)  Using Kooser’s advice and Georgia Heard’s heart maps as inspiration, Linda Rief has her students create Heart Books throughout the school year (2-3 days/month).
    • Heart Books are blank books Rief’s students use to collect poems published in a variety of books that are connected to one issue on their heart map.  Students hand-copy the poems into their Heart Books and use a variety of illustration techniques (e.g., paper tearing, watercolor) to illustrate the poem in a way that holds value to the student.  Rief’s students have to write about how they connected to the poem.  Finally, the students have to research the poet and what s/he has to say about reading or writing.
    • At the end of the school year:
      • Rief’s students have seven two-page spreads in their Heart Books.
      • They have to reflect on their experience by completing a written reflection that answers the following questions:
        1. Before doing the heart book, what did you think/know about poetry? What made you think that?
        2. Since doing the heart book what have you noticed about poetry? What have you learned about poetry?
    • How much do you want to do Heart Books with your students next year?

2)  Celebrating Joyce Sidman: Winner of the 2013 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children

I learned about Joyce Sidman back in 2007 when I read This Is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness.  I shared the book with my students in our poetry unit of study and hooked them on trying out poems of apology and forgiveness.  In 2009, I was a Cybils Poetry Judge when I crossed paths with Red Sings Treetops. I was eager to attend the session honoring Sidman who given the 2013 NCTE Award of Excellence in Poetry for Children.  (Though I was mentally kicking myself for forgetting to bring my copies of her books with me to NCTE.  I would’ve loved to have had her sign them.)

During the celebration, Sidman took us behind the scenes of her most recent book, What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms, & Blessingstelling attendees the story of how it came to be.  While I cannot take you on the same behind-the-scenes tour, I can share a couple of pages from What the Heart Knows with you:

Click on the image to enlarge.
Click on the image to enlarge.
Click on the image to enlarge.
Click on the image to enlarge.

Sidman gave us the back story on “Blessing on the Smell of Dog” with us.  While I cannot do justice to that back story, I can share the link to a writing activity from her website based off of that poem.  It’s one you might choose to do with your students.  (Whether they mentor themselves after the idea of the poem or copy change it… that’s up to you and to them!)

Here are some tidbits about poetry I picked up from Sidman’s:

Poetry helps us discover our
  • Voice: our own unique way of seeing things
  • Heart: what we care deeply about
  • History: experiences that have shaped us
Poetry can help students
  • Find their own voice — the power of the words they’re writing
  • Discover what’s in their heart — what’s important to them
  • Write their own history

Sidman’s new book is a treasure you’ll want to have in your classroom library.  For a chance to win a copy, please read the giveaway information at the bottom of this post.

Giveaway Information:

  • This giveaway is a copy of  What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms, & Blessings.  Many thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for sponsoring this giveaway.
  • To enter for a chance to win a copy of What the Heart Knows each reader may leave a comment related to poetry. All comments left on or before Thursday, December 26th, 2013 at 11:59 p.m. EDT will be entered into a random drawing using a random number generator on Friday, December 27th.  I will announce the winner’s name at the bottom of this post later that day.
  • Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.  From there, my contact at HMH will ship the book out to you.  (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field.)

Comments are now closed.

Congratulations to Holly Mueller whose commenter number was selected using the random number generator. She’ll receive a copy of What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms, & Blessings. Here’s what she said:

I’ve tried to read more poetry for myself this year, but it still isn’t anywhere near equal to the other genres I read more frequently. I need to increase it more – this post inspires me to do that! I loved the most recent poetry book I read, Dog Songs by Mary Oliver. I LOVE the illustrations in the book you’re giving away, and I look forward to reading the poems!

Stacey Shubitz View All

I am a literacy consultant who has spent over a decade working with teachers to improve the teaching of writing in their classrooms. While I work with teachers and students in grade K-6, I'm a former fourth and fifth-grade teacher so I have a passion for working with upper elementary students.

I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).

26 thoughts on “Poetic Inspiration from #NCTE13 + a Book Giveaway Leave a comment

  1. We begin our poetry unit soon after the new year begins and it’s my favorite! Fourth graders love to imitate great poetry in their own writing and to share ideas in just about any poetic form. Last year a group in our community even had a poetry writing “contest”. A local musician set one of my students’ poems to music and performed it for a live audience! Pretty cool stuff!

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  2. Great inspiration! When we finished our poetry unit, I was sad to move because the kids were really into it and writing some great poetry themselves. I’ve been showing them a piece of art each day, now I think I’ll do a poem each day so poetry is not left behind. They are both forms of art anyway!

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  3. I’ve tried to read more poetry for myself this year, but it still isn’t anywhere near equal to the other genres I read more frequently. I need to increase it more – this post inspires me to do that! I loved the most recent poetry book I read, Dog Songs by Mary Oliver. I LOVE the illustrations in the book you’re giving away, and I look forward to reading the poems!

    Like

  4. I am envious that you attended the conference and that you found such wonderful sessions. Poetry is so essential to our lives and to the daily routine of school life. I love finding a new and juicy poem like a perfect slice of warm tomato from the garden, or a beam of sunlight!

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  5. In 2009 I attend the Central Utah Writing Project. One of our instructors was obsessed with zombie haiku, and we’ve been sending around zombie haiku as writing project fellows ever since. Poetry writing has really been a creative outlet for many of us. Thanks for reminding me about that.

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  6. Thank you for sharing all of this information. So helpful in the wake of a what feels like poetry drying up in the world of education. I love this beyond belief that so many were able to hear the words of these presenters. I am sure they were forever moved by the power that poetry offers to us as educators and our students. Encountering a poem is like seeing life in front of us, whether it is our own or something outside of ourselves. It broadens everything.

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  7. Love this:
    Poetry helps us discover our

    Voice: our own unique way of seeing things
    Heart: what we care deeply about
    History: experiences that have shaped us

    Poetry can help students

    Find their own voice — the power of the words they’re writing
    Discover what’s in their heart — what’s important to them
    Write their own history

    Wish I could have been there.

    Like

  8. Brilliant! I love the idea of a poem a day as well as thanking the poet. We just finished a poetry project where students had to pick a theme, research 10 poems related to their theme using poetry books, anthologies and the internet, then respond thoughtfully both in writing as well as visually.

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  9. Brilliant. Thank you so much for sharing! We just finished a poetry project in which children chose a theme, searched through poetry books, anthologies and online for 10 poems related to their theme and wrote a reflection and created a visual response for each of their poems. I am so inspired by their work that I think we’ll continue with a poem a day!

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  10. I love the idea of the “Heart Books”. I think that a student illustrating his/her interpretation of a poem (or story) is key to that student’s understanding and appreciation of that particular poem and poetry in general. It is exactly what I have done with my own children, though not in book form.

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  11. I love Joyce Sidman’s poetry! I presented and gifted her book “Songs of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems” to my children’s school library some years ago (it tied into an all-school science curriculum which was parent taught!). I love this post on poetry, something that in general is not my favorite genre of writing/reading; it reminds me to keep reading poetry for myself and my family!

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  12. I just love Georgia Heard and the lovely ways she encourages us to keep poetry central to our teaching across the year.
    Tom Romano’s copy change suggestions are great. I think it’s particularly important to credit the poet a student shadowed. Doing this seems to bring the student into the world of poets somehow.

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  13. I am always on the look out for good mentor texts for teachers as well as students.I love Tom Romano’s copy/change idea and the act of thanking the poet for teaching them. Simple and beautiful!

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  14. A favorite bookseller showed me this book right after it came out. I’m headed to the bookstore today to buy a present for me! No time to read the entire post now, but I’ll be back. I love poetry – thanks for sharing your notes with us!

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  15. “Poetry isn’t just saved for April” is a quote that I will return to and reflect on often. The idea of genre units as “the best instruction” is still hard because any and every content area of study should be rich in literature, informational text, poetry, drama and lots of writing! Thanks for your NCTE reflections!

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  16. Our TC poetry unit is my favorite, I am always overwhelmed, sometimes to tears, by words from the hearts of my students. Usually it’s writers who struggle in other units, poetry frees everyone to feel!

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  17. Thanks for reminding me about Joyce Sidman’s new book and for sharing the information from the other session. I love Tom Romano’s idea of having students thank the poet who gave them inspiration and expressing what they learned. It is something I will add to my thinking.

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  18. What a rich post! I’ve read about Sidman’s book on a few blogs and plan to get a copy. I am inspired to start 2014 with a poem a week and making heart books. Students who read and appreciate poetry fill their cups for dealing with life’s ups and downs.

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  19. Both of these sessions were so inspiring, Stacey! I have told several teachers about Linda Rief’s Heart Books and I don’t think they’re waiting until next year to start them. Thank you for reminding me this morning of all the wisdom shared at NCTE.

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  20. Thanks for the inspiration! I have been trying to use poetry and allow children to emulate (K. Gallagher) various text. I will now always have the students thank the author! The idea of a collection of favorites is brilliant! Thank you❤️Thank you❤️Thank you!

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