Tag Archives: Poems

Poem A Day Challenge

I was recently inspired by an image on Twitter when someone shared their classroom bulletin board for #ABookADayChallenge. The image showed 180 Polaroid Photos turned backwards, each numbered along a grid to be turned over with an image of the picture book shared every new day of school. I thought, how cool to read aloud picture book everyday of school and share the joy of reading and books with students.

The #BookADayChallenge started back in 2009 by author Donnalyn Miller as a public declaration of to the commitment to read one a book a day for every day of summer and now it has morphed into a school year challenge.

Thinking of my own middle school students, I thought what are other ways that I can read aloud short sections of text (four periods a day) daily to my students to participate in the Challenge and share great books. I thought about picture books and whether my students would feel as if I was reading down to them with picture books. Yes, I know that picture books are written for all ages and I have read many picture books aloud to my students over the years with no quarrels. My thoughts extended to poetry. What if I read aloud a poem everyday of school to my students to jumpstart class, celebrate words, begin a discussion, and make connections.

Newbury award winner and poet, Kwame Alexander says, “The power of poetry is that you can take these emotionally heavy moments in our lives, and you can distill them into these palatable, these digestible words and lines and phrases that allow us to be able to deal and cope with the world.”

And so begins a new school year with #APoemADayChallenge. The read aloud will be a bell ringer and appetizer for the classroom activities for that day. The plan is to choose poems that connect with our inquiry units and build community.

Here are the poems planned for the first week of school:

Introduction to Poetry by Billy Collins

A Journey by Nikki Giovanni

The Sweetest of Nights and the Finest of Days by Judith Viorst

Smart by Shel Silverstein

Additional Poems to be included this month:

So you Want To be A Writer? by Charles Bukowski

How to Write the Great American Indian Novel by Sherman Alexie

It is Dangerous to Read Newspapers by Margaret Atwood

My First Memory (of Librarians) by Nikki Giovanni

Hanging Fire by Audre Lorde

Tagged , , , ,

In Memoriam: Maya Angelou, Poet Extraordinaire

I Love the Look of Words

Popcorn leaps, popping from the floor

of a hot black skillet

and into my mouth. 

Black words leap from the white 

page. Rushing into my eyes. Sliding

into my brain which gobbles them

the way my tongue and teeth 

chomp the buttered popcorn.

When I have stopped reading, 

ideas from the words stay stuck

in my mind, like the sweet

smell of butter perfuming my

fingers long after the popcorn 

is finished.

I love the book and the look of words

the weight of ideas that popped into my mind

I love the tracks 

of new thinking in my mind.

— Maya Angelou

from Soul Looks Back in Wonder by Tom Feelings (1993)

Maya Angelou taught me that poetry can mend a broken heart or build a revolution. Poems capture our dreams, memories, and help us to sort our our thoughts and feelings. Reading and writing poetry challenges what we know about language and words. Poems are experiments to play, critique, change what is wrong, and build a better tomorrow. 

Although Maya Angelou is no longer with us, her words and poems are eternal. 


After reading her poems (or any poetry for that matter), here are some ideas to respond to reading poetry:

1. As you listen to the poem, make a list of the things that snap, crackle and pop in your ears . . . words, sounds rhythms, phrases.

2. Draw a picture. . . realistic or abstract. . . of whatever the poem is saying to you. Or use a series of visual signs or symbols.

3. Briefly describe a memory or a person the poem might evoke. 

4. Maybe the poem reminds you of songs, or the sounds of certain musical instruments. Describe those songs or sounds.

5. Does the poem remind you of something else you have read? Perhaps a short story? A letter from your Aunt Millie? 

6. Does the poem evoke a smell? Describe the smell.

7. What are your physical sensations as you hear the poem? Are you relaxed? Tense? Warm? Cold? Why?

8. Or just respond to the poem in any way you wish. 

Tagged , , , ,