Poetry Friday: Rhyming Fairy Tales

My work so far as the Kids Club Reading Specialist has been very peripheral, very fragmented. I’m at each site weekly, and I’ve met with students one-on-one or in small groups every other week…if we’re lucky and their parents don’t pick them up in the middle of a lesson or before we even get started.

I’m not complaining, but I AM looking forward to next week when schools are closed for two days following Martin Luther King, Jr. Day for a Professional Development Day and a Records Day. On Tuesday and Wednesday, 24 students will participate in all-day Kids Club, and I’ll have the opportunity to work with them as a whole group!

Tuesday will be Fairy Tale Day. We’ll start with TELLING STORIES WRONG by Gianni Rodari. This is the story of a grandfather who just can’t seem to tell the story of Little Red Riding Hood the way it’s supposed to be told. Clever readers will be able to figure out why. This book doesn’t rhyme, but it will lead us to others that do.

Next up, I’ll have some of the older students prepped to perform a poem from VERY SHORT FAIRY TALES TO READ TOGETHER by Mary Ann Hobermann. Then I’ll invite pairs of students to practice and perform a poem from one of the You Read To Me, I’ll Read To You books.

Finally, in the upcoming weeks when we’re back to the regular schedule, my read aloud with small groups and individuals will be…

…ENDLESSLY EVER AFTER: PICK YOUR PATH THE COUNTLESS FAIRY TALE ENDINGS by Laurel Snyder. This rhyming picture book is a tour de force of planning. I literally have no idea how she must have plotted this book so that the reader has SO many different paths to follow! And in RHYME, no less! I love that not all of the endings are happy and not all of the paths are long. Plus, Dan Santat’s illustrations are tons of fun! I can’t wait to explore this book with readers of all ages and see what they think. I’m not sure we’ll get much past read aloud in those sessions…and that’s just FINE!

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Susan at Chicken Spaghetti.

And here’s the lowdown on the Poetry Sisters’ January Challenge: We chose the word TRANSFORMATION to guide our work throughout the year, and for January, we’re writing a CASCADE poem. The Cascade form takes every line from the first stanza of your poem and TRANSFORMS those lines into the final lines of each stanza thereafter. (The link helpfully creates a little form that shows you how easy this might be.) Beyond that, there are no additional rules. Long or short, free verse, sonnet, or sestina, find a way in which you can incorporate the idea (or word) transformation as you write. We’ll post our poems on the last Friday of the month (1/27/23). I hope you’ll join us!

Poetry Friday: Reconsidering Read Aloud…Again…Still

Hard to believe that it’s been TWENTY years since my book, Reconsidering Read-Aloud was published! And here I am, still a teacher (kinda-sorta) and still thinking about the power of the books I choose for read aloud.

As the reading specialist for an after school program, I no longer have a classroom of the same-aged students every day all day long. No more chapter book read alouds that span weeks/months with conversations that evolve as our experience with the book deepens.

Now I have K-5 students in small groups or one-on-one for 15-20 minutes once a week. I try to make sure I see every child at least once every two weeks. My lesson plans are required to address information standards, literature standards, and functional skills/fluency standards. These constraints have changed the way I choose my core read alouds.

I’m still learning, but here are some successes I’ve had, and my thinking around my choices.

I have established a pre-reading ritual for each read aloud. First we look at the front and back covers to see if the image spans across both covers. If there is a dust jacket, we check to see if the dust jacket image and the cover image are the same. Next, we look at the endpapers and think about the reasons behind this design element.

WAIT AND SEE by Helen Frost was my main read aloud in October. This book is an informational text that I’m calling “lyrical nonfiction.” It has photographic endpapers which, in the beginning, show a preying mantis hanging upside down on a spikey leaf with a light background. At the end, there is a preying mantis upright on a rounder leaf with a dark background. The conversations about the reasons behind these choices of images were fantastic! (Day/night, light/dark, colors, shapes, position, etc.) The photo-illustrations also prompted lots of conversation both during and after reading. We didn’t read the back matter, but I pointed out to every group that it was there to satisfy any curiosity you might have for more facts.

AUTUMNBLINGS by Douglas Florian and HALLOWEEN ABC by Eve Merriam were my backup literature choices. (I’d forgotten how dark Merriam’s poems are, but luckily kids are kind of into spooky, so it was all good.)

Are you noticing the trend towards poetry? I figure poetry is one of the least represented genres in the classroom and so it will have the greatest representation in my work!

There were a couple of other books that made an appearance in October and November. I fell in love with CHESTER VAN CHIME WHO FORGOT HOW TO RHYME by Avery Monsen and tried it out with a variety of ages. Fourth and fifth graders had a ball with Chester. I was surprised that the younger students weren’t able to provide the missing rhymes. I filed that tidbit and will be doing some focused work on rhyming in the upcoming months. ON A GOLD BLOOMING DAY by Buffy Silverman was a great rhyming photographic book to pair with WAIT AND SEE. I waited until later in the fall to start working with my Kindergarteners. I wanted to meet them and read with them before I gave them their letter identification assessment, so I chose Z IS FOR MOOSE by Kelly Bingham. It has a different image on its dust jacket and its cover, and the story starts before the title page. It begins predictably, but then Moose causes chaos (which the Kinders loved!)

But the absolute best read aloud so far, the one that stood up to multiple readings with all ages, the one that kept surprising me all the way to the last reading, was 12 DAYS OF KINDNESS by Irene Latham. This book has everything! Cover and dust jacket are the same, but we had a chance to discuss the Big Idea that’s on the back of the book (“Kindness is a gift.”) The end papers are different illustrations and foreshadow the story that’s found in the illustrations, and the arc of that story (morning to night). The story begins in the illustrations before the title page. The text has repetition and rhyme and is cumulative. It can be sung to “The 12 Days of Christmas,” and I had one group of 3/4/5 girls who did just that! All the way through! So fun! Without being didactic, Irene Latham shows the reader that there are lots of small ways to be kind to those around us. There is much to discover about the way the illustrator (Junghwa Park) contrasts the new text on the left page of each spread and the cumulative text on the right page of each spread. The illustrations tell a story that doesn’t match the text, but rather extends the meaning of the text. There’s lots to infer about the characters in the illustration’s story, plus so many fun details! I didn’t notice the kisses in the last spread until one of the final readings! This is the book I’ll use as my gold standard in choosing all future read alouds!

Karen has this week’s Poetry Friday roundup at Karen Edmisten*.

Women’s History Gives Readers All Kinds of Role Models

BORN HUNGRY: JULIA CHILD BECOMES “THE FRENCH CHEF”
by Alex Prud’homme
illustrations by Sarah Green
Calkins Creek, 2022
review copy provided by the publisher

“No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.” Julia Child was tall and loud and eager to learn to be a good cook. She learned the importance of taking “time and care” in choosing the best ingredients (making friends with the butcher, baker, and cheese maker) and in creating her dishes. Most of all, she encouraged her students, her TV fans, and her cookbook readers to have fun! What a great role model! For more images and quotes, see this review at Jama’s Alphabet Soup.

BLAST OFF! HOW MARY SHERMAN MORGAN FUELED AMERICA INTO SPACE
by Suzanne Slade
illustrated by Sally Wern Comport
Calkins Creek, 2022
review copy provided by the publisher

Although she didn’t start school until she was eight, Mary fell in love with science first, and chemistry later. She broke through gender barriers to get a job at North American Aviation developing rocket fuels. She was given the job of developing the fuel that would take a rocket into space. After several failures, she succeeded, and the rest is history! Mary Sherman Morgan is a role model for following your passion.

NELLIE VS. ELIZABETH: TWO DAREDEVIL JOURNALISTS’ BREAKNECK RACE AROUND THE WORLD
by Kate Hannigan
illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon
Calkins Creek, 2022
review copy provided by the publisher

Did you watch the recent PBS version of AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS? I was fascinated by their remake of Jules Verne’s story, and even more fascinated by the real-life story of two very different woman journalists, one outgoing and bold (Nellie Bly) and one quiet and reserved (Elizabeth Bisland) who raced to make it around the globe in just seventy-five days. Both had grand adventures and broke all kinds of stereotypes about what women could and should do.

REVOLUTIONARY PRUDENCE WRIGHT: LEADING THE MINUTE WOMEN IN THE FIGHT FOR INDEPENDENCE
by Beth Anderson
illustrated by Susan Reagan
Calkins Creek, 2022
review copy provided by the publisher

The men of Pepperell, MA took big actions in the fight for independence, but Prudence led the women of Pepperell in small actions that formed “a pattern of rebellion:” burning British tea and making their own with local herbs, spinning their own cloth rather than depending on British cloth, using maple syrup instead of British sugar. “Prudence could live with inconvenience and additional work. But she couldn’t live with unjust laws and stolen rights.” A role model attitude for our times. Prudence even rallied the women to catch a Tory spy crossing the bridge that led into Pepperell.

TO THE FRONT! CLARA BARTON BRAVES THE BATTLE OF ANTIETAM
by Claudia Friddell
illustrated by Christopher Cyr
Calkins Creek, 2022
review copy provided by the publisher

This innovative biography in verse blends Clara Barton’s words with the words of the author. We’ve heard her called “The Angel of the Battlefield,” but this biography brings Barton’s heroic actions to life. This book would be a good one to pair with images of all of the aid organizations currently working on the ground in Ukraine and those helping refugees in Poland and elsewhere across Europe. Clara Barton is a role model for compassion and determination.