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In honor of Poetry Month, this hallowed time of stanzas, similes, metaphors, and rhyming words, I’m sharing a few books and resources I’ve been using with my elementary students at school. Those of you who homeschool might want to take a look at these books and the products at the bottom as well. I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience.
Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
This book describes how an excellent teacher helps a reluctant boy named Jack learn to love poetry and find his own writing voice. I’ve used this book to introduce fourth graders to the works of Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, and Walter Dean Myers for the past several years. As an English major, it’s great fun to see the words of these amazing poets through Jack’s eyes. When he reads Williams’s “The Red Wheelbarrow,” he has a pretty typical reaction.
“I don’t understand
the poem about
the red wheelbarrow
and the white chickens
and why so much
depends upon them.” (Creech, 3)
Even though he doesn’t get the poems completely, Jack allows the words of the poets to inspire him to create his own poems. Through his writing, Jack heals his own heartbreak and connects with a famous writer in the process. Jack’s teacher, Miss Stretchberry, is SO awesome! If we could convince our county’s governing board to read this book, they would be so inspired by this educator, they might even consider properly funding our schools!
Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech
I just read these two books with my class in a span of about three weeks. I didn’t mean to rush, but the kids were so into Jack’s character and writing poetry right along with him. Miss Stretchberry returns as Jack’s teacher during his next year in school. This year, she teaches Jack about similes, metaphors, onomatopoeia, and alliteration through the works of Frost, Tennyson, and T.S. Eliot among others. If you would have told me that I could convince fourth graders to even consider reading and understanding these poems before I discovered these books, I would have laughed you right on out of the library. But somehow, Sharon Creech has created two books that make William Carlos Williams almost as cool as Harry Potter. Almost.
A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jennifer Bryant, Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
This Caldecott Medal picture book biography of our favorite wheelbarrow poet had my kids at school completely enthralled. Sweet’s gorgeous illustrations incorporate actual drafts of WCW’s work to show kids his process for writing poetry. Bryant’s narrative coupled with Sweet’s artwork had my kids’ full attention on the day before spring break. That fact alone means way more than any Caldecott Medal. Just sayin’.
Animal Poems by Valerie Worth
Sharon Creech introduces young readers to Valerie Worth in Love That Dog and Hate That Cat through her poems “dog” and “kitten.” Jack loves the images in these poems, and my students agreed. When I showed them Steve Jenkins’s intricate cute paper depiction of the porcupine on the front cover, my students were hooked. I only planned to read a poem or two and leave the book for them to check out in their spare time. They begged me to read every single one.
Pug: And Other Animal Poems by Valerie Worth, illustrated by Steve Jenkins
My students again couldn’t get enough of Jenkins’s cut paper illustrations coupled with the images in Worth’s poems. Those kids read each poem in the book. It was a veritable poem-fest the day before spring break.
New Poetry Month Teaching Products
All these books were so much fun for my students that I made a set of comprehension and writing task cards for both of Sharon Creech’s books. You can find them in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. These are great for the classroom or the homeschool family. Enjoy celebrating Poetry Month!