Monday, March 30, 2020

Under the Table: A Poem for Independent Readers

Back in the 1990s when I was teaching 2nd grade, I noticed a phenomenon, whenever I announced it was time for independent reading. While some of may students would grab a book and sit on the  carpet or bean bag chairs, a large percentage would take their books under the classroom tables and desks to read. When I asked them about it, they said it was like there own little reading fort or hideaway, where they could escape for 20 minutes and just read. It reminded me of my childhood days when I liked to read by flashlight under the covers of my bed.

The experience inspired this poem, which was published in The Reading Teacher (52.1, p. 75) and in the book, Poetic Possibilities: Using Poetry to Enhance Literacy, by Susan Israel (IRA, 2006).

Under the Table by Russ Walsh

Under the table's the best place to read.
A good book and small table are all that I need
For a morning's adventure
Or a tale of dark doom.
Under the table -
My own reading room.

Under the table, where it's dark and it's quiet,
I open a book and start my own reading riot
With castles and dragons
And maids in distress
And a hero to come in
And clean up the mess.

Under the table I've a place of my own,
Where my book and I can be left quite alone.
To climb the high mountains
Or swim with the fishes,
To uncover a Genie
To fulfill my wishes.

So each day in my classroom at just about ten,
When time for reading rolls around once again,
Under the table's
Where I can be found
With a book in my lap
And no one around.

When planning for independent reading space in your classroom, consider creating as many kid friendly spaces as possible and make sure lots and lots of books and poetry are available in those spaces.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

A Geography of Limericks

April is poetry month. Celebrate with limericks!

Children love limericks. The short form, the rhyme, the insistent rhythm, and the silly content never fail to inspire giggles in kids of any age. The limerick is a form of humorous poetry popularized by Edward Lear in his Book of Nonsense, first published in 1846. The history of the limerick goes back many hundreds of years before that, however. The limerick is the only fixed poetic form that is known to have originated in the English language.

Modern limericks generally have five lines - three long and two short , with the rhyming pattern aabba.  The frst, second and fifth lines have three feet (da da da/da da da/da dum). The third and fourth lines have two feet (da da da/da dum). Don't worry about the technical details with students, just enjoy them.

Many limericks are set in a specific geographical location (Peru, Chicago, Nantucket), so part of the fun can be looking up where the limerick takes place.

Here are some limericks to share. I suggest first reading them aloud to students, then reading them chorally,

and finally having the students read them on their own.

Once kids are familiar with the form, they may want to try to write some on their own. I would recommend this for grades 4 and up, because the rhyming can get pretty tricky.

A Geography of Limericks by Russ Walsh

A cyclist from central Quebec
Was involved in a ten cycle wreck.
          Getting up from the dirt,
          She said, "I'm not hurt,
But this sport is a pain in the neck!"

A young boy from North Bangor, Maine,
Loved to splash in the mud and the rain.
          He said, “I’m seeing how wet
          I can possibly get.”
And his mom washed him right down the drain.

A ballerina from Paris, France
Invited a bear to a dance.
          When they danced a ballet
          He got carried away,
And knocked down two trees and four plants.

A skier from northern Brazil
Skis mountains with marvelous skill.
          While perched on one ski,
           He ran into a tree.
    Since then his whole life’s been downhill.

A koala from Queensland, Australia,
Grew an amazing azalea.
          He sat by the hour
          Admiring his flower,
While his friends cried, “Koala we hail ya!”

A lion from old Cameroon,
Stood in the rain, night and noon.
          And as you might bet
          He got terribly wet,
And wrinkled up just like a prune.

An acrobatic young man from Malaysia
Performs feats that will truly amaze ya’.
          Turning cartwheels one day,
          He got carried away
And he spun all the way across Asia.

A small boy from fog bound Chicago
Said, “Which way did my Ma and my Pa go?
          There were standing right here,
          Then I lost them I fear
And I can’t see in all of this fog, Oh!”

A poor lad from Hope, North Dakota
Drank nothing but black cherry soda.
          Drinking glass after glass
         “Till he filled up with gas,
And floated on past Minnesota.

A brave athlete from Azerbaijan
Gamely entered a triatholon.
          She grew plenty weary,
          But with the crowd cheering
She just kept right on carrying-on.

An unhappy boy from Burundi
Ran away one cloudy gray Sunday.
          Staying outside all night
          Gave him such a fright,
He came home by mid-morning on Monday.

@copywright 2020