April 12, 2016

Friday, June 1, 2012

Poetry Friday: Voices Fly

My new book is in!

It has the fabulous title Voices Fly -- so fitting for an anthology of student poetry. The subtitle is a bit more weighty (but important): "Exercises and Poems from the Maryland State Arts Council Artist-in-Residence Program." The Artist-in-Residence program funds my schools visits and those by other Maryland poets and artists.

Fellow MSAC artist-in-residence Virginia Crawford and I have been working on the book for about eighteen months. It includes a foreword by Maryland's Poet Laureate, Stanley Plumly!

When the arts council asked me and Ginny to edit a book of student poetry from the program, we were feeling a little more ambitious. What if we designed the book so that it was more than an anthology? What if we invited Maryland's poets-in-the-schools to share their favorite lessons? This way, teachers could actually use the book to teach more poetry in their classrooms.

Christine Stewart, our wonderful administrator at MSAC, agreed to the plan.

Inside Voices Fly, you'll find eight chapters. Each one features a MSAC poet-in-the-schools describing one of her favorite residency workshops, ranging in age levels from kindergarten through high school. Each workshop is followed by student poems written in response to the lesson. The book includes some back matter -- resources recommended by the eight Artist-in-Residence poets.

There will only be a limited number of copies available from the Maryland State Arts Council. However -- GOOD NEWS! -- MSAC's website will have a PDF of the book. In other words, anyone can download Voices Fly for free and make use of the lessons. The website is (be patient, the link may not be up yet).

Today, I am sharing a portion of my chapter on writing odes:

Chapter 6: Simple Odes
Laura Shovan
Upper Elementary through High School

Tone is an elusive concept, yet it crosses over two areas that educators are often required to teach as part of their writing curricula – voice and word choice.

When I began doing school workshops on simple odes, my focus was on use of simile, hyperbole and sensory detail. In working with students, I saw that they also understood the concept of tone as it works in a simple ode.
I like to pick up something random in the classroom. It might be a blackboard eraser, a paperclip, or a tissue. Together, the class brainstorms all of the things we can do with that object. We exaggerate -- a good time to introduce hyperbole -- in order to highlight the object’s value. With the eraser, all of our mistakes can disappear. The paperclip is like a secretary for our school work, keeping it organized and making us efficient. The tissue comforts us when we are sick, dries our tears when we are sad.

At this point, we read and discuss Gary Soto’s “Ode to Pablo’s Tennis Shoes.” We look for similes, hyperbole and description.

Elementary children need the structure of a specific prompt, so we all write odes to our shoes. Middle schoolers still need to have something on hand to write about but are ready for more freedom. My students have written odes to their desks, binders, a bookmark, even the EXIT sign over the door.

The key in an ode, as the children quickly pick up, is that we are making a persuasive argument. The words, similes and descriptions we use – the tone of the poem – needs to convince the reader that these sneakers are the best sneakers in the universe. Through tone, simple odes remind readers to stop and pay attention to everyday objects that deserve praise.
I recently did the workshop on odes with a group of fifth graders at Swansfield Elementary. Here are two of their poems. I bent the rules about having something on hand for Fahd, because he was itching with enthusiasm to write this ode:

Ode to Firefighter
by Fahd K.

Strong and brave
Fights fire with
Cool water
Gallons and gallons
of water coming
from a hose
like a black snake
A big, hard helmet
protects a face
mighty like a god
of fire
Happy as a winner
for saved children
Tired, happy, good
Back to the
fire station.

Tyler understood that odes can easily go from praising an object to over-the-top rhapsodizing. I love his sense of humor in this simple ode:

Ode to My Pants
by Tyler D.

Dear Pants
Thank you for
my legs and
knees from
scrapes on the
You protect
me like armor
in a war and
steel on a vault.
And for giving
me good style!
Pants you
have the
Biggest meaning
on my body.

I hope you'll all stop at the Maryland State Arts Council website and download a copy of Voices Fly for your classroom or your library. Thanks to Swansfield E. S. and the poets' families for allowing me to share the students' work.

Carol at Carol's Corner is hosting Poetry Friday today. Please stop by Carol's blog for more poetry news and reviews.


jama said...

Congrats on the new book! Thanks for sharing part of your Odes chapter and the two poems. Smiling at the Pants Ode :)

Robyn Hood Black said...

Congratulations to you and Ms. Crawford on what is sure to be a terrific and inspiring resource! So glad it will be available online for us non-locals.

Thanks for sharing these two great poems - I particularly love Fahd's line,
"mighty like a god
of fire"

These students obviously had an excellent "teacher." ;0)

Author Amok said...

Thanks, Jama. That pants ode cracks me up!

Robyn -- the firefighter ode is all the more remarkable because of the remarkable kid who wrote it. I loved that he chose such a powerful topic.

Andromeda Jazmon said...

Congratulations on publication of that wonderful book! I love what you are doing with odes and children.

Author Amok said...

Thanks! I was nervous, the first time I tried odes with younger kids. I wasn't sure they would get the combination of hyperbole, heightened simile, and vivid description to create tone in a poem. But they DO get it, and do a wonderful job.

Tara said...

Bravo on the book!!! We just did odes inn our poetry class on Thursday, so reading your post made me wish I had waited! the student odes were wonderful...they certainly "got it"!

Mary Lee said...

Thank you for making your book available in PDF format -- that means I'll be able to send it to all the Kindles/Kindle apps I manage in our school! Your work will touch the lives of many teachers and children!!

Author Amok said...

Hi, Tara. Did your students like the form? What were some of the topics they chose for their odes?

Just checked out your blog. I'm sorry I can't post a comment (darn Blogger), but I love the idea of the waves not cooperating with a trip to the beach!

Author Amok said...

Mary Lee -- be sure to send a note of thanks to MSAC. (My administrator's name is Christine Stewart.) They would love to hear that people are accessing the PDF and using the book. How cool is it that we'll be able to upload this locally published anthology on our Kindles?!

Fats Suela from Gathering Books said...

Thank you for sharing these Odes. I enjoyed both. I have a friend who works as a firefighter for the Air Force and is currently finishing his duty in Japan. The second poem was funny and adorable. I love my Pants too!! =)

Linda B said...

This is really great. Thank you for the PDF; I'll certainly share it around my school. I love to teach odes so this lesson is a good addition to my poetry file. Thank you!

Tabatha said...

Congrats, Laura and Virginia! Looks like you took the assignment and really ran with it to create something special.

Those odes are great!

Irene Latham said...

What a fabulous resource! And how wonderful that it is being made so accessible. Love the student results. Will an anthology of student responses be a future project ??

Ruth said...

Thank you for this! I love teaching odes to my middle schoolers. I am definitely going to download the PDF.

Author Amok said...

I'm glad to hear others are trying odes in the classroom too. There are so many layers to writing an ode, yet they can also be simple for new writers.

Irene -- the book includes student responses in each chapter. There are 4-10 student poems to support each lesson.

It's wonderful that so many of you can make use of the book in PDF form. I'm very grateful to the Maryland State Arts Council for making the PDF free.

Books4Learning said...

Awesome ideas! Thanks for sharing! What a fun way to get kids excited about poetry.

Liz Steinglass said...

What a wonderful book. How brilliant to include the lessons and the students' poetry. I can't wait to read it "cover to cover."

JA Grier (ee/em/eir) said...

Congratulations! It is great that you were able to combine the poems with commentary from teachers - making the book a really valuable resource as well as a poetry anthology.
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