April 12, 2016

Friday, November 28, 2008

It's Poetry Pocket Friday

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
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.


tanita✿davis said...

Oh, this looks like fun!!

And "melted snow" is ever so much more... hopeful than plain old water.

Author Amok said...

We do have fun with this poem!

You can see how excited the students are to pull each other's poems out of those pockets and read them.

Love Calef Brown -- his poems for kids are gentle, quirky, a little bit twisted.

Ruth said...

What a fun lesson! I love the bulletin board too.

Author Amok said...

Thanks, Ruth. This is a great display to have up when parents are visiting. Everyone gets a kick out of pulling those poems out of the pockets & reading what the students wrote.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for introducing me to this poem! The classroom activity looks and sounds like so much fun. I'd love to have been a fly on the wall (or in pocket #?) for the discussion.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoy Calef Brown's poetry, and your "stretcher" idea is so clever! Neat!

Author Amok said...

Glad you liked it, Lisa. I like to throw in a few lessons for tactile learners. This is a good activity for them.

Andromeda Jazmon said...

I am wondering about that one inch piece of rope. Reminds me of my grandpa's drawer of string too short to save. Great activity for the kids.

Author Amok said...

That memory is a great connection to this poem. Thanks.

Julie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julie said...

Great imagination-stimulation for kids, Laura! Plus it made me check out my own jacket pockets today - in one, a $3.00-off coupon at a local thrift shop; in the other, an earring backing. I much prefer bees and honey, thanks, and had fun imagining what I would write down for your classroom activity!
P.S. Thanks for the comment over at The Drift Record - you're right about the sandwiches.

Author Amok said...

Sure, Julie. Sometimes I write with the kids for this one. My best pocket was a rhyming poem about a magic coat. The coat changed to suit the weather.

laurasalas said...

Oh, fun! Thanks for sharing this poetry activity. I love this kind of stuff!

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