Happy Poetry Friday, all! I recently stumbled upon a treasure — The Lost Words written by Robert Macfarlane and stunningly illustrated by Jackie Morris. Somehow I missed when our Poetry Friday friend Alan J. Wright shared his thoughts about this book here on Poetry Friday back in October, however thought I would share my perspective as a Kindergarten teacher who infuses the study of nature and poetry into every school day. I think it’s worth sharing again, and frankly I’m surprised I haven’t seen/heard/read more about this book filled with words and creatures that are slipping away from this fragile earth.
First off, the book is GINORMOUS! (Don’t you love that word?) I placed it next to my copy of A Wrinkle in Time, which I’m currently re-reading, to show you just how big it is. The size of the book alone will hook my 5- and 6-year old poetic naturalists. And the fact that it says it is “A Spell Book” seals the deal. These “spells” take the form, as Alan previously pointed out, of anagrams. They are subtle and, yes, spellbinding.
Each poem is preceded by a gorgeous spread of a mystery. Clues sprinkled here and there. The name of each upcoming subject is hidden — well the letters are — providing a clue for readers of what’s to come. Can you see “bluebell” hidden amongst the trunks of this stand of trees?
Morris’ artwork is detailed and elegant.
Macfarlane’s poetry is so gorgeous that I often forgot I was reading a series of anagrams, which in my experience are often humorous and playful. These are written by not only an accomplished poet, but a true naturalist. They are filled with fabulous language and information. What a wonderful addition to my collection to help foster an appreciation of nature, an understanding of the importance of conservation, and a love of poetry.
And on that note…
Picking up our host Elizabeth Steinglass’ challenge today, here is a first pass at my “Why I’m Here” poem as it relates to my work as a Kindergarten teacher and lover of all living things. It feels like a manifesto of sorts that I’ll let simmer on the back burner a while and take up again. At least it’s a start.
Exactly one year ago today — February 20, 2017 — my writing life changed. Began, actually. I wrote my first blog post here on Wondering and Wandering. (Click here to see!) I remember surfing the net during February vacation week and stumbling upon a blog post mentioning Two Writing Teachers’ annual Slice of Life Challenge. I had never heard of it before. I dug around a little bit, read a few posts about participating, and was convinced it was a challenge I’d like to take. It seemed like just the gentle nudge I’d been waiting for to get writing, something I had been wanting to do for quite some time. Writer’s Workshop has always been my most favorite part of the school day, and I thoroughly enjoy sitting and writing alongside my Kindergarten writers. They get a kick out of watching me, too! That cold February day I heard the rallying cry loud and clear — that writing teachers need to write — and off I went! I honestly thought I’d be lucky to make it through the month. After March perhaps I’d post from time to time.
So here I am. Still a humble, little blog with just 100 posts (SOLC Tuesdays and Poetry Fridays), 43 followers, 1,350 visits, but readers from as far away as New Zealand, South Africa, and India. Now that’s exciting! I can’t wait to see where this journey will lead over the next month. The next year. I’m writing each and every day in my notebook thanks to Teach Write’s #DWHabit and I’m filling up my Writing Ideas Padlet to help get me through March and beyond. Feel free to join me there! Take an idea. Add an idea. Thanks for stopping by.
How did your life as a teacher writer begin? I’d love to hear your story!
I often wonder about the writing journey my Kindergarten poets will take as they move through elementary school. I love poetry and encourage my young writers to welcome poetry into their hearts, minds, and lives. But what happens when they leave? Will they be encouraged to continue flexing their poetic muscles? For some of my students, poetry is where they found their writing power, their voice. But what if that power isn’t nurtured. What then?
Each grade in my district dabbles in poetry as part of the writing curriculum. The First Graders write a bit of haiku when they study Japanese culture in the spring. The Second Graders have unit of poetry in their curriculum, but if the teacher isn’t passionate about poetry, where will it lead? What excites me is the opportunity our Third Graders have to work with a poet-in-residence. A local poet visits with the whole grade, then individual classes, and finally individual students over a period of weeks. Our art teacher works in collaboration with them, giving them the time and space to create works of art to accompany and amplify their words. Each year I take great pleasure in peaking at all of their work, but I mostly enjoy seeing where my Kindergarten poets have travelled to on their journey. Here are just a few samples. (Click on the image to zoom in on the text.) As you can imagine, I am beaming with pride for them at not only their work, but the journey they’ve clearly taken.
Laura Shovan’s February Daily Poetry Project is well underway. Group members have provided some fabulous inspiration for our daily exercise. The stunning woodblock print below was created by the grandmother of one participant. It is a treasure for sure and transported me back to the medieval period when falconry was a sport of Kings and the finest ladies in court were often seen with their falcon. The latest accessory! Here’s an attempt at a tanka inspired by Milady.
We are sitting on the plane. The weather is OK here in Toronto, we are on time, and the Super Bowl isn’t due to start until 6:30pm. It’s 2:30pm and the flight back to Boston is just over an hour. Plenty of time! Seat belts are buckled, chair is in the upright position, seat back tray secured. Exits secured. Let’s go! Not so fast. The pilot tells us there is a holdup back in Boston. A plane at our assigned gate has mechanical issues and we can’t leave Toronto until it has been moved. Can’t this happen while we are flying? Unfasten your seat belts and wait for further information.
Here’s the pilot again. The plane in Boston still has issues and can’t be moved. The cabin staff circulate with water for everyone. We wait some more. Now the pilot tells us we are free to move about the cabin or return to the waiting area back in the airport and stretch our legs. Passengers bound out of their seats. My husband and I stay put. We’ll let everyone else off first. There are only 20 rows on this plane, so it’ll empty quickly. The stairs are rolled out to the plane, but the door doesn’t open. Everyone is standing, waiting. We are still sitting, relaxing.
Here’s the pilot again. He tells everyone to sit back down and prepare for take off. The issues remain in Boston, but they are being taken care of. Time to go.
I took a big leap of faith (mostly in myself!) and signed on to Laura Shovan’s 6th Annual February Daily Poetry Project for the first time. This year’s chosen theme is ekphrastic poetry — letting an image inspire the words. During the week-long warm-up (thank goodness for that!) we’ve been inspired by a full range of incredible art, from paintings to textiles, sculpture to sketches. While it’s been tough to pull this off in addition to teaching and life, I never thought I’d have so much fun flexing my writing muscles! Apologies to Poetry Project participants and the #TeachWrite crew, as they’ve seen most of these.
We do not have approval to share today’s artwork, but here is my poem to accompany the sketches of someone writing at a desk, an image of a map, a driver behind the wheel of a car with the open road ahead.
filled with discoveries
often no direction, no itinerary
wondering which path to take
always an adventure
expect the unexpected
until destination reached
— Christie Wyman, 2018
My amazing Kindergarten poets helped me with the one below!
I replaced the provided art work with this photo (below) as we did not have approval to share the original.