A family who reads together

Hi everyone,

As I told you, this past weekend Sandy’s cousin Leslie Johnson was here with her husband Johnnie and three children Caleb, Hannah, and Grace. Grace starts school this fall. Hannah goes into 5th grade and Caleb will be a 7th grader. 20150801_125808_resizedAll three kids have been brought up on books and are excellent readers. One or our activities was to take turns reading poems from my book with Tim Rasinski and Gay Fawcett, PARTNER POEMS FOR BUILDING FLUENCY.IMG_4677 This is a book written for teachers for which I wrote forty-two poems for two or more voices.IMG_4681 When Grace saw the book, she wouldn’t put it down until Sandy and I had taken turns reading nearly every poem in it with her. We didn’t want to stop reading with her either.IMG_4696 Some lucky teacher is going to love having a first grader who already loves books and reads with fluency, understanding, and feeling.

The whole time they were here no one asked to turn on a television. The kids were outside for much of the time. They swam and played games.IMG_4700They were curious about their surroundings and asked a lot of good questions.20150801_200304_resized And they read. Thank you, Leslie and Johnnie, for being such great parents. Thank you, Caleb, Hannah, and Grace, for being such good kids.

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In the top 5 again

Hi everyone,

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

As I look at my WordPress report for 2014 I see that once again one of the most popular posts in my blog records was one from back on September 18, 2009 when I introduced a book of poems for two or more voices called PARTNER POEMS. I wrote the poems and Tim Rasinski and Gay Fawcett wrote the content and classroom activities. It was published as a Scholastic Best Practices in Action title and erroneously identified as a book for grades 4-6 because at the last minute they discovered they already had a book of partner poems for grades 2-4, which is the range for which we created the book. Our book continues to sell well
( http://www.amazon.com/Partner-Poems-Building-Fluency-Comprehension/dp/0545108764/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1420041311&sr=8-1&keywords=partner+poems+for+building+fluency ) but now and then we’ve been criticized by a reader who is led by the misleading title to think we don’t know our audience.

Each year since I introduced the book, the post has been in the top 5 most popular for the year. In 2014, it was number 2 and number 4. I think the double ranking refers to different dates when I featured PARTNER POEMS. Here’s a poem from the collection called “Lollity Popity Day.” My thanks again to teachers who have used the poem to excite students to read and perform it. Here’s a picture by Patricia Cooley at Komensky School of two girls who made masks and entertained their schoolmates. I’m making a slight change in the poem to wish you more than a Lollity Popity Day. I wish you a Lollity Popity Year!

IT’S A LOLLITY POPITY YEAR

IMG_1745
It’s a lollity popity year.

IMG_1744
It’s a lollity popity
hide-and-go-seekity year.

IMG_1745
It’s a lollity popity
hide-and-go-seektiy
read a good bookity year.

IMG_1744
It’s a lollity popity
hide-and-go-seekity
read a good bookity
roll in the grassity year.

IMG_1745
It’s a lollity popity
hide-and-go-seekity
read a good bookity
roll in the grassity
talk with a friendity year.

IMG_1744
It’s a lollity popity
hide-and-go-seektiy
read a good bookity
roll in the grassity
talk with a friendity
sit on a lapity year.

IMG_1745
It’s a lollity popity
hide-and-go-seekity
read a good bookity
roll in the grassity
talk with a friendity
sit on a lapity
play with your petity year.

IMG_1744
It’s a lollity popity
hide-and-go-seektiy
read a good bookity
roll in the grassity
talk with a friendity
sit on a lapity
play with your petity
happy-go-luckity year.

CHEERS!

IMG_1743

Year-end wrap-up

Hi everyone,
David on rock 1
For those of you who blog, you’re probably receiving an annual report on how your blog performed during 2013. Here are a few tidbits from mine. I know that there are many blogs that are more active than mine, more professionally done than mine, and draw far more visitors than mine. Still, this one suits me and I have no aspirations to make fundamental changes for 2014. There are times when I scarcely have time to post at all but those of you who regularly drop by to see what’s up are a forgiving group and graciously allow me to sit in the corner for a while to catch up on other obligations. I thank you for your understanding and I thank you for visiting this site as often as you do.

During 2013, the blog was viewed about 57,000 times by people in 150 countries. The most visitors came from the United States, France, and Canada. The way the report reads, it would take roughly the equivalent of 23 sold-out performances at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall for that many people to see it.

I posted 260 times in 2013, bringing the total since 2009 to 1,264. The day with the highest visitor count was March 9 with 2,698. The post was my poem, “The Song of the Tree Frogs,” which originally appeared in 2010.

Of the 5 most popular posts during 2013, only one was posted for the first time during the year and that was when J. Patrick Lewis, who was then our nation’s children’s poet laureate, issued a new poetry challenge on my blog.

Of the list of top five attractions, one appeared for the first time in 2013; three first appeared in 2010; and one came from 2009. A post about poems for two voices — featured in PARTNER POEMS, the book I did with Tim Rasinski and Gay Fawcett, made the list twice, once from its 2009 post and again from when I repeated it in 2010.

The most comments were left by Linda Baie, Catherine Johnson, Jeanne Polond, Jane Heitman Healy, and Matt Forrest.

My thanks to one and all for joining the fun around here during 2013. I am always surprised by the numbers involved in social media communications. Thank you for your comments throughout the year to let me know that you’re there and that you find things to like here.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

David

It’s a Lollity Popity Day

Hi everyone,

My poem for two voices called “It’s a Lollity Popity Day” appears in a book co-written by Tim Rasinski and Gay Fawcett, PARTNER POEMS FOR BUILDING FLUENCY, published by Scholastic.

Our new book

Our new book

I should point out that the book was written with grades 3-5 in mind. At the last minute Scholastic realized that they had another book with the same title for younger grades so they changed the title of ours to read Grades 4-6. We’ve taken some grief over this from teachers who bought the book expecting material for older students. As long as you know to use the book for younger children, it all works out.

The alternating voices build on the opening line.

(1st)
It’s a lollity popity day
(2nd)
It’s a lollity popity
hide-and-go-seekity day.
(1st)
It’s a lollity popity
hide-and-go-seektiy
read a good bookity day.
(2nd)
It’s a lollity popity
hide-and-go-seekity
read a good bookity
roll in the grassity day.

And so on. The fun is to begin reading slowly and increase speed with each new stanza. Both voices finish in a rush and shout “Hooray!”

I introduced the poem at this year’s poetry workshop in Honesdale. A few days ago one of the poets who attended, Patricia Cooley, brought it into her school in Illinois. Here’s Pat’s report.

We had a Lollity Popity Day at Komensky School today! Two of my students were so taken by David’s poem that they made lollipop puppets and went from classroom to classroom throughout the building – hamming it up and performing with a lot of voice and actions to each of his lines. The teachers loved it. David, I am attaching pics of their lollipops. Wish I could send pics showing how cute the students are, but I never post any pics showing their faces or names. You would have been proud of them!

Pat did share her young actors holding up their lollipity popity puppets and here they are. IMG_1744IMG_1745
IMG_1743
Pat

I am, of course, enormously pleased and proud of the girls behind those charming masks. Pat, thank you so much for introducing the poem and doing it in such a way that your kids saw the fun of it and had such a fine time. Many thanks!

David

Playing with meter

BULLETIN: Kay Logsdon took my sunset picture on yesterday’s post as inspiration for a lovely metaphorical piece on the sunsets of our lives. Please go over for a look. Thanks to Kay! http://foodchannel.posterous.com/the-sunsets-of-your-life

Hi everyone,

Returning to a recent conversation about setting up and sticking to metric patterns when writing in verse: I said that it’s important to maintain the established pattern to spare the reader from losing time trying to figure out how to scan the poem. Scholarly poets engage in serious debates about the underlying dynamics of poetic expression, but for most purposes it’s sufficient to decide on a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables for the idea at hand and not go wobbling off that track far enough or often enough to confuse the reader.

We’ve talked about the poetic foot and its most usual configurations of accented and unaccented elements.
u/ = iamb
/u = trochee
uu/ = anapest
/uu = dactyl
// = spondee
uu = pyrrhus

Armed with these tools, the verse writer can create a variety of meters. Spoken English is a mishmash of iambic and anapestic words and phrases seasoned with the occasional trochee and garnished, now and then, with a dactyl. You’d need to be listening to pick up the odd pyrrhus, if you don’t count “uh-huh,” but spondees pop up rather routinely, especially in such throw-away expressions as “good grief” or “you go” or “who knew.”

Because iambs come to mind so easily and often, a good many poets rely on the comfort of writing lines of iambic meter.
u/u/u/
u/u/u/
u/u/u/
u/u/u/

or

u/u/u/
u/u/u/
u/u/u/u/
u/u/u/

or

u/u/u/u/
u/u/u/u/
u/u/u/u/
u/u/u/u/

etc.

But there are so many other alternatives! Think of us as composers writing music for an ensemble of six instruments. To give them enough numbers for a concert, we’ll have to create variety. We may like the trumpet and drum best, but there are four other musicians sitting there waiting their turn to play.

I’m not talking about formulaic structures — limerick, villanelle, sonnet — or number of lines. I’m talking about using our six most important tools to create enough metrical variety that our concert won’t sound like (to me) so many of today’s musical groups: one basically indistinguishable from the next in terms of instrumentation, leaping ability, and decibels of delivery.

Here are two examples that show how we can sometimes mix meters for special affect. In “Helping Momma,” the first reader speaks in iambic lines: “We love to help our” (u/u/u). The second reader seems to be speaking in spondaic feet: “mom cook” (//). This makes an unusual and interesting break in the conversation between first and second voice.

Now run the lines together and it’s apparent that the first beat of the spondee is actually the last beat of the iamb that proceeded it.

We love to help our mom cook: u/u/u//

I borrowed the last beat of the foot (our mom) and put it to work as the first half of the concluding spondee. So do I now have an incomplete iambic foot for the first speaker or a partial spondee for the second speaker? I don’t know. What do you think? Does it matter which way we call it? What matters, to me, is that it works. It works because I stuck with the goofy little plan all the way through. In the end, the poem takes on a rhythm you could almost dance to, deep into the evening when people start snaking around the floor with their hands on the hips of the person in front of them.

HELPING MOMMA
(Opening lines from a poem in LEARNING THROUGH POETRY)

(1st voice)
We love to help our
(2nd voice)
mom cook.
(1st voice)
We think we do a
(2nd voice)
fine job.
(1st voice)
Our momma says we’re
(2nd voice)
good boys,
(1st voice)
But now and then we’re
(2nd voice)
big slobs.
***

The second example employs a similar tactic but it’s more complicated. Here I have two different speakers engaged in dialog. Big sis is cajoling while little sis snores on with her one word response. Big sister starts out pleasantly and conversationally. As in “Helping Momma,” the first line is 2 1/2 iambs long: “Good morning, Sweetie” (u/u/u) and the response line supplies the missing accent (“Snore”). In the completed line there is no spondee involved.

But follow the number of syllables big sister uses. As her vexation grows, so does the length of her warnings. She goes from 2 1/2 beats in the first line to 3 in the second to four in each of the next two lines. I let the meter waver a bit in favor of establishing a more realistic sounding big sis tirade.

Good morning, Sweetie! = u/u/u
Time to rise and shine. = /u/u/
Get up now or you’ll be late. = u//u/u/
Don’t make me have to ask again. = u/u/u/u/

If you’re counting syllables, she uses 5,5, 7, 8 as the coming storm brews. Also, as she becomes more forceful, her lines end on an accent — shine, late, again — which gives more oomph and irony to little sister’s one beat refrain, “Snore.”

WAKING UP SIS
(Opening lines of a poem in PARTNER POEMS FOR BUILDING FLUENCY)

(big sis)
Good morning, Sweetie!
(little sis)
snore
(big sis)
Time to rise and shine.
(little sis)
snore
(big sis)
Get up now or you’ll be late.
(little sis)
snore
(big sis)
Don’t make me have to ask again.
(little sis)
snore
***
When you go back through the verse poems in your files, check to see how much variety you’ve built into them. If too many have a sing-songy sameness about them, consider ways to create more distinctive meters.