The power of posting student poetry

Hi everyone,

Nearly ten years ago, when this blog was new and teachers had more time to post poems written by their students, we routinely received students’ work. Classroom culture has changed now. It’s a rare month when a single student poem is posted. It’s a change that I regret.

Two student poets stand out in my memory. Ironically, neither went through the suggested route to get their poems on my blog. Both girls got there on their own, with parental help and support. Rachel Heinrichs and Taylor McGowan were in 4th grade when their early poetry appeared. In those days we held monthly balloting to select the “Children’s Poet of the Month,” and sometimes voting was spirited. One month the contest came down to Rachel and Taylor and votes poured in from several countries. At the time it was the busiest day my blog had experienced.

Not long after that event, I gave a keynote at SCBWI in New Jersey. Rachel begged her mom Michele to drive several hours to the conference so she could meet me. I introduced her to a crowded room of writers and illustrators and they gave her a resounding round of applause. The following year Michele again drove many hours to bring Rachel and young sister Sarah to my poetry workshop in Pennsylvania so we could share lunch together. And word has it that they just might make it again this year. I would love that!

As for my other poet, Taylor, I received a note from her yesterday that I appreciated so much I want to share a little of it.

“I’m sixteen years old now, and will be entering my junior year in high school…my interest in songwriting and efforts to write a musical recently reminded me of where I got my real start in poetry – your blog. To this day, I am beyond grateful for the opportunity that your monthly poetry contest afforded me. It gave me a chance to put my work out there, and kept me motivated even when writer’s block proved to be a hindrance. I have such fond memories of participating in the W.O.M. challenge…I have been writing for all the years since. I have participated in NaNoWriMo, drafted (or at least partially drafted) multiple novels, written award-winning “modern myths” for a youth academic convention multiple years in a row, composed songs (both music and lyrics), and also performed well on written assessments at school. I believe I owe some of that success to you and your contest; without it, I would not have been nearly so brave in my later endeavors.”

As we all know, writing is something we learn by doing. My blog didn’t teach Taylor to become the successful student writer she has become. She did that on her own. But we all begin somewhere, and I’m thrilled that Taylor believes her career began here. I’m deeply grateful to her for telling me and hope I don’t embarrass her by sharing some of her letter. I do it because we never know when, how, or where a young mind will become challenged and energized, turned on to a path of personal importance. And THAT’S why I regret that we so rarely see student poems posted here anymore.

New England Reading Association Journal

Hi everyone,

I’m pleased to announce that the winter issue of New England Reading Association Journal is out. Edited by Helen R. Abadiano, Central Connecticut State University, the entire issue is dedicated to poetry in the classroom and was led and coordinated by Tim Rasinski at Kent State.

The ten articles are a balanced mix of scholarly work and contributions from poets. Tim is joined by Wendy Kasten, Belinda Zimmerman, Kasim Yildirim, and others. I’m one of the poets along with Jane Yolen, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Brod Bagert, and others.

For anyone interested in the subject of what research has shown about the value of using poetry in the classroom as a tool for teaching both reading and writing, as well as personal insights from some of us who specialize in writing and/or teaching children’s poetry, I recommend this issue. The NERA Journal is one of the finest in the country. It’s an honor to appear in it.

I received my copy on Saturday and I think the online version will soon be available too. Here’s the link for when it does.

February winning poets and March word of the month

Hi everyone,

Thanks again to all who participated in Word of the Month Poetry Challenge in February. FEATHER inspired a number of good poems!

Our judges have selected the following for WORD OF THE MONTH POETS.

Adult Poet: Steven Withrow. However, Steven has already won during this 12-month cycle and therefore cannot win again.

Adult Poet runner-ups: Jane Heitman Healy and Beth Carter tied. Therefore Jane and Beth become our Word of the Month Poets for February.

Young Poet, grades 3-7: Rushil Rana

Young Poet runner-up, grades 3-7: Samina Hejeebu

Young Poet, grades 8-12: No entries

Here are our February HALL OF FAME POETS selected by popular vote.

Adult Poet:Jane Heitman Healy. However, Jane has already won during this cycle and cannot win again.

Adult Poet, runner-up: Steven Withrow, but he has already won during this cycle.

Adult Poet, runner-up: Gay Fawcett and Jan Gallagher tied so Gay Jan become our February Hall of Fame Poets.

Young Poet, grades 3-7: Samina Hejeebu

Young Poet runner-up, grades 3-7: Ishani Gupta

Young Poet, grades 8-12:No entries


And now for the word for March.


October’s Word of the Month poems

Hi Everyone,

Tonight at 10:00 CST time is the cutoff for posting your poems for October. Tomorrow is a busy day. I’ll post the ballot boxes so you can vote for your choice for the month’s Hall of Fame Poet and Hall of Fame Young Poet. I’ll also send poems to our new panel of judges so they can begin selecting their choices for our very first Word of the Month Poet and Word of the Month Young Poet.

Not only that but we also have a wonderful Guest Author tomorrow, Kristi Holl, who has contributed a great article for WRITERS AT WORK.

So don’t forget to be here tomorrow for a big day!

For now, enjoy the efforts of this month’s poets, all of which were inspired by the single word, CHANGE.



In local news tonight, a shocking
Development in the murder trial
Of Dr. Andrew Vogelsteen,
The self-styled “supercriminal”
Arrested a year ago for knocking
Over an armored car by means
Of what he calls “Subliminal
Propulsion”—Vogelsteen beguiled
Jurors this afternoon as he dodged
The prosecution’s inquiries
Regarding his relationship
With actress Angelina Hodge,
And if he had an alibi,
Or could explain her injuries.
With cold command, he answered, “I
Was out of town. A business trip.”
It was clear his stolid gaze was fixed
On his nemesis, brave Major Force,
Who loomed posthuman over all
Assembled to see justice mixed
With retribution take its course.
No flashbulbs dulled the hero’s light;
Judge Croke had ordered cameras out
To soothe the mourners by the wall.
In forty minutes court resumed.
Consensus in the jury room
Convicted Vogelsteen for life.
And one can only speculate
What sped them to deliberate.
But this reporter thinks, how odd,
When stood before a living god,
We plunge the sacrificial knife.
— Steven Withrow

2 To Elijah

Take this blue string
And tie it tight,
I’m going to pull
Your tooth tonight.
You don’t need it
We’ll let it fly.
Another one
Is standing by.
You must be brave
You must be strong.
It might hurt some
But not for long.
The dentist wants
One hundred bucks.
I’ll get it out
With a bit of luck.
I’ll close the door
I’ll slam it fast.
That baby tooth
Will never last.
The dentist thought
She’d get some dough.
No change for her
She was too slow.
Grandma pulled it
With string of blue.
Have daddy sign
This IOU.
— Gay Fawcett


I’ve seen the devil’s eyes,
Filled with hatred and hungry for torment.
I looked into those eyes; I was just a little girl.
Each touch, no each yank left a bruise on my skin,
Each drag made me scream out loud,
But my heart was suffering the most,
In a fog I could not understad.
A slap across my face followed by harsh words,
The smell of his body suffocated me,
That alone brought him to a smile.
I looked in the eyes of hatred,
Wondering what my crime was.
Till I found myself facing a knife,
I was not even five.
This sudden change was new to me,
But I knew it was evil at its best.
Send me down my angel,
Fling him down, throw him down.
I need help, because my soul is dying.
They told me about angels,
I need mine by my side.
Just a few minutes ago,
I was playing with my teddy.
Now my head is pinned to the dirty ground,
I am only a little girl.
Minutes later I’m sleeping on the ground,
Tightly holding my teddy.
My clothes are dirty from the dragging,
My body is in pain,
The kind I never knew existed.
My soul is filled with hatred,
And burning with anger.
Traumatized little girl,
Heart shattered into pieces.
I cry myself to sleep on the floor,
Clutching my brown bear.
— Silindile Ntuli

4 A Change that makes a difference.

When The B.A.C.A. Brothers Ride
by Crossfire
It was sad news, we heard that day,
A young child’s innocents,
Had been stolen away.
The guy who did it, was making threats,
He would silence the child,
From telling, yet.
But B.A.C.A. was called,
And the child need not hide,
When the B.A.C.A. brothers ride.
They made the child family, as one of their own,
They gave the child their courage,
Now, she was not alone.
When she was afraid, because the guy came around,
She picked up the phone and,
B.A.C.A. arrived with a thunderous sound.
The day of court came, and the child testified.
She did not have to be afraid,
When the B.A.C.A. brothers ride.
Now the guy is serving time, far from her side.
She can be a child again,
Because the B.A.C.A. brothers ride.
— Leonard Hart aka Crossfire

5 To Every Thing There is a Season

Oak trees drop leaves
That drift
And flutter
Like butterflies.
Flashes of yellow,
Dashes of brown,
They spin in the wind.
Oaks answer the ancient command
To change with each season
And to cocoon for winter
Til it’s time for rebirth.
— Jane Heitman Healy

6 Falling in Love

Shuffling through a meandering sea of leaves,
shallow and still,
the autumn silence I crush-
rustling gold-green,
crackling orange-crimson …
A whispering wind wends its way
through a forest of molting trees,
weaving its trilling air into my soul.
The ebb and flow of soothing sounds slows my pace,
stills my thoughts, silences my breath;
my senses harvest the colors of change-
and I fall in love.
— Cory Corrado

7 Wisp-O’-The-Will

“About-face” –
Like the Jack-O’-Lantern.
The knife.
The night.
The light…
— Liz Korba


As jonquils bring the warmth of Spring,
hyacinths follow in their wake,
and tulips rise to greet the day –
all harbingers of joy,
coupled with Robin’s call
and blue eggs in a nest.
Goodbye winter!
— Lee Ann Russell

9 Equinox

is coming—
I feel it
in the air—
pumpkins tumbling,
dry leaves
apples everywhere.
Windy days,
frigid nights,
shadows on
the bog—
soon the sky
will fold
the sun
into a
wintry fog.
Stalks of corn
without their cobs—
just rows and rows
of straw—
pumpkins tumbling,
dry leaves
tell me
it is fall.
— Julie Krantz


The sun warms the surface
As the wind chills the soul
With personality changes.
The rainbow thrills
Our overall being
As the weather of the day
Displays our true feelings.
The constant changing weather
Will reflect fragments
Of who we are daily.
How many transformations do we create,
During the fantasy of the seasons?
— Mary Nida Smith

11 WHAT IF……

If something changed,
For you today,
Could you live life the
Same old way?
What if….
The sun was blue,
The sky was green,
And folks were never
Mad or mean.
The arctic air
Was warm, not cold,
And trees had leaves
Of solid gold.
Or you were me
And I were you,
And human beings lived
In the zoo.
What if….
Cows could fly and
Rocks could walk,
And animals could
Read and talk.
The zebra’s stripes
Turned into spots,
And your skin had green
Polka dots.
Or if your left ear
Was your nose,
And your long fingers
Were your toes.
If something changed,
What would you say?
Could you live life the
Same old way?
— Wendy Singer

12 Change

She came into the world
a dollar bill,
fresh and crisp,
hot off the press,
a brand new member of the
strong and steady Greenback family.
But something happened.
At sixteen, she changed,
turned into two quarters,
four dimes, a nickel
and five pennies overnight.
No one saw it coming.
She quit school,
ran off to the city and
joined a gang of nickel slugs
and Canadian quarters,
worthless folks, unwelcome
even in the grimiest payphone.
The penny arcade crowd lured her next.
Day after day she shushed
down slippery steel slopes
into the hot grubby hands
of pre-pubescent teens.
It was fun and exciting and she liked it.
But over time, she lost herself.
Just bits and pieces.
A nickel her, a penny there,
change so small
she barely noticed.
When she did, it was too late.
She’d become a fifty-cent piece,
copper with nickel plating
and no silver at all,
freakish and strange,
an object to gawk at,
as odd as a Susan B. Anthony.
She took up with a ruble
who devalued her,
brought her down even lower,
then kicked her to the curb.
In the streets, people whispered,
“Loose change,” and she knew it was true.
Her green was gone.
Even her nickel plating.
She was all copper now, a dull,
lifeless penny too worthless to save,
hovering on the edge of a sewer
ready to roll in and die.
And then she saw it,
a sign in a window,
bright green letters wrapped in dollar signs.
‘Bank with us and earn.’
‘Build your savings.’
Salvation was at her fingertips.
She could save herself.
She could check herself in.
It would take time, and work, but she could grow.
She could bounce back and become
the dollar bill she’d been before.
She could even become stronger.
Why not? There was nowhere to go
but up, and this was America, damn it!
her home, her country,
the land of the Almighty Dollar,
where cotton was king and . . .
No. . . . er, wrong metaphor.
But she could come back.
She would come back.
After all, tomorrow was another day.
(She’d read that once in a book.)
Oh yes. Tomorrow was another day.
— Barbara J. Turner

13 Change

Change has a price
It has a cost
It’s not easy
It’s not cheap
That’s why
We resist it
We can’t afford
The pain
— Wanda Fittro

14 Untitled

Painful to stay,
Painful to go,
Fear keeps us clutching
What we know.
— Jane Heitman Healy

15 For Bella

I love you to pieces.
I give you all of me.
All of the time.
You are a precious gift from the angels above.
I feel loved every time you call my name.
Call for me when you need me, I’ll be there.
— Emilie Zayas

16 The Green Eyed Monsters

“I will help you set up your room,”
I said to the teachers who are torn with gloom.
“Here are good ideas for students to blossom,
I believe they work because my students are awesome.”
“These are some worksheets I ordered for you,
Since I know you are busy with things to do.”
“My door is always open for all of the crew,
We will be the team with the most breakthroughs!”
“Thank you, thank you,” they would say,
Until one day all I get is “Okay.”
How come their eyes are changing green?
Is it because my eyes are unclean?
“Here, here, look at these samples,”
I smiled at the teachers with flaring nostrils.
“My students are writing stories in just eight weeks
Allow me to share some techniques!”
“NO, they aren’t writing because of your skills,”
Their roars gave my body some aching chills.
“You just got lucky with high students this year,
And our students have problems that are kind of severe.”
“We don’t need your advice or your guidance,
For we are fine with the usual ‘I see’ sentence!”
They sneered, turned, and lurched away,
I saw their new tails and I’m filled with dismay.
Soon after we went to a faculty meeting,
Which usually is filled with giggles and chortling.
But today everyone seems to be a little bit cranky,
Staring at me with eyes that are green and beady.
“I would like to recognize our second year teacher,
Ms. Wynee Wang who has qualities of a leader!”
The principal announced loudly and beamed with glee,
But all of the other teachers snarled hastily.
“I decided to pop in her classroom today,
I’m amazed by her energy! She’d blown me away!”
“Thank you, thank you, here’s a hooray,”
The principal exclaimed but was then led astray.
Gigantic monsters with silvery scales as skins,
Stand before him with slime dripping down their chins.
He runs out the door from these menacing creatures,
Leaving me behind with these dastardly ogres.
Alone, all alone, tears streaming like a river,
The brutes come closer and snorted with a sliver.
Are they predators? Am I prey?
I slowly backed up close to the doorway.
“Show off! Show off! We don’t need your nonsense!”
“Ms. Wang, to be honest, you are sort of dense.”
“We’ve taught for years and know what we’re doing!”
“We’re gonna eat you, so be gone with your bragging!”
I wiped away my tears and proudly marched forward,
Some of the beasts leaped back and whimpered.
“Remember why you chose this career path,”
I stood up tall as they growled with wrath.
“I am not a show off; I just put in more effort,
And that’s why each student of mine is a reading expert.”
“Don’t be green with envy, try new ideas instead.
So be gone, green-eyed monsters, jealousy should be dead!”
Screeching and scratching filled the entire room,
As the green-eyed beasts fled with hearts of gloom.
So this is the tale of the green-eyed monsters,
Marauding on teachers who are miraculous dreamers.
I will forever be the best at what I do,
For I will discover notable ideas from you.
But beware, noble teacher, for they still exist,
Preying on innovative professionals who try to assist.
— Wynee Wang

(Two poems combined)

How can she be gone?
She was just here this summer.
Unfair, brutal death.

I hold on tighter
to my family and friends.
She was killed. Still shocked.
— Beth Carter


Lost loved ones stay forever in our hearts.
We hear of another’s loss and again our loss smarts.
Everything should stop we think.
But all moves on in a blink.
Can we write it in ink?
Will that give us a link?
To those gone before us.
We sing you this Chorus:
We loved you here.
We’ll love you there.
Please make room, for us!
— Janet Kay Gallagher

19 Change

In sadness we learn
Change is sad and sad is good
Not hope and not yearn
Yes, change is misunderstood
Once so small, now adulthood
— Lisa Martino


you need to change
you can’t wear that
a paisley skirt
and a baseball hat

that tie-dye tank
over a checkered shirt
I’ll close my eyes
it makes them hurt

those tights have holes
your socks don’t match
your camo coat
has a zebra patch

a snakeskin purse
and polka-dot scarf
green, blue, and orange
surely I’ll barf

now hot pink heels
ugliest ever seen…

Yep, I look horrendous
this Halloween!

— Jackie Huppenthal


Squirrels gather nuts.
Leaves, red and gold, lose their grasp.
Fall’s winter forecast.

— V. L. Gregory


1 Untitled

Change your attitude
Change your heat
Change your temper
Change the way you take your seat
Change the way you look at me when you see me in the hall
Change the way when you trip me and make me fall
What about laughter?
What about a smile?
What about the time we would laugh for a while?
What about hope?
What about pray?
What about the time we were friends……. In a way
Remember when you would knock on my door
Remember the time we would lay on the floor
and laugh for hours and hours and more
I miss us together as friends forever
Do you?
I know I do
Don’t believe me… well it’s true

— Mara Lyman, 5th Grade
Toledo, OH

2 Four Little Rain Boots

A drifting leaf,
Mud sloshing,
Raindrop after raindrop,
Four little feet running out of a barn,
One little yellow boot on each,
Two little children.
Oh, how they run,
If only they knew,
How lucky they are.
Curly red hair,
Hiding the giggly face behind it.
If only they were aware of how much others envy them.
For, they still carry their innocence.
These happy expressions will stay happy for a while.
These two minds hold no knowledge of,
Laughter floating around the rustic red barn remains loud.
And they begin to
near the field.
Their lives are still sugarcoated.
And they should stay that way.
But change is imminent.
There’s no way around it.

— Emily Rigby, 5th Grade
Toledo, OH

3 Your Life’s Story and Mine

You lay in your hospital bed,
Telling me things you’ve done,
Things you haven’t done,
Things you wish you hadn’t done.
So weak.
So frail.
I’ve heard the stories before,
But I want to hear them again.
Just one more time.
I sit beside you while your telling me your life’s story,
Silently holding back tears.
I’ll be there for the end of your life,
Like you were there for the beginning of mine.
You take your last breath, pressing something into my hand,
“ For you.” You whisper.
Your last words.
I sit there clutching you to my chest.
Screaming your name.
Howling for someone who will never hear,
Someone who will never come.
Making myself believe that you’re in a better place.
Making myself not think about my life’s story,
Just yours.
How right now I feel like my heart has been ripped out of my chest,
Taken unfairly.
How I know it’s the end of your life.
How I think it’s the end of mine.
“Come back, please come back.” I sob.
But I know you won’t, they never do.
Like mom and dad. I think.
I look down at what you pressed into my hand.
The last thing you touched.
The last thing you gave me.
A necklace.
I won’t let go.
I’ll never let go of you.
And that’s not going to change.
That’s never going to change.

— KnowEl Willhight, 5th Grade
Toledo, OH

4 Untitled

Change, change my brother has change,
He has a ton, and I have none.
Change, change I wish I had change.
I could buy gum, but I act like a bum.
Change, change my brother has change,
I could be cool, but I’m just a fool.
Change, change, no one cares he has change.
He is my brother, and I don’t want another.
Change, change, this shouldn’t change.
Now he has 1 cent, but I still love him 100 percent.

— Hudson Finch, 5th Grade
Toledo, OH

5 My Wonderland

I hear the voices
All night long,
The words engraved
in my mind,
haunting me.
Trembling underneath
the covers,
I wipe a tear,
and take a breath,
burning any hope
of change left in me,
then lose myself
within my dreams,
Forgetting all
of what is
fading away.

— Priya Shah, 8th Grade
Frederick, MD
Monocacy Middle School

6 Change

4 quarters
3 pennies
2 dimes
5 nickels
change in his pocket
left over money from lunch
he watches as the traffic lights change
the magnificent colors
he watches the last leaf
the last leaf on the old oak tree
it delicately breaks from the branch
it neatly tumbles down
flitter flutter it sings as it dives
and gently rests upon the ground

— Kaartikeya Gupta, Grade 6
Maumee Valley Country Day
Toledo, Oh

7 Seasons Battles

Winter is coming slowly
Ready to take over Fall
Freezing winds will make chilly chaos
Glistening snows will cover the lands
Blizzards arrive early to serve their master
Trees will change into leafless souls
Clouds will mourn for Spring’s return
Freezing days will be experienced before
Spring takes over
Winter’s evil reign

— Omar Abdul-Aziz,
Maumee Valley Country Day
Toledo, Oh

8 The Run

As I step onto the path,
My adrenaline started
Rushing through my veins
I started running and
The cool breeze
Swept through me.
Leaves flew all over
The ground almost
ready to change brown.
Buckeyes covered the trail
As I tried to step
Over them like they
Were hot lava
Little children came
To play on the swings
Screaming wildly
Through the air
As I get to
My destination,
My lungs get cold
And it gets harder and harder
to push on.
And as I sprint up the
It all happens again.
The cool breeze,
The leaves
Flying all over the ground,
Buckeyes covering
The trail,
The children screaming
Wildly through the air,
And as I stop,
Take a deep breath,
I turn around,
And do it again.

— Claire Tipton, grade: 6
Maumee Valley Country Day
Toledo, Oh

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.”

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.