My Seventh of Eight Poems

Today has not been a good day, professionally.  Needless to day, I am all over the place and couldn’t get anything down on paper for my poem.  Anything I did get down, I didn’t feel comfortable sharing over the internet.


life just doesn’t go the way you want.


when one door closes,

a window should open.


if it takes a while

to find your way to that window.

My Sixth of Eight Poems

Thank goodness Stacey put up a poetry prompt today, because I desperately needed the inspiration! I enjoyed the “I Remember” poem, and ended up writing about the journals we were required to keep in eighth grade. We wrote everyday for ten minutes, and my teacher allowed us to pass our books around during that time. Essentially, we wrote long notes to each other, like notebook IMing, and responded to each other. Sometimes I wrote in 4 notebooks per period! Today, I love to look back through those notes to see the girls we were. 🙂

I remember sitting in a classroom, surrounded by my fellow eighth graders

I remember taking out my journal

I remember being allowed to pass the journal to my friends

and having constant notes going back and forth in them

I remember planning for the eighth grade dance

I remember when my best friend told me she was moving to Texas

I remember being heartbroken and angru

even though we would have gone to separate high schools anyway

I remember planning her goodbye party in our English journals

I remember filling that notebook with the hopes and dreams of 5 eighth grade girls

I love looking back through that notebook

Twelve years later.

My Fifth of Eight Poems

I wrote the draft of this poem in school today, while my students were drafting their latest poems. I have to say, I am extremely impressed with the work they have been doing during this unit of study! They are digging deep and the poems they are producing are wonderful! Today we tried a six-room image poem, from Georgia Heard. We used an image graphic organizer and it seemed to help some of my more reluctant poets- the backbone of a graphic organizer really eased some of their stress. They produced some beautiful poems!

The image poem focuses on one place, and lets the poet truly describe it for the reader. I chose the top of the Pyramid of the Sun, in Mexico. Standing atop that ancient structure was both humbling and awe-inspiring. It made it easier to write about.

I wrote the first draft of this poem in class and read it to my students. I admitted to them that I am very uncomfortable sharing my own poetry, and that I do not have a lot of confidence in my ability to write poetry. After I read, they heaped on the praise…..I blame this on the high amounts of praise I shower on them after they share. Hey, it’s rubbing off!

My Fourth of Eight Poems

Couplets are not easy, let me tell ya! I definitely do not like being held back by a word or line count.

This is a couplet about my family’s newest puppy. She is about 6 months old now, but this picture was taken on her first night home. She was exhausted from playing with everyone and settled herself in for a nice, long nap!

My Third of Eight Poems

I swear, this poem is the story of my life. I am constantly making copies, coming back to my room, putting them down, and promptly forgetting where they are. I end up slowly getting my kids started while I walk around the room, hiding my panic, but eyes darting everywhere looking for that ever-elusive pile! I usually end up finding it, but I know the kids see right through my act. 🙂

Spelling Test/Lost Copies

While I hand out the lined paper, please number your papers 1-22

for our spelling test.

Where are the spelling lists? I know they are around here somewhere

Remember to write neatly. You should include your heading.

We will start in one minute.

I have no idea where the lists are! I know i copied them. I came back in here afterwards.

Where could they be? Did I put them on the shelf?

Yes, we are starting in one minute. I am just giving everyone a second to number their paper fully.

I know I always start right away, John. Today I am waiting.

WHERE ARE THEY? I can’t just make up spelling words. And the kids clearly know I am stalling.

That I am bluffing. Where could they…….

There they are! Phew!

Number one is monstrous….

Thank goodness.

I will definitely pay more attention the next time I put down copies.

Number 2, disastrous.

The Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

I’ve heard Dairy Queen bounced around the kidlitosphere for about a year now, and never got around to reading it. When I saw the paperback edition at Borders, I decided to pick it up. I just finished reading it and very much enjoyed it! Catherine Gilbert Murdock has created a memorable character in DJ Schwenk and captures her perfectly in the conversational tone of the book. DJ speaks to the reader, in a casual and chatty manner, sometimes irritating you and other times making you want to just hug her.

DJ Schwenk is 15 (almost 16), the only girl in her football-loving family, and is single-handedly running her family’s dairy farm. Her father (himself a former football player and coach) had a huge blowout with her older brothers currently playing college ball, and they haven’t been home since. Coupled with his hip injury, that leaves just DJ to run the farm. It’s been a miserable year for her, and she even managed to fail English. That failure would keep her from playing basketball and running track in the next school year if there were any chance at all that she could get away from the farm. But knowing that won’t happen, DJ has very little motivation to finish her incomplete work and pass the class over the summer.

Just when she thinks shoveling manure and baling hay (with her family’s ancient baler) is the worst she will deal with that summer, family friend and rival high school football coach Jimmy Ott tells DJ he wants her to train his quarterback. Brian turns out to be snobby, rich, and quite a wuss when it comes to both farm work and football training. However, both Brian and DJ grow over the summer…..leading to DJ’s decision to finally do something that makes her happy- trying out for the boys’ football team. Her decision has many unintended consequences, some of which alter her life in ways she never could have imagined.

DJ is a strong female character, which I am always on the lookout for. She is self-aware, but not unrealistically so. She may complain sometimes about her looks, her family, and her life but she has come to terms with her own reality and her complaints are more realistic than many of her contemporary novel heroines. I never got sick of her voice, which meant I never got tired of her thoughts. Murdock has done a great job of capturing a realistic and sympathetic female heroine.

For those who are worried, the book is definitely about football, but you don’t need to know a lot about it or even necessarily enjoy the sport in order to love this book. Catherine Gilbert Murdock has crafted a wonderful story and I am looking forward to reading the sequel, The Off Season.

Environmental Issues in the Classroom

Everyone knows that Earth Day is coming up, but there are also a few other environmentally-related events going on this month.


National Environmental Education Week promotes the understanding and protection of the environment by actively engaging students and teachers in a week of environmental learning and service before Earth Day. Register online to receive lesson plans, activities, and other resources.

Get outside and watch for wildlife with National Wildlife Federation’s Nature Quest Wildlife Watch! You can participate by simply downloading a “watch” list of wildlife for your state, taking a walk around your schoolyard or favorite outdoor spot, and noting how many animals and plants you can find. Afterwards, you can report your sightings online.

EARTH DAY (April 22)

Participate in various Earth Day activities across the country. Be sure to sign up as an educator to get access to the lesson plans and ideas!


The No Child Left Inside Coalition is an organization made up of more than 190 groups from across the United States. The membership includes environmental, educational, business, public health, outdoor recreation and conservation groups. The No Child Left Inside Coalition speaks for a large group of Americans who believe young people should receive a strong education about their natural world. I am a huge fan of this group. The group has presented the No Child Left Inside Act to Congress and the latest news is that a subcommittee of the House Education and Labor Committee will have a field hearing on the No Child Left Inside Act of 2007 – the first hearing on our legislation to date. The hearing will take place on Earth Day, from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Md. As an educator, I see the effects of nature deficit disorder in my classroom on a daily basis. This is a phenomenal organization and they could use all the support they can get!

My Second of Eight Poems

In My Backyard

Sitting at my back doors

I watch as nature comes to my doorstep,

feeding on suet, thistle, and wild bird seed.

Tiny thistle seeds overflow the bird feeder.

The shy goldfinch couple timidly grips the wire feeder,

leaping into flight at the smallest movement

or noise.

The noisy chickadees peck at the seeds

that have fallen to the ground,

fighting over them with the mourning doves.

The cardinal couple regally hops along the patio,

pecking at stray seeds and suet,

dropped by the others.

The noisy bluejay squawks his annoyance

at not being able to grip the feeder

with his oversized feet.

On the roof, a wily squirrel plots

his breaking and entering…

how will he manage to get the seed from the bird feeder this time?

Maybe I have finally outsmarted him, I think.

Watching out my back windows,

it amazes me just how much of nature

is right in my own

townhouse backyard,

small as it may be.

Feeding the birds in my small backyard is one of my favorite hobbies. It’s so much fun to sit and watch the various species as they fly among the trees and bushes, making a quick pit stop at the feeders or on the ground. Until I put up my bird feeders, I didn’t realize how many different types of birds where right here in my own neighborhood! Now if I could just manage to outsmart that stinkin’ squirrel!

My First of Eight Poems

Over at Two Writing Teachers, they are hosting a one week poetry challenge. As I don’t have nearly enough poetry of my own to use in mini-lessons, I decided to participate. Also, I feel very unsure when it comes to my own poetry and I feel that if I am making all my students participate in our lessons in class, then I must participate, too!

I tried writing all day. Nothing was coming. So I ended up working with what I had….frustration!

Sometimes I hate to write.

There’s nothing in my head.

Nothing is important. Or important enough.

I can’t even think.


I look for the prompt.

Still nothing.

It frustrates me, makes me angry.

I walk away and say later.


Poetry for Kids

My students have been writing poems for the past few days. We are using the Door of Poetry, as explained by Georgia Heard in Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School (a phenomenal book for any teacher interested in poetry).  So far we have done the Heart Door, Observation Door, and Concerns about the World Door.  It’s taken about 3 days for most of my students to really begin digging deep.  I was getting a lot of “Summer is fun.  Summer is great.  I love Summer.  Yay Summer!” at first.  Slowly, the poems are getting deeper.  Some of them are GORGEOUS.  I was floored by the raw emotion in many of them, particularly in the heart and concerns about the world door.  I highly, highly recommend Heard’s book if you are having trouble teaching poetry to kids.

Because of the great poetry that is being written, I promised my students that I would find some places that publish kid’s poems.  So far we have found a few contests they can enter.  One is the Powell’s contest, where they can win a water bottle and $25 gift card.  There is also a contest through Scholastic’s Instructor magazine.  Does anyone else have any suggestions?  We are interested in contests and publishing opportunities!