April 12, 2016

Friday, November 21, 2008

Amok in Third Grade, Day 3

It’s Poetry Friday…
and it’s Opposites Day with my third graders!
Teachers love this lesson because it teaches kids how/why to use stanzas. (Aside #1 – “stanza” is the Italian word for “room.” I ask students to imagine that reading a poem with several stanzas is like walking into the different rooms of a house.)
Kids love it, too. Opposites – hey, we get that!
The model poem was given to me by MSAC poet-in-the-schools Roseanne Singer. She was my mentor poet.
(Aside #2 – artists coming into the MD State Arts Council school residency program student teach. We accompany an artist on one residency, observing first and picking up classes throughout the week.)
Swift Things Are Beautiful Swift things are beautiful: Swallows and deer, And lightning that falls Bright-veined and clear, Rivers and meteors, Wind in the wheat, The strong-withered horse, The runner’s sure feet. And slow things are beautiful: The closing of day, The pause of the wave That curves downward to spray, The ember that crumbles, The opening flower, And the ox that moves on In the quiet of power. Elizabeth Coatsworth
(Aside #3 – Coatsworth wrote “The Cat Who Went to Heaven,” 1931 Newbery winner.) Students love to pick out their favorite lines in this poem. We look at our hands and say, “Veins really do look like lightning!” We pat ourselves on the back between the shoulders because that’s where our withers would be if we were horses. Someone always brings up the wonderful last two lines. Because our culture equates power with speed, talking about that slow, powerful ox creates a great discussion. By now, we’ve already generated a list of opposites on the board for kids to choose from. Basically, this is a two-topic list poem. I remind them several times, “Leave a space between your opposites!” Often, we’ll write a class poem together before I send kids off to write on their own. When one of the students suggested “Sit/Stand” for the class poem, Ms. Kerner and I raised our eyebrows at each other. Sounds kind of limited – not much for a list. But we decided to go for it. Here is what the third graders came up with: Sit/Stand When I am sitting I can Play video games and PSP, Roll on my skateboard – scoot! Calmly listen to my MP3 player. Swing on a swing – whoosh! When I am standing I can Play freeze tag, Do a kick flip on my skateboard, Dance to Hannah Montana music. Ride on a merry-go-round – scream! The teacher, Ms. Kerner, noticed that we had a pattern going. It happened kind of magically and by the end of the poem became intentional – line 2 “play,” line 3 “skateboard,” line four “music,” line five “on the playground.” Ah, we really are poets. The next lesson – animal similes.
The Poetry Friday Round Up is at Brimstone Soup today. Visit for some poetry you can sink your teeth into.


Anonymous said...

The coatsworth poem is lovely. What a great way to talk about stanza.

holly cupala said...

Sorry about that - somehow I didn't get Mr. Linky set up correctly, and it crashed my blog! Come on over to post your poem on the link.

Anonymous said...

Great poem. I'm stealing this "opposites" idea to use with one of my writers' workshops some day!

Author Amok said...

Jennifer -- That's great. I'm happy to share the lesson. It might be nice to pair it with Frost's "Fire and Ice."


Suzanne said...

:: Love your blog - just found you!
:: Love Elizabeth Coatsworth - I've posted about her for Poetry Friday many times. I just counted! 12 times. Here is a link to: my 12 Elizabeth Coatsworth posts.
:: Love this post. I home-school my kids and will be using this lesson with them. They are 7 & 9.
:: Will add you to my blog reader that feeds into my sidebar.



Author Amok said...

Suzanne -- So glad you visited. I'll check out your Coatsworth posts.

I usually do some kind of cooperative game as a warm up for this lesson. Try this -- tell your children that you are going to leave the room briefly. When you come back, they should be doing something opposite. You can guess what their opposite is (sit/stand, book open/book closed, elbows off the table/on the table etc.)

Have fun & please let me know how they like the lesson!