Amazing! Global! Collaborative! Snap! I’m overjoyed by how today’s Poem In Your Pocket Day went. For the past 3 years, we’ve been observing national poem in your pocket day by carrying poems in our pockets, wearing stickers to promote the day, and holding a day of poetry reading in the media center where every child (and adult) has a chance to read poems into our open microphone. This year, we tried something new: a live webcast. Using Clarke County’s new purchase of Adobe Connect, Joel Frey setup a room for the Barrow Media Center. The link was sent directly to the PTA listserve and an online registration was setup via Google Forms for anyone else interested. Registrants on Google Forms were emailed the room link.
Today, 18 classes came to the media center for 20-minute poetry reading sessions. Students came up one at a time and read their poems. We all celebrated with snaps. At the same time via Adobe Connect, parents, media specialists, classrooms within our school, classrooms across the district, and family members in other parts of the United States and the world were watching, listening, and making comments about the student poetry. As online participants made comments, I shared the comments with the students in between poets.
Amazing things started to happen. Students started huddling around the computer waiting for the next comment to come in. They got excited when they saw that someone was typing. They wondered why someone didn’t make a comment about their poem. They kept asking, “You mean people can really see us? They’re watching us right now?” Students took over the computer while I got up to make announcements and when I read my own poem. In a matter of minutes, they discovered multiple functions of the Adobe Connect software just by watching it in action. It was electric.
Online, participants made comments about how much they appreciated being able to connect with their child, nephew, cousin, etc. People joined us from multiple locations: Mrs. Marsha West, Barrow’s former media specialist, joined us from Lincoln, Nebraska. One student had family members join us from Chicago, Illinois, Cohutta, Georgia, and Chattanooga, Tennessee. Another student had an uncle tune in from Afghanistan. Parents explored a technology that many had never tried, and they appreciated this opportunity to think about learning and connecting globally in a new way.
At the same time, every teacher in the school got to see a new technology in action, and now the ideas are beginning to spark about how this can be used in the future. At least two teachers have already approached me with ideas for future events or lessons.
Did everything work perfectly? Well……no. However, I learned many things along the way. Think about how to market your event. I posted on my blog, facebook, PTA listserve, and sent some personal invitations. This opportunity to webcast came only one week before my event, so I didn’t have a lot of time. I would have tried other avenues of invitation if time had allowed. It is a good idea to have someone who can login and monitor sound quality while you manage the chat, camera, audio, and recording. If you have a registration process, it’s good to have that same person managing audio also watch for new registrants so the link can quickly be sent out. Using a wired connection is better than using wireless. My wireless dropped me off the network twice, and I had to get back into the room. It was quick to fix and not a big deal, but I wish it could have been avoided. The great thing about Adobe Connect is that even though I was dropped from the room all of the people were still in the room when I got back and everything was just as I had left it. You should also think about what part of your session you want to record. I pressed record at the beginning of each session and stopped at the end of each session so that separate archive links were created for each class. Also, think about what your users need to see on their screen. For the first few sessions, Joel Frey, my technology integration specialist, helped me arrange the chat, webcam, participant list, and power point on the screen so that it could be seen by all in a logical way. Originally, I made the video full screen, but participants weren’t really sure which class was reading poems. By putting the slide with the class name, grade, and time beside the video, it was easy for users to stay informed. Finally, I had to periodically remind people in the chat to participate. For many, this was a new experience, so it was important to give them reminders and tools on how to connect with students through their comments, snaps, and virtual applause button.
This afternoon, as I walked down the halls, a student stopped me and said, “Mr. Plemmons, did anyone else make a comment about my poem?” Kids want authentic audiences beyond their classroom walls. Thank you, Clarke County for giving us this tool. Now, our task is to keep using it, seeking out authentic audiences, connecting with experts around the globe, and collaborating with classrooms in our own district and beyond.
You can listen to every class recording on Adobe Connect below. At each link, you will hear and see the students reading poetry. You will also see the chat comments that took place during the webcast and hear my announcements to the students each time a comment came in. I hope you will take some time to see what an important day this was for us in the media center and consider how this might work in your own media center or classroom.
You are also invited to tune in on Monday April 18th, where several PreK, Kindergarten, and 1st grade classes will read their poems between 8:00AM-12:20PM EST.
Poetry month is here! We’ve already seen some great posts on the GLMA blog to get us thinking about this creative month:
Later this month, I’ll share some of the products we’ve made and celebrations we’ve had in the Barrow Media Center, but I wanted to take a moment to wish all of you a Happy National Poetry Month and to pose some questions for thought:
- In what ways are you incorporating poetry into the lessons you are already teaching in your libraries?
- What kinds of poetry are your students creating in the media center?
- How are you celebrating the joy of reading and writing poems in your library?
- How are you honoring student work?
- How are you incorporating technology for both inspiration and creation of poetry?
- What special poetry events have you planned in your school (poetry picnics, poem in your pocket day, contests, etc.)?
- How are you sharing poetry beyond the walls of your library?
Here are a few of the things that we will be doing over the next month in the Barrow Media Center. Some things are already underway while others are still be fleshed out.
- PreK Poetry: PreK students are writing their own shape poems on large cut-outs of symbols from their classroom and will video record their final poems to upload to Teacher Tube.
- Joyce Sidman collaboration: A few groups of students will be studying the poems of Joyce Sidman and writing poems inspired by her writing. These poems will be created in multiple ways from using Photo Story to simply writing them on paper. The poems will be featured at Joyce Sidman’s keynote speech at the NCTE conference in November.
- List Poetry: Using Georgia Heard’s collection, Falling Down the Page, students will study list poetry, write list poems as a whole class, and write individual list poems in a variety of ways. A first grade class is planning to use Photo Story for this project.
- Book Spine Poetry: Students in various grades will create a kind of found poem using books from the library shelves arranged in a stack to write poems using the titles on the spines. Classes will photograph their stacks and record themselves reading their new poems.
- Poetry Display: 5th grade has an autobiographical poetry and photography display on the media center shelves. This project was a collaboration between the art teacher and the media center.
- Poem in Your Pocket Day: The official national poem in your pocket day is April 14th this year. We’ll be celebrating on April 15th. The media center will be transformed into a poetry cafe with tablecloths, special lighting, and an open mic for all classes to read both original poetry and favorite poems.
- 1st Annual Poetry Contest: Students in all grades PreK-5th can submit poems to our media center poetry contest. A panel of judges will read and select the most creative poems at PreK-1st, 2nd-3rd, and 4th-5th grades. Top poets will receive autographed books that I had autographed at the Decatur Book Festival, and other special poets will receive things such as pens, bookmarks, and other special trinkets donated from Borders.
- Poetry Tag Time: For $0.99, you can download a creative e-book called Poetry Tag Time. The book features unpublished poems by top children’s poets. Each poem is somehow connected to the one before it as each poet tags the next poet to write a new poem. There is also a blog connected with the book. You can also follow the Gotta Book Blog and Poetry for Children Blog, where free poems will be posted each day of poetry month. This would also be a fun way to start a poetry project in your school among students or teachers.
Have fun this poetry month and feel free to share the exciting things going on in your library in the comments section of this post so that we can all continue to learn from one another about how to honor this genre of our collections.
National Poetry Month doesn’t begin until April 1st, but it’s not too early to start planning (or even celebrating! Why wait?)
Here are a few ideas and resources as we think ahead to Poetry Month, when we celebrate one of the often underutilized sections of our collections.
Read Poetry Aloud
One of the simplest things we can do with poetry is to read it aloud. Many students, especially those in high school, may think of poetry as primarily something to be analyzed. When I hear resistance to poetry, I try to remind students that poetry is experimentation with language. Sometimes playful, sometimes poignant, poetry is meant to be enjoyed.
I read poetry aloud in my classes every time we meet. It seems strange to many of my students at first, but they quickly come to anticipate the experience of listening to poetry read aloud.
Here are a few books I’ve read aloud from recently:
Animal Poems by Valerie Worth (with excellent collage illustrations by Steve Jenkins)
- I read each poem but leave out the name of the animal. Students can guess the animal, based on the wonderfully descriptive words in each poem.
This is Just To Say, Poems of Apology and Forgiveness by Joyce Sidman
- This book is written as a riff on the famous (some might say infamous) poem by William Carlos William entitled “This is Just To Say.” From the silly to the deeply painful, this book of apologies (and responses) strikes a chord with many students.
The Blacker The Berry by Joyce Carol Thomas
- This book celebrates all the different shades of blackness through lush descriptive verses and beautiful illustrations.
Poetrees by Douglas Florian
- Simple, enchanting poems about all kinds of trees and their virtues. Florian also wrote the delightful Dinothesaurus, Insectlopedia, and many others.
In addition to reading aloud from published books, there will likely be many students writing poetry throughout the month of April. Why not invite a student to read their poem aloud during the daily newscast, or set up a recording station in the library and have students create poetry podcasts?
Speaking of writing poems, there are a number of online tools that connect to poetry. One of my favorites is piclits.com, which features striking pictures and your choice of drag-and-drop words or a freestyle “type your own” option. Strong words are an important part of poetry, and pairing them with images add another layer of meaning. (Note: some of the images provided on piclits.com may be better suited for older students, but this idea would be fairly easy to adapt to a younger age group with some creative commons images and a bank of clever words).
Tagxedo is a site familiar to many of us, but we may not think of word clouds as poems. Tagxedo reminds me of concrete poetry. Concrete poems are great fun to write by hand or online, once again using the visual as a layer of meaning for the writer to consider. (Check out Paul Janeczko’s A Poke In The I for a great collection of concrete poems). As students create concrete poems, we can help them think about what image would work best to share their ideas with an audience. These poems would be easy to collect and post on a website.
For More Ideas…
These are just a few ideas I’ve used to inspire the reading and writing of poetry. There are many other resources you can look to for inspiration.
I hope this post gets you thinking about all the different ways you might celebrate National Poetry Month in your library. Please share your own favorite ideas and resources in the comments!
Department of Language and Literacy Education
The University of Georgia
Last year, I was inspired by Buffy Hamilton and other media specialists who were participating in National Poem In Your Pocket Day. I asked myself, “How might we celebrate this wonderful day in our elementary school?” This question developed into a 2-day celebration of poetry throughout our whole school.
Our preparation starts at the beginning of April with daily poetry on BTV and poetry writing workshops with multiple classes. This year, we did lessons on green living poetry, poetry & photography, book spine poetry, and shape poetry. Many classroom teachers also explored biopoetry and list poetry. Because of CRCT testing, we held our Poem in Your Pocket Day on April 15th instead of the national day, April 29th. On April 15th, all students, teachers, and staff carried poems in their pockets that they wrote themselves or that they copied from a book. Each person was given a “Poem In Your Pocket Day 2010” sticker indicating that they had a poem in their pocket. All day, participants were encouraged to stop one another and share their poems.
On April 14th & 15th, the media center was transformed into a poetry cafe. Tables were set with bulletin board paper tablecloths, paper lanterns, die-cut confetti, and poetry books. Crayons were also placed on tables for students to create their own images and poetry as they attended the cafe. Lamps covered by scarves lighted the sides of the media center. The stage area featured a cloth covered stool with groovy lights and fabrics as a backdrop. Every class in the school came to the cafe during the two days to read poetry at the open mic. We all celebrated each poet’s reading by snapping.
Several incredible moments happened during the two days. When our paraprofessional, Ms. Olin went to do lunch duty, she saw students asking each other to share their poems. Our principal went outside to recess on both of our school playgrounds and heard students saying, “Do you have your poem? Let me hear it”. In the media center, we saw several students who hardly ever speak go up to the microphone and share their poem. We saw students do some impromptu multiple voice poems and choral reading. We also heard a beautiful reading of Eloise Greenfield’s “Honey, I Love” from a 3rd grader. We had several adults who also shared at our open mic. Our school secretary, aka “The Queen”, shared a poem about being a queen. Our technology integration specialist, Steve Piazza, shared a poem he wrote about pockets. Meg Inscoe, a first grade paraprofessional, shared a limerick about her class. Ms. Olin shared two poems that she wrote about things she loves and dreams. Several teachers, including Ms. Em, shared their poetry as well. Our assistant principal saw students sharing poems after school as they went to their cars. Also, her son had memorized his poem and recited it for the family at dinner. The day after Poem in your Pocket Day, a PreK student brought me a poetry book he had made at home and he left space for me to include my own poems. The list could go on and on. The day was just filled with wonderful moments.
It was sad to take down all of the cafe decorations after school, but we have these pictures to help us remember this wonderful day until next year’s Poem in Your Pocket Day. Enjoy viewing the pictures and looking at examples of our poetry creations. Feel free to post comments about your own poetry celebrations.
On Wednesday, April 29, Mrs. Nayman’s 1st period 11th American Literature/Composition students shared poems inspired by personal photographs @ The Unquiet Library! You can enjoy the slidecast below to see their photos and hear each student read his/her poem. Simply click the green button, and the slides will automatically play and advance themselves.
It took me awhile to get the hang of syncing the mp3 audio to each slide, but after some trial and error, I think I have it. I hope to improve my syncing skills as I work on the next two poetry podcasts/slidecasts for 2nd and 7th periods.
I am also making class books of each set of poems for the poetry reading—one set for the library, and one set for Mrs. Nayman’s classroom; many thanks to Mrs. Joy Mabry of the Cherokee County School District Teacher Center for her help with this endeavor! The photos from the day are also housed at http://www.flickr.com/photos/8166472@N03/sets/72157617481444372/ . We also have the student poems hanging from our poetry clothesline.
For help on creating the Slidecasts, try these resources:
Buffy Hamilton, Media Specialist
Creekview High School