Webinar finished

Hi everyone,

Thank you for your encouragement yesterday. Once that Mary Jo Fresch and I got warmed up, with Kim Bernard’s able guidance we flew straight through the webinar. I think the final time was eighteen minutes so we were about where we wanted to be. I believe that the finished result will be posted today on the Shell Education site.

Learning through PoetryLEARNING THROUGH POETRY is the series of books that we wrote for PreK-2 students to help them develop the connection between the sounds they hear and the words they see. Phonemic awareness is an important indicator of a child’s readiness to read.

For each of the 96 poems in the series I began with a basic sound (phoneme), such as a short vowel, a blended sound, long vowel, digraph, or consonant. I made a list of words that contained the same sound that I wanted to write about. Then I worked them around in various ways until the thread of an idea became apparent.

The final poem, in each case, features as many of the subject sounds as I could work in while also writing a legitimate poem in the process. It was a challenge but one that I rather enjoyed.

Here’s an example. The sound was the blend GR.

David L. Harrison

Gruff old grandpa grizzlies growl
Grimly when they eat.
With grabby claws
They fill their paws
With veggies, fruit, and meat.

Grandma grizzlies’ “grrrs” are sweet,
Their love to spoil their cubs
With grasshopper grits,
Cherry pits,
And gruel with greasy grubs.

We think gruel with grubs is gross
But grand-cub grizzlies slurp it,
They grin and groan,
Grunt and moan,
And roll their eyes and burp it.

Mary Jo used her special skills and talents to create classroom activities that teachers can follow to reinforce the subject sound in fun, useful ways. She managed to find all sorts of connections to common core standards and core subjects. What originally began as an idea for one book grew over time into the series of five titles.

Our publisher flew us to California where we spent a laughter-filled day recording all the poems so that each of the books contains a CD of our voices reading the poems in that volume.

If you know someone who should know about this series, I hope you’ll pass along the information, you can open http://shelleducation.com and search for LEARNING THROUGH POETRY.

New webinar

Hi, everyone,

A new experience for me. Three hours from the time of this posting I’ll join Mary Jo Fresch in recording a 20-minute webinar about our new 5-book series — LEARNING THROUGH POETRY.The leader of the program is Kim Bernard with Shell Education. Kim will speak from California. Mary Jo from Ohio, and I’ll pitch in from Florida.
Yesterday we had a practice session that went well so today is the real deal. We’ve been reminded to turn everything off that might make a noise and even to watch the sound of paper being shuffled.

After the webinar has been shown at sales meetings I believe it will be available to other viewers, perhaps through the Shell/TCM websites. Fingers crossed.


Poetry word list challenge

Hi everyone,

We recently played a game based on the approach I used to write poems for LEARNING THROUGH POETRY, the series of books co-written with Mary Jo Fresch and published by Shell Education. Each poem demonstrates a different sound (phoneme) that children learn in the process of becoming readers. In each case I began with a list of words that featured the subject sound and looked for something to write about that would use as many as possible of those words.

A number of you pitched in a poem or two inspired by the same word list I used and it was fun to see the diversity of expression that came from the exercise. You also said you’d like to try this again so here’s another list of words to get the juices flowing.

This list features the rime sound ATE. I’ll keep this posted for a while and then show you what I wrote based on this list. Remember that your target audience is preK-2. Start your engines.

Bait, celebrate, crate, date, eight, fate, freight, gait, gate, grate, great, hate, Kate, late, mate, Nate, plate, rate, skate, slate, state, straight, trait, wait, weight, and many more that you can think of.


California sunset


Hi everyone,

Here’s a picture of sunset from Newport Beach near Huntington Beach where we visited Shell Education/TCM headquarters and also near the studio where we made the recordings. Mighty pretty country they have out there!

By this Friday, LEARNING THROUGH POETRY, the 5-book series co-authored by Mary Jo Fresch for Shell Education, will go to the printers. LET’S WRITE THIS WEEK WITH DAVID HARRISON (with a teacher guide and student journal co-authored by Laurie Edmondson) for Phoenix Learning, went to the printers last week. The poem I wrote for this year’s Highlights poster is being illustrated as we speak and the new picture book for Holiday House, A PERFECT HOME FOR A FAMILY, is now available through Amazon.com. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to IRA this year.

Today I hope to finish an article for Post Road, a contemporary literature magazine affiliated with Boston College. I’m working there with Daniel Cattolica. His sister, Sara Johnson, is editorial director for Shell Education. Talented family!


Recording my poems

Hi everyone,


This rather cave-like shot is of Mary Jo Fresch and me yesterday in a recording studio in Huntington Beach, California. We spent the day recording 96 of my poems for a series of five books that will be out in April. The books are being published by Shell Education and co-branded by International Reading Association. If I get a better picture, I’ll exchange it for this one.

This is part of the reason why I announced over a year ago that I had a killer writing schedule that would be taking most of my time for quite a while.  This series won’t be released until April but it’s already posted on Amazon and Barnes & Noble under Learning through Poetry.

My co-author for these books, collectively called SOUND BEGINNINGS, is Mary Jo Fresch, Professor, Teaching and Learning, Ohio State University. We’ll also be presenting together at the upcoming IRA conference in San Antonio. SONY DSC

The series revolves around phonemic awareness and phonological awareness. Phonemic awareness is the beginning state of phonological awareness. The former is the ability to hear and manipulate the separate phonemes (distinct units of sounds) of the language. The latter encompasses not only the manipulation of phonemes but also words, syllables, and onsets and rimes.

Each poem was written to demonstrate a particular sound so I started each one by assembling a list of words that contained the desired sound and then went looking for a poem hidden somewhere in that list. Shades of Word of the Month! Mary Jo wrote the lessons for students to play with the words from the poems, then connected a content and art lesson to every poem. A letter for the parents provides support so they can play at home.

Each of the five titles will have a CD attached in the back that reflects the poems featured in the book. And that’s what Mary Jo and I were doing yesterday.