Sunday, November 11, 2012

Splashing with words

 “Lizards dancing with birds? No problem,” writes Newbery Honor Award poet Joyce Sidman in The Poetry Friday Anthology, edited by Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell. “The world is full of wonders … and your only job is to be able to see those wonders, to feel them, and to try to communicate them.”

Indeed, it’s the aim of this new collection of poems to help children--potential poets, perhaps--see and feel the wonders of the world through the magic of poetry, as well as inspire them to splash and play with words, communicating something of their own wonder of the world through poems.

Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, who have collaborated previously on three innovative poetry e-books (PoetryTagTime, P* Tag, and GiftTag), have brought together more than seventy poets and assembled over 200 poems in their newest anthology which was inspired by the weekly poetry postings that readers can find online every Friday (thanks to the efforts of Poetry Friday’s founder, Kelly Herold, who introduced the idea to the “kidlotosphere” in 2006). 

The Poetry Friday Anthology is an unusual collection in that, while it contains poems for children, it’s designed as a teaching tool to help teachers gain comfort and familiarity with poetry and to encourage them to share the poems in their classrooms. So, in addition to poems, readers will find helpful tips (Take5!) that accompany each poem and offer five different ways for readers to gain deeper insights into the poems.

Here’s an example of a poem included in the Poems for Kindergarten section: 
Petting Zoo
By Laura Purdie Salas
Bossy goats,
Floppy dogs,
Silky bunnies,
Bristly hogs.
Milk a cow,
Find a nest.
I like cuddling
Kittens best. 
And here are the tips that are offered to help teachers bring the poem to life in the imaginations of their students: 
Take 5! 
1. Before reading the poem, ask students to name animals they might encounter at a petting zoo. Share the poem emphasizing each animal name.
2. Read the poem aloud again and invite students to make the corresponding animals noises.
3. For discussion: What is your favorite animal from this poem? What kind of animals might be found in a nest?
4. Poets love to play with words. Sometimes they’ll use a word just because they like the sound of it (or the way a word makes a picture in your mind). Do the words bossy, floppy, silky, and bristly make a picture in your mind? Talk about those pictures together.
5. Share another poem about kittens with All Worn Out by Kristy Dempsey (2nd Grade, Week 5). 
You’ll find some of your favorite poets in this collection, as well as some poets who you may never have met before—from Joy Acey, Arnold and Jamie Adoff, and Kathi Appelt to Allan Wolf, Janet Wong, and Jane Yolen, with Cynthia Cotten, Nikki Grimes, David L. Harrison, Juanita Havill, Esther Hershenhorn, J. Patrick Lewis, Linda Sue Park, Greg Pincus, Michael J. Rosen, Eileen Spinelli, Carole Boston Weatherford, and many more.

Here are a few more poems, just to give you a sense of the range and breadth that you’ll find here.

From the First Grade section: 
By Cynthia Cotten
Mary Kate began to sneeze.
She held her breath to make it stop.
The sneezes all piled up inside,
Until at last her head went “pop!” 
From the Fourth Grade section: 
Archeology of a Book
By Betsy Franco
my words.
my art.
My story
to the start.
my pages,
What’s left?
An idea
in the author’s
From the Fifth Grade section: 
When The Future Arrives
By Bobbi Katz
When the future arrives,
it completely
takes over
the present tense. 
With poems like these and hundreds more, it’s easy to see how teachers might eagerly use this book to incorporate poetry into their lessons on a daily or weekly basis.

And it’s easy to see, too, why poets, both young and old, will delight in the collection’s playfulness and humor, as well as in the craftsmanship of the poems that can be found in this volume.

For more information about The Poetry Friday Anthology, visit:

For more about Sylvia Vardell’s and Janet Wong’s poetry e-books, visit:

And take a look at Sylvia’s blog on poetry, too:

And check out Janet’s website, as well:


Sylvia Vardell said...

Bruce, thank you for your thoughtful review and for helping us spread the word about taking Poetry Friday from the blogosphere into the classroom!

laurasalas said...

Thanks for sharing The Poetry Friday Anthology, Bruce. I'm so proud to be part of it and to share it with teachers! I can't wait for some forthcoming poetry inservice talks I'm doing--all the teachers I've shared this with already LOVE it.

Dianne Ochiltree said...

Great ideas and resources! Poetry is a delightful way for anyone to exercise those creative writing muscles.

skanny17 said...

This book is definitely kid and teacher friendly. While I believe poetry should be the heart of the literacy classroom, poetry moments on Fridays are a great place to start. And the PFA is a fabulous book filled with poems sure to delight and engage on so many topics. And it actually can be used everyday thanks to the resourcefulness of Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell. Janet F.