Sometimes, I feel like a black sheep by Noelle Ware

Sometimes, I feel like a black sheep. 

When sheep flock in groups

Fleece white as snow, 

There’s always one that’s different,

One outside the status quo.

It’s the first one you notice

In the crowd of pure white bleach, 

It’s the one the doesn’t fit in.

The extra puzzle piece. 

Not allowed to speak.

Not allowed to be proud. 

If you are confident, feel strong

Or powerful, 

Someone is sure to shut you down. 

It isn’t on purpose

No harm intended

But the system is there,

It’s been long implanted. 

You are meant to bow your head,

Wait to be last in line. 

If you’re proud of your accomplishments, 

You’re told it’s not your time.

But fleece is warm,
no matter the color,

And together the sheep will stay.

Sometimes I feel like a black sheep.

I always liked black fleece anyway.
Posted with writer’s permission
copyright 2014 Noelle Ware

How one teacher excites his students about poetry

“Poem” is not a four-letter word

When teaching a new unit, teachers know that their strategy can either “sizzle” and get the class excited, or “fizzle” and lose their attention. As a first-year teacher, I saw a good number of my lessons fizzle out. But one that really sizzled was my unit on poetry. When we started, my fourth grade students hated the idea of poetry. However, by the end of the unit, my neglected poetry section became the most popular part of my class library. This metamorphosis is all thanks to the careful use of selected authors and scaffolded instruction.

The Place Where the Sidewalk Ends

My students loved Roald Dahl, so to introduce the fundamental concepts of rhyme, rhythm and meter, I read “Cinderella” from Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes. Familiarity with this well-known story and the silliness of the fractured fairy tale approach made the students much more receptive to the idea that poetry can be fun. We read aloud and bobbed our knees to demonstrate rhythm and meter, and filled in the blanks to guess the rhyming words. My goals were to relax the students and get them used to the format and academic vocabulary of poetry, but I’d chosen my methods carefully, and the students saw it as play.

I followed Dahl with another light-hearted poet, Shel Silverstein. Using “Where the Sidewalk Ends“, we continued our poetry lessons and cemented what we learned from Roald Dahl. We compared Dahl’s rhyme scheme to the multitude of schemes that Silverstein chooses. “You mean poetry doesn’t always have to rhyme like that?” cried my students in amazement. “We can choose our own rhymes?” Exactly! The kids were getting it, but more importantly, they were loving it. After two weeks of our daily Silverstein poem, it was time to move on.

Ancient Maps of Immortal Forces

“More than Dahl and Silverstein,” I told my students, “my favorite poet is Robert Frost.” The class practically roared in anticipation. Whoever this writer was, they wanted to see what I thought was better than their two favorite poets. I put “A Brook in the City” up on the board, and we read it together. Many students were confused. “Where’s the joke?” they demanded.

Their trepidation soon gave way to comprehension. By now, they expected to enjoy the poems I shared with them, so they were willing to find out what I liked about this one. Our class discussion started with basic understanding, but the students soon took it over themselves. Without prompting or clues, they started talking about Author’s Purpose and Theme. My urban students easily picked up on the idea of cities expanding outward and destroying the natural world around them, personifying the destructive force of real estate development as a monster who eats anything in its way.

The key to teaching poetry isn’t drilling the vocabulary into your students and having them practice how to recognize iambic pentameter — the key is getting them motivated. Show them the poetry you enjoy, and explain with genuine enthusiasm why you like it. Let them see what drastically different authors have done. Teach children how to appreciate poetry, and they will understand it. Understanding will lead to their own love of poetry, and that love will carry them forward.

Use Technology, Collaboration, and Creativity to Inspire Students for Poetry Month – Gail Desler

A poem begins with a lump in the throat. ~Robert Frost

The only problem?
with Haiku is that you just
?get started and then
 ?~Roger McGough

Poetry Inspires

Poetry has the tendency to promote literacy skills in ways that can have a life-long impact on students.

As a 6th grade humanities teacher, I regularly shared favorite or timely poems. Every year in March, prior to our annual week at science camp, I would introduce haiku. Students immediately bought in to the format because “Hey, we only have to write three lines – and there’s a syllable limit!”

Something close to magical always happened as they began drafting, discovering on their own that with the line and syllable limits, “every word needs to count.” And the challenge was on to find the perfect word, which might have to be re-thought if the syllable count didn’t work for that line. They were hooked.

As we headed down the California coast towards science camp, at any given stopping point, such as the tide pools, I could see students, against the backdrop of sand and surf, silently counting on their fingers…counting syllables for the haiku they were composing in their heads. Each year, they returned from camp with notebooks a bit worn from the journey, but containing literary gems – just in time for April’s National Poetry Month. And each year I witnessed the power of poetry to inspire students to imagine more, to read more, and to write more.

New Technologies and Poetry

In my current position as a technology integration specialist, I visit many school sites. Often, particularly at the elementary level, student poetry is boldly displayed on the classroom walls…just begging for a broader audience. New technologies, such as VoiceThread, for instance, make it increasingly easy for students to take their poetry beyond the classroom, out into the world. If you browse the VoiceThread gallery using “poetry” as a search term, you will quickly find hundreds of samples. The VoiceThread Library has short articles to help you imagine the possibilities for combining images with power of the human voice.

Poetry, maybe more than any other genre, lends itself to multimedia writing and innovation. Phoetry (photograph + poetry), for example, is making its way into our language and into teachers’ toolkits. The samples shown on will provide you with a window into this emerging genre. Blogger/teacher Bud Huntinvites you into his second annual NPM 2010. Throughout the month, he will post the daily photo “as a way to generate some prompts for folks who maybe wanted to write poetry, but needed a little push.”

If I could time-travel my former 6th grade students (mentioned above) into the present, it’s fun to think about how free tools, and step-by-step instructions – such as teacher Joyce Masongsong-Ray’s Planning, Writing, and Animating Haiku PDF – and resources – such as Kevin Hodgson’s Making Stopmotion site – for animating their poetry could transform their words from static notebook pages to dynamic stopmotion pieces, such as those produced by 5th grade students at Northside Elementary School.

Examples of Collaboration

There are many ways to take a poem beyond paper and pencil – and, in the process, to build on students’ reading, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and self-confidence as writers. Sometimes community collaboration, a bit of technology, and a shared belief that all students are entitled to poetry can rock students’ worlds, pushing them to academic levels they had not dreamed possible. Teen Salinas Speaks, for example, illustrates the empowerment that comes from this synergy.

This project stems from the vision of middle school teacher Natalie Bernasconi, who explains the steps: “Start with the support of the Central California Writing Project, then mix together a group of middle and high school teachers and students, add one very cool journalist / slam poet guest speakerto light a fire under them, then give them a community space at the localSalinas Public Library to meet in, and you’ve got Teen Salinas Speaks.”

Poetry Lessons, Ideas and Resources

If you have been looking for lessons, new ideas and resources, and maybe a little inspiration to ignite your celebration of National Poetry Month, check out the ten sites I’ve listed below. I’m betting you’ll find at least one activity you can use tomorrow!

Scholastic’s April Is National Poetry Month – Tons of ideas and resources to jump start your poetry unit. For the younger students, what could be more fun than having , our Nation’s first Children’s Poet Laureate, sharing his voice and providing a little mentoring? There are plenty of resources for secondary students too, from Using Poetry to Explore and Change to interviews with Maya Angelo to awarding-winning 17-year old poet Meredith Weber, who invites you into her poet’s workshop.

Read/Write/Think – I’ve been a long-time fan of this NCTE (National Council for Teachers of English) site and have come to expect outstanding teacher-tested, research based resources like the ones posted for National Poetry Month. I recommend checking out the “interactives,” such as Diamonte Poems or What’s an Acrostic Poem? and then move on to sample some lessons, such as Poetry Portfolios for your primary students, Composing Cinquain Poems with Basic Parts of Speech for elementary students, or Is a Sentence a Poem? mini-lesson for secondary students.

National Writing Project – This organization (to which I’ve been a member for 15 years) is at the heart of how I approach the teaching of writing – including poetry. What you’ll find on their National Poetry Month and the National Writing Project site are Writing Project teachers, including Natalie Bernasconi, telling their stories and sharing their reflections and lessons learned about the place of poetry in their classrooms.

Edsitement – Not be outdone by NCTE or NWP, the National Endowment for Humanities has also assembled some outstanding resources on theirNational Poetry Month: Forms of Poetry site. If you are looking for a unit on Langston Hughes, I recommend The Poet’s Voice – Langston Hughes and You, a scaffolded lesson that will address two central questions: What is meant by voice in poetry, and what qualities have made the voice of Langston Hughes a favorite for so many people? You might use this lesson as a starting point, and then revisit the NWP site to introduce Gavin Tachibana’s creative idea to combine Langston Hughes’ poetry with Tibetan prayer flags in the inspiring Dream Flag Project.

PBS’s Poetry Everywhere – They had me at Robert Frost’s reading ofStopping by the Woods on a Snowy Night, and by the time I’d finished listening to/watching the stunning version of Emily Dickenson’s I Started Early, Took My Dog + Teacher Tips, I was already sending out Tweets about this beautiful site.

11 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month – The New York Times Learning Network is an outstanding resource, both for its content and for keeping newspapers alive in the classroom. What a great assortment of ideas for hooking students on poetry! The concept of illustrated chapbooks, complete with a template from Microsoft, via seasonal greetings from Robert Frost is the first idea for celebrating the month. Keep going…all the way to the 11th way: Finding Poems Everywhere, ideas for creating found poetry “from newspaper articles, sports broadcasts, school lunch menus, field trip permission slips and the like.” Be on the watch for the Learning Network’s upcoming Found Poetry Challenge!

Poetry 180 – From the Library of Congress, “Poetry 180 is designed to make it easy for students to hear or read a poem on each of the 180 days of the school year.” I recommend starting with former Poet Laureate Billy Collins’ An Introduction to Poetry.

Favorite Poem Project – Listen to and watch volunteer readers from across the nation sharing their favorite poems.

Poetry Forge – Tapping into visual appeal of Flash, Poetry Forge is “an open source archive, designed to allow teachers and student writers to explore, manipulate, create and develop innovative tools for the development of poetry.” – From the Academy of American Poets, this site offers resources and a call to action – with Put a Poem in Your Pocket Day. The idea is simple: “Select a poem you love during National Poetry Month then carry it with you to share with co-workers, family, and friends on April 29.” But wait, there’s more…for the busy educator…how about Poet’s in Your Pocket,’s mobile poetry site. Download the Poem Flow app from iTunes and you’ll be able to browse over 2,500 poems by author, title, occasion, or form. Imagine the possibilities! You too can “read a poem, anytime, anywhere?whether to fill a spare moment, woo a darling, toast a friend, find solace, or recite a few immortal lines?verse is now at your fingertips.” Amazing!

Whether you weave poetry into your year-long English/Language Arts curriculum (as a number of state content standards currently mandate), use it for making cross-curricular connections, or save it as a treat for “when testing is done,” please join the conversation and share your questions, ideas, and best practices for igniting a love of poetry.

Celebrating National Poetry Month with Technology – Mary Beth Hertz

Poetry is one of my favorite forms of writing. As I wrote in a recent blog post, there was a time when poetry was “my grounding force, my way of grappling with the world, questions, uncertainty, joy, sorrow, conundrums, beauty, ugliness and all forms of life that living could throw in my direction.”

In 1996, April was named National Poetry Month by the Academy of American Poets to celebrate poetry across the country. If you are planning on incorporating National Poetry Month into your classroom or your school, here are a few of the many great ways to celebrate through the use of technology.

1) Scholastic’s National Poetry Month Resources

  • Online Poetry Publisher: have your poem published online to Scholastic’s site.
  • Poetry Idea Engine: an interactive way to learn about different poetry types and get ideas for building your own. Great for use for modeling on an Interactive Whiteboard before students start writing poetry on their own.
  • Scholastic also offers different ways to bring poets into your classroom through podcasts, interviews and other activities.

2) Listening Booth

Listen to hundreds of poems read by poets themselves. This is a great way to help model a variety of styles of poetry reading as well as how poets hear poems in their heads. Try having students read a poem out loud before they hear how the author reads it.

3) The National Poetry Map

Learn about poets who are from your state and learn about poetry events going on near you.

4) Poem Flow

Poem Flow is an app that lets you access poetry through mobile devices in your classroom.

5) A Poem in Your Pocket

Don’t forget that Thursday, April 26th is Poem in Your Pocket Day! Use your mobile device to record a poem (with apps like iPhone’s Voice MemosiPhone Recorder, or Voice Recorder for Android) or use the Poem Flow app, and play a poem out loud from your mobile device (kept in your pocket!).

Here is my poem for National Poetry Month. It came to me while sitting in my small Philadelphia back “yard.”

South Philadelphia Evening
The city is breathing.
It inhales with the hum of an airplane
and exhales with a child’s laughter.
I close my eyes and breathe in unison with the distant sound of sirens, a barking dog, and a slamming door
Soft rhythms in the cool Spring air at dusk.

Poem for Today

Never Mind
by Denver Butson

that guests no longer come unannounced

or that the photo album contains pictures of much younger people than we remember being

never mind that swallows etch Sanskrit on the wrinkled sky

it’s November and the present is emptying its wine into our glasses

never mind that we’re not touching now

because our shadows are holding hands in the dark behind our backs

A Thanksgiving Poem


Photo by James Guilford

Turkeys by Mary Mackey

One November
a week before Thanksgiving
the Ohio river froze
and my great uncles
put on their coats
and drove the turkeys
across the ice
to Rosiclare
where they sold them
for enough to buy
my grandmother
a Christmas doll
with blue china eyes

I like to think
of the sound of
two hundred turkey feet
running across to Illinois
on their way
to the platter
the scrape of their nails
and my great uncles
in their homespun leggings
calling out gee and haw and git
to them as if they
were mules

I like to think of the Ohio
at that moment
the clear cold sky
the green river sleeping
under the ice
before the land got stripped
and the farm got sold
and the water turned the color
of whiskey
and all the uncles
lay down
and never got up again

I like to think of the world
before some genius invented
turkeys with pop-up plastic
in their breasts
idiot birds
with no wildness left in them
turkeys that couldn’t run the river
to save their souls

Love this poem!

Retirement Home Melee at the Salad Bar by David Hernandez

They say it began with an elderly man
foraging through the icebergs and romaines.

They say another who prefers his salad
without a stranger’s fingerprints

and Stop. From there, they say, curses
hissed through dentures. From there, fists.

They say it was a fracas, knocked bifocals
and clattering canes, the wooden screech

of chair legs, some to break up the scuffle
and some to shuffle off on a bad knee,

or pinned hip, or pace-makered heart.
One is bitten, they say. Another wears

a cut across his forehead, blood flowing
down the canals of his wrinkles.

Next day’s the same old same old,
as they say. Back to the quiet swing

of living without velocity or fire.
Shuffleboard and Pinochle, the dull

click of knitting needles, their final
gray years going limp. Or so they say.