Children’s author and poet, Buffy Silverman, has always been curious and inquisitive. As a child, she eagerly crept with the insects and worms, read voraciously, and dreamed big dreams as a wide-eyed child in an awaiting discoverable world.
Buffy continues to seek and discover ways to play with language as a representation of whatever her curiousness uncovers. In her newest book, On a Snow-Melting Day: Seeking Signs of Spring, due out on February 4, 2020, you can practically hear the words slip from each page.
As teachers, we often encourage our writers to use sensory language that grabs a reader and describes a scene or moment within a story. Poetry lends itself as a mentor text for multiple purposes, often in small packages. In the pages of On a Snow-Melting Day, readers will be mesmerized by both the words and accompanying images sure to make the eyes of our students widen in wonder. These two spreads give you a peek at the beauty Buffy has paired with equally lovely wordplay.
Upon the upcoming release of Buffy’s book, I wanted to ask her about her writing life’s journey toward poetry.
When did you first begin writing poetry?
Buffy: I was not drawn to writing as a child, but I was a voracious reader. I began writing for children when my own kids were thrusting one picture book after another in my lap. My focus turned to poetry about ten years ago, and I think that has helped me discover my strength as a writer.
What gifts have you discovered as a poet in a big world of writers?
Buffy: Poetry allows a writer to play with language, and that’s something I greatly enjoy. In ON A SNOW-MELTING DAY, I had fun creating word combinations like pink-plonking, marsh-mucking, duck-dabbling day that describe the sounds and sights of the season. Poetry also requires you to carefully consider each word to create an image or convey an emotion. And it’s much easier for me to tackle this in a short poem than in a longer piece of writing!
If you could give teachers one bit of advice for including more poetry in their classroom, what would be one small move they could make?
Buffy: Reading poetry to your students can be a gift. Let them enjoy listening to a poem each day, without asking for discussion or analysis. Then read the poem again and ask students to remember one or two favorite words. Write those words in a class word bank, and encourage your students to borrow them for their own writing.
Collecting words across multiple days, creating a bank of words to borrow from as a writer is a wonderful way to begin inserting the power of poetry as a mentor text for all types of writing. To leave you with just a bit more, I’ve taken two other poems, in addition to On a Snow-Melting Day, to give you some ways to use poetry as mentors no matter what unit of study or part of the writing process your writers find themselves in today.
Words from the opening pages of On a Snow-Melting Day:
Writers can use these lines as inspiration to create sounds and moods within their own writing. Words like cuddle, create a cozy mood to an environment, as well as “clouds break.” Encouraging students to describe the mood they hope to create within the setting or environment of narrative or information text. The use of alliteration and rhyme across these lines creates a feeling of sound and movement within the moment of the story of this melty day near the start of spring.
“Tulip Time Festival” from the 2018 publication The Poetry of US
When I first read “Tulip Time Festival,” a poem about a festival not too far from where I live, I was persuaded to visit. The precise language Buffy uses in this descriptive poem shows young writers ways they also can use precise language to persuade a reader. Assisting writers in breaking down the description of “Tulip Time Festival” would be a valuable exercise before breaking or expanding the description of a reason that supports a persuasive claim within opinion writing.
For instance, looking at the first stanza and how it uses words associated with a painting (i.e., paint, canvas, brushed) to describe the tulips covering the area. Could students also take a claim within a persuasive piece and describe it in this same way? A favorite sport, the safest pet, the best vacation spot, the easiest recipe–could writers make connections and descriptions using precise language to persuade their reader?
The above example, “What Does a River Rock Gather,” was published in Cricket magazine in March of last year. It takes a simple river rock and breaks it open into all it can offer. When I consider information pieces my third graders will write later this year, I believe a poem like this, taking a simple topic like a river rock, can inspire my writers to break open their topics. Imagine lines similar to these opening an information piece. Using this poem as an exercise in finding the unimaginable within a simple object or topic. This kind of craft work encourages writers to elaborate and create language that plays in the ears of a reader.
I hope you are able to engage with Buffy’s poems this week with your writers. Take Buffy’s advice and read poetry every day. Collect words, phrases, and language to borrow within the writing students are drafting this week. Encourage play and curiosity within their writing process, teasing out any creativity that may be dormant awaiting the reawakening of a season in On a Snow-Melting Day.
Wait…there’s more? Lerner Publishing Group is offering a giveaway of Buffy’s newest books! See the giveaway information below.
- This giveaway is for a copy of On a Snow-Melting Day: Seeking Signs of Spring by Buffy Silverman. Many thanks to Lerner Publishing Group for donating one copy to a lucky reader. For a chance to win this copy of On a Snow-Melting Day, please leave a comment about this post by Sunday, February 2, at 11:59 p.m. EST. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winner, whose name I will announce at the bottom of this post, by Friday, February 7. You must have a U.S. mailing address to enter the giveaway.
- 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 will ship your book out to you. (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)
- If you are the winner of the book, I will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – SNOW-MELTING. Please respond to my e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement. Best of luck!