Celebrate: Five Star Things About the Week

It’s time to celebrate all the goodness of the week. Share you celebrations at Ruth Ayres Writes.



Students! One curled up in a corner reading. Another brought me poems she wrote in response to Susan Blackaby’s visit. She also told me that I have taught her so much. One more student thought I was a wizard on the computer as I quickly put his poem into the drop box so I could have it for the Poetry Postcard Project.


Students illustrating their poems for the POetry Post Card Project. They are some of the best in the years I have been doing it.


Drama club. This is us at last Saturday’s practice. I discovered this week that we will have over thirty hours of rehearsal when we perform in April.
The students need find their confidence of working off-script.


Voting. Students are voting for their favorite picture book. It’s the Washington Children’s Choice Picture Book Award. Indeed it will be their choice as my least favorite book is winning. Sigh, the power of the vote. However, they take the voting seriously and every book has at least one vote.

Sharing a poem I was revising with a second grade class. It’s just so fun to go into a class and share work to get feedback. It was a pantoum and we talked about while I hate math, I am engaged in math when I write poetry.

What are you celebrating?

Poetry Friday: Playing with Pantoums

Poetry Friday is held at Mary Lee’s A Year of Reading.

Over at Deowriter, I wrote a poem about the moonrise. This week I have been rewriting some earlier poems into pantoums.

we waited for moonrise atop the roof
while the beets grew lesser moons below
in the garden soil we forgot to plow
stars flickered as we tried remembering

while the beets grew lesser moons below
And voles munched on tomato roots
stars flickered as we tried remembering
constellations as slugs harvested garden greens

And voles munched on tomato roots
we sang songs and counted
constellations as slugs harvested garden greens
shooting stars lit up the night sky

we sang songs and counted
in the garden soil we forgot to plow
shooting stars lit up the night sky
we waited for moonrise atop the roof

Beginning April 1, Thirty Days of Student Poetry will be featured on this blog for National Poetry Week.

Happy Friday.
Happy poetry.

Celebrate: Five Star Things About the Week

It’s Saturday. Time to celebrate the goodness of the week. Visit Ruth Ayres Writes for more celebrations.

This rainbow after a very long day on Thursday.

Fifth graders typing the poems of first and second graders for me. These are the poems from Susan Blackaby’s visit. The plan is to put them in a book.

Series books have been order for the grant I received. So has a new rug for the library.

Over 150 poems were submitted to the Young Poets Digest, a part of the National Schools Writing Project.

Spring is finally here! Enough said.

What are you celebrating?

Poetry Friday: Poetry Pairing

20140313-194956.jpgThank you, Julie at  The Drift Record for hosting Poetry Friday.

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 11.32.43 AMWho hasn’t heard of this fabulous new anthology?

My school is currently finishing up reading the nominees for the Washington Children’s Choice Picture Book Award.


I read the nominee,  Pluto Visits Earth by Steve Metzger, illustrations by Jared Lee last week. One of the students immediately recognized the art work as the guy who illustrates the Black Lagoon series by Mike Thaler.

Then students listened to this great poem from the Poetry Friday Anthology to pair with this book:

Uh, Oh Plutoby Jeannine Atkins

Once Pluto was proud to be called one of nine planets.But astronomers decided he was too small,
too far away from the Sun, made unpredictable orbits.
They tore pictures of poor Pluto off walls
and museum halls showed only eight planets.
Happily, Pluto found new friends, streaking balls
of rocks, dust, and ice called comets.
Orbiting whimsically together, Pluto is greatest of all.

Don’t forget to sign up of a Poetry Postcard.

Happy Friday.
Happy Poetry.

It’s Monday; What Are You Reading?


Thanks to Teach Mentor Texts for providing a gathering place for readers.

+-+792672032_140I finished A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graf. It’s a book that I need to reread.  I was reminded of Savvy by Ingrid Law.

It was a rather fun Sunday as my 9 YO grand girl finished her Meadows’ Fairy book and had her nose in Because of Winn Dixie.

Last week, I read the following books to K-3.  They are part of the 2014 Readers’ Choice Awards for Washington state:


Pluto Visits Earth by Steve Metzger


Out of This World by  Amy Sklansky


Goldilocks and The Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems

We vote next week on the twenty nominees. What are you reading?

Celebrate: Five Star Things About the Week

Please see what others are celebrating at Ruth Ayre Writes.

This sneak attack photo of a grandmother and granddaughter reader the school play script together.

Teaching third graders how to save a document. In the computer lab for the first time this year, they followed directions very well.

I am half way through the month of writing everyday at Deowriter for the Slice Of Life Story Challenge at Two Writing Teachers.



Bringing out the parachute at PreK Storytime. As you can see is was loads of fun.

The response to the Poetry Postcard Project. Over sixty have signed up and there’s room for more. Please visit HERE to provide me with your snail mail details.

What are you celebrating?

Poetry Friday: “Sound Waves” by Amy VanDerwater

On Wednesday, Amy stopped by to have tea and talk about her award winning book, FOREST HAS A SONG. Today she’s backed with a poem published in the POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY for SCIENCE.
Listen to Amy read her poem:

Sound Waves

If you have ever seen the ocean
throwing cold waves from her hand
pulling shells from mighty depths
tossing each upon wet sand,
you can understand how sound waves
move like water through dry air.
One-by-one, vibrations follow
pressing sounds from here-to-there.
Sounds can pass through liquids.
Through gases. Solids too.
But sounds waves moving through the air
are sound waves meant for you.
Violin or thunderstorm —
each will reach your waiting ear
to play upon a tiny drum.
This is how you hear.

© Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

Poetry Friday is held at Rogue Anthropologist. Thanks, Kara.

Happy Friday.
Happy Poetry.

In Conversation With Amy VanDerwater

Today I have Amy VanDerwater, author of FOREST HAS A SONG: POEMS. Her book was recently selected as the winner of the 2013 CYBILS Award for Poetry.
I first interviewed Amy at Check It Out in December 2102

And this just in: Amy informed me that FOREST HAS A SONG just won 2014 Golden Kite Honor Book Award for Picture Book Text that FOREST from SCBWI.

Imagine Amy and me sitting in some cozy chairs, drinking tea, and nibbling on cookies.

Jone: Amy, congratulations on winning the CYBILS’ Award for Poetry. How did you find out?

AMY: Thank you, I was truly surprised, and it was fun to awaken to Mark holding the laptop at the bedside at 5:30am.

Jone: Well, I wonder if we could have a conversation about the process regarding FOREST HAS A SONG? The idea that a poetry book had an arc or a “spine” was discussed during the CYBILS’ deliberations in both rounds. It’s also been discussed among my poetry friends. So how did you decide the arc or the “spine” of the poems for FOREST HAS A SONG?

AMY: I wrote to Marcia Leonard at HMH about your FOREST arc question because I did not determine the order of the poems at all.  I thought that Robbin Gourley, the illustrator, had done so, but she referred me to Marcia. She told me, “Marcia Leonard decided the order after my first attempt. And she was right about everything and got the project on track. She would probably love to share her thinking. I remember she said she spread everything out on her table (my sketches, etc.) and ordered the poems which in the end felt exactly right, very organic.”

Jone: Okay, so did any poems change their form?

Amy: Below you can see two draft  versions of “Farewell”, the last poem in the book, from earliest and then newer and then newer….  A notebook keeper, I still have a soft spot for this first version though it does not give FOREST the voice that the final version does.

Original Draft:

Reading my notebook
I think of them all —

Woodpecker poet

Smoke-blowing ball

Tiniest tree frog
trying to woo

A wintergreen leaf

Her silky shoe

One spider spinning
shimmering floss

Mysterious bones



Forest holds secrets

Reading my notebook
I think of them all.

Revised Last Draft:

Forest Breathes
Forest breathes
a spicy breeze.
It blows
into my home.
I find a path
of pinecones.
Between tall trees
I roam.
On narrow trails
I silent step.
I go
I don’t know where
light brown
dark brown
every brown
on airy earth
in earthy air.

Jone: The transformation of the final poem is incredible.  I felt I was reading the list of secrets of the forest in your notebook.  And then in a process of letting go, the second poem reminds me of a flash draft of the essence of the poem, what you most want to remember.  And then finally you seem ready to say “farewell”   and the essentials returned. So lovely.
What else do you remember about the process of writing this book?

Amy: Sometimes I fear that I am not a very thoughtful writer.  I cannot remember too much about process or why I did things a certain way.  It seems at times that a word is just off or a line must be a particular way, and I don’t even feel that it is me making the decision.  The poem decides.  This  might sound strange, but it feels very true to me.

This is a book about family memories: memories of  my childhood camping days, our family’s hikes behind the house, and our trips to my husband’s family camp in the Adirondacks.  I’ve said before that this book is a sort of love letter to Mark, who carefully observes each wild creature we see or hear.  When I flip through the pages of FOREST now, I can be many places, in many times, at once.

The poems are short, perhaps because I have a short attention span.  But I like being right there in the center of just a few words, evening them out again and again, saying them out loud until all of the extras are gone.  Sometimes I miss one or two extra words, and they can drive me crazy!

Hmm…it is fun to think about something I have not thought about in a long time.  Usually when I write, I simply move on to the next project-voice in my head.  (Keeps the insecurities away!)

Jone: Any word from Marcia?

Amy: Yes, here are words from Marcia:
“As I studied the manuscript, I was struck by the richness of the images and the fluidity of the language, but I was concerned that that the book not be simply a collection of disparate pieces.  When I consider any project, I always ask myself: What will distinguish this book from others that cover the same subject? What is the unexpected element that will add value beyond the intrinsic quality of the text and art?  Very quickly I saw that the poems could be rearranged to create a narrative arc and reflect a year in the life of a girl who loves to explore the woods near her home.  Robbin could then show the progression of the seasons—through the changes in the forest and the actions of the main character, her dog, and her family.  And the reader could absorb all this without it being overtly stated.  It was very satisfying to see the results.  In essence, I feel that my role was to help Forest Has a Song become the book it wanted to be.”

So gracious and smart. I am lucky.

Jone: I find that the idea of creating an arc, or an order of poems fascinating. It’s made me think about my own little book of poetry.
Looking back, I know I could have put more emphasis on the order. It really takes a team to create a book from the manuscript, doesn’t. How great to have an editor like Dinah Stevenson and Marcia Leonard as editorial consultant.

Can you talk about bit about the different forms you used in the book?

Amy: It is so fascinating to see how many people work together to make a book a book.  I feel so lucky to get this peek behind the scenes.  It still feels magical and mysterious, and I love learning about it.
I hear what you are saying about ordering poems.  I wonder if it helps to have a different reader, someone not so close to the work, to see new possibilities in order.  Don’t you just feel like you can be too close to it?

Regarding form, I mostly write in some kind of meter and rhyme, even if it is not a named form.  I do a lot of counting of syllables and spend lots of time flipping through my rhyming dictionary, making lists of rhymes.  In FOREST, there are a couple of haiku, and I explore various forms in my notebook and on The Poem Farm, but usually I just let a poem find the voice it wants to find.  I enjoy trying out the various meters and rhyme schemes in poems I admire; that is a great exercise.  Sometimes I hear favorite poems in my head when I write, and so snips of meters from favorite poems nuzzle their way into my own verses.

Jone: What was your biggest surprise with FOREST?

Amy: My biggest surprise is that FOREST is actually a book and that people have actually read it.  I am honored that Clarion would choose those poems, thrilled that Robbin would take the time to illustrate them, and am just surprised every time likes the book.  I feel lucky to be part of it all, but in a way, I don’t feel responsible.  In a way, it’s as if I got to be there when those poems wanted to be written.  But I did revise them!

Jone: Amy, thank you for stopping by today. I could talk poetry all day long. Thanks for bringing by the cookies.

Please return on Friday for a poem featured in the new POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY for SCIENCE. Bonus: hear Amy read her poem.

It’s Monday. What Are You Reading?


Head to Teach Mentor Texts for discover what others are reading.

I started The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch. We’re reading it for this month’s book club.


I am reading A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graf as well.


On Thursday of last week, eleven students lunched with author and poet Susan Blackaby.  She asked them what they  liked to read.  Since the group was K through fifth grade the responses varied.  A fifth grader is in the midst of the Divergent series. The kinder said she has her mom read to her and a third grader is into the Magic Tree House series.

Another fifth grader  is reading Harry Potter books and pleased that his reading had improved two levels.  I was really struck by his comment.  This is a boy who in first grade was taking off his shoes and socks while I was reading to his class.  He was “too hot.” He was a boy who the younger grades reminded me of Leo, the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus.  He has bloomed and it’s just taken time.  I wish in our crazy data driven and assessment crazy culture that we could remember that some student take time.  And that the greatest gift parents could give their kids is the love of reading.  That’s what his family has done as they are all readers.

What are you reading?

Poetry Friday: First Friday


It used to be that the “First Friday” of every month, grade levels would go to the library to share their writing. We don’t get to do that any more. Time is tight in all classrooms. But what I can do is offer up student poems here on the first Friday of each month.
These poems are a result of the three days with author, Susan Blackaby.

I jump and run fast so cats don’t get me I’m
Tiny but sneaky. I can hide in plain site
And if people try to catch me I will bite
I’m also can be cute nice but if I’m scared
I can fight I’m small but in my head I’m tall

~Rylee D.
4th grade

I am a pink pig.
I am as chubby as a bookshelf.
I waddle and trottle.
I oink like thunder.
I am the barn pig.

~Brevin B.
4th grade

I am a white wolf
I’m faster then a horse
I leap, gallop
I’m invisible in snow

~Vadim C.
4th grade

I am a blue bird.
I am as small as a mouse.
I hover, flap, and glide across the sky.
Dog bark at me as I drift above them.
I am one type of my 9,000 different species.

~Mariah K.
4th grade

This is a sneak peak of the poems coming in April. Poetry Friday is held at Reflections on the Teche.