Featuring Jana Smith and more great work by her students

Hello Everyone,

As many of you know, I love to feature special people on Wednesdays as my Guest Readers. Jana Smith does far more than read this blog. She supports and encourages her students at Maumee Valley Country Day School in Toledo to write poems that she can post, and we all receive the benefit of her work.

I asked Jana to let me feature her today along with her students. Here is a brief bio to give us a chance to know her better.

I earned my undergraduate degree in Education from Auburn University, my Masters in Literacy from the University of Colorado. This is my 13th year teaching 5/6 grade at Maumee Valley Country Day School (an independent K-12 school) in Toledo, Ohio; this is my 13th year here. I teach Reading and Social Studies to combined 5/6 classes, and Writing to 6th graders. I am also the English Department Chair for the school. I love what I do; the kids inspire me daily!
In my free time, I hang out with my husband (Doug), my daughters (Ella and Lila), play Scrabble, cook, and run.

Did you enjoy the handiwork of Jana’s student, Cecily White? I loved it so much I begged for more. Jana was kind enough to share three others so while we’re into student movies based on their poems, I thought I would bring these new ones out today all together.

For your viewing pleasure, here are last year sixth graders, Anne Fox-Strauss, Sarah Boyk, and Ilya Fedorchuk.

We start with Anne. Her poem, “Joyous Little Dog,” was inspired by BONE, the word of the month for December.

Our next treat is by Sarah who entered a local contest sponsored by an interfaith council where the topic was “Erase the Hate.”

Ilya’s poem is written in the form of a tritina. If you have forgotten what that is, I’ll tell you after you enjoy his poem, “Truly Alive.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_2AlzD0h8s

A tritina is a ten-line poem composed of three sets of three lines (tercets) plus a tenth line. The final words in the first three lines are repeated as the final words in the other two stanzas but in different orders, like this: ABC, CAB, BCA. The last line uses all three words and in the original ABC order. These words don’t need to rhyme and the poet is free to select a meter that fits the purpose.

Thanks kids! Thanks Jana! It’s nice to have fun while we’re learning. Have I mentioned that I’ve accepted an invitation to visit Jana’s school (Maumee Valley Country Day) in Toledo this coming April? I’m looking forward to it!

By the way. I’m certain that many other teachers have learned to put technology to use in helping their students experience the connections among words, dance, music, and art. If you know of other good examples of this, please let me know. I would be happy to feature others and their work.


Would you like a special treat today?

Jana Smith’s students in Maumee Valley Country Day School in Toledo, Ohio consistantly post good poetry on this blog. One of her poets, Courtney Clawson, is our 2010 Hall of Fame Young Poet.

I’ve just learned from Jana that she has taken her students a huge step beyond merely writing poems. She has them creating videos of their poems! Here’s what Jana has to say about the new challenge.

“I did something for the first time last year … I had the students create a movie of their poems. I loved the results – it was so interesting to see what the students visualized while writing. The only way I could figure to email it to you was to post it on youtube and send you the link (it is not public, you can only see it if you have the link). This one is one that was written by Cecily White; it is her Time poem which we submitted to the blog last year.”


I am so impressed! What a wonderful way to extend the pleasure of working with words. Jana says she has other movies and I’ve begged her to send them too. To refresh your memory, here’s Cecily’s original poem, which was posted in January 2010. The word of the month was “time.” and the name of Cecily’s poem was Time.

Time 1:16
We ride our bikes past
The old dog that sleeps lazily
Past the blue, blue sky
We ride past the man
Getting his morning paper
Time 1:24
You speed ahead of me
Time 1:26
I speed ahead of you
Time 1:27
I look behind at
Our house
But what I see
Is you
One wheel spinning
Lying on the ground
Holding your arm
Time 1:32
I pull you onto my handlebars
Time 1:39
And we ride our bike past
The old dog that barks frigidly
Past the gray, gray sky
We ride past the man
Who stumbles as he gets his morning paper

Thanks again to Cecily for a strong poem, and to Jana for helping her students bring their poetry to life.