Monday and Tuesday are my last workshops at Norwood Elementary School in Dundalk.
It’s been a great residency. Because it’s my second year at the school, the teachers and I are comfortable working together. I walked in to the school earlier this month with a good sense of what to expect from the students.
Lately, I’ve been saving a fun lesson for the last day of elementary school residencies. The focus of this session is writing with imagination. The model poem is “Eliza’s Jacket,” by Calef Brown. It’s from one of the Shovan family’s favorite books, “Polka Bats and Octopus Slacks.” (Listen to an amazing review of this book by Daniel Pinkwater on NPR.)
Eliza’s Jacket Eliza has a jacket, a jacket made of pockets. The pockets all have numbers, numbers on the jacket pockets. Pocket three has bees inside, sixteen contains their honey. Number eight has cracker crumbs and wads of Turkish money. Twenty-three is filled with gum (all unchewed I hope), while right next door in twenty-four is kept a one-inch piece of rope. Thirteen is packed with useless facts, and four has melted snow. What’s in the rest you’ll have to guess. It’s not for us to know. By Calef Brown Used with the author’s permission.
After reading the poem, we talk about all the cool lines.
Some kids like the idea of having bees in one pocket and honey in another. We talk about the melted snow (why doesn't he just say "water"?) The line "all unchewed, I hope" plants the yucky image of chewed up gum in our minds, even if that's not what Eliza has in her pocket.
Our writing exercise is to guess what's in Eliza's other pockets -- or what would be in them if the jacket belonged to us. The prompt: If you could have anything in your pocket, what would it be?
Kids come up with amazing ideas for these poems. Super powers, magical maps, a favorite teacher who will spend the summer with you – going to movies, reading together and hanging out.
If you’re interested in doing the poetry pocket craft pictured here, please visit my poetry website for kids. You’ll find detailed instructions and a sample response poem from a third grader at Northfield Elementary in Ellicott City, MD.
My kids love Brown’s wacky humor (which also shows in his artwork) and his off-beat rhymes.
The 8-year-old has several of Brown’s poems by heart, like “Olf” the terrible pirate. Olf isn’t awe-striking terrible, more like really pathetic terrible. He has a carrot instead of a parrot – you get the idea.
My favorite Brown poem is “Kansas City Octopus.” Who can resist a disco-loving octopus in tight, red bell-bottoms? Not me.
Brown has a new blog intended for children. Check it out at http://polkabats.blogspot.com/
Enjoy some poetry with your Thanksgiving leftovers. Poetry Friday is brought to you by Under the Covers this week.
Have a wonderful holiday weekend. I’ll be spending it with family and friends…at a wrestling tournament.