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Celebrating Poetry with Fig Trees and Cake | Guest Post by Janet Wong

By Janet Wong 

UPDATE 4/15/15: And we have a winner! Jo Anne Johns – you are the lucky recipient of a copy of The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations! Please email us at triciambe@gmail.com so that we can put you in touch with Janet. Thanks so much to everyone who participated and left wonderful comments and ideas below. 

UPDATE 4/11/15: We’re so happy to announce a GIVEAWAY! Janet Wong has graciously offered to give away a copy of the Teacher / Librarian Edition of The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations. To enter, simply post a brief comment below and share one of your favorite poetry activities to do with students or how you plan to celebrate poetry this month! Please post your comment by Tuesday, 4/14, at 11:59 pm EST. A winner will be randomly selected and announced on Wednesday morning.


I agree with Janice Ewing: I too “have mixed feelings about special months designated for things that should be embedded into our teaching and celebrated all through the year.” Poetry is so easy to incorporate into your teaching day; most poems take less than a minute to read. Poetry is so useful, too, especially in teaching other content areas (science, math, social studies, the arts, and P.E. or sports). Saving it just for April would be like saving cake just for birthdays.

But there are some designated months that are still very necessary. Did you know that April is Arab American Heritage Month? Celebrate it with this poem, “Tree Day Celebration” by Ibtisam Barakat, from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations:

barakat tree jpeg

Follow this poem by planting a small tree together as a class. You can use the poem and Ibtisam Barakat’s Poet’s Note (found toward the bottom of this web page) as mentor texts to inspire your students to write about the experience. Here are the compelling last lines of that Poet’s Note:

  • Sometimes one small fresh fig costs a dollar. I stand there debating quietly. I end up telling myself that it is not only a fruit, but medicine for the part of me that is homesick. My health insurance plan does not cover homesickness. So I buy the figs.   —Ibtisam Barakat

Put a handful of students in charge of documenting the tree-planting ceremony with photos and video footage. Another handful of students can write a short article and press release for your local newspapers and news stations. The remainder of your class can be in charge of preparing and submitting the packets of materials to the stations and papers. Imagine their excitement if the newspaper would like to feature your students and their work in a “local interest” piece on April 24 for National Arbor Day!

PFA for Celebrations cover

In our most recent book, The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations, my collaborator Sylvia Vardell and I present 156 poems in English (and Spanish) by 115 poets that cover a wide variety of celebrations:

  • Renée M. LaTulippe on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities;
  • Steven Withrow on National Braille Reading Month;
  • Debbie Reese describing making bread in Pueblo cultures for Native American Heritage Month;
  • Nancy Bo Flood and Rose Ann Tahe on a Navajo baby’s First Laughter ceremony;
  • Joseph Bruchac on counting winters;
  • Uma Krishnaswami on Diwali;
  • Ibtisam Barakat on the fasting experience during Ramadan;
  • Buffy Silverman on Passover;
  • April Halprin Wayland on Tashlich;
  • Leslea Newman with a Gay Pride Day poem and a Chanukah poem;
  • Linda Sue Park on the Korean New Year and a Korean baby’s first birthday;
  • Grace Lin on the Moon Festival;
  • Andrea Cheng on a multicultural (Chinese and Hungarian) birthday;
  • Margarita Engle on the Dashain festival of Nepal and on a piñata party;
  • Alma Flor Ada and Isabel Campoy on bilingualism;
  • Francisco Alarcon on Carnival;
  • Rene Saldana, Jr. on Día de los muertos;
  • Carmen Bernier-Grand on Three Kings Day;
  • Pat Mora on Día de los ninos, Día de los libros;
  • Jorge Argueta on International Dance Day;
  • Charles Waters on Juneteenth and Black History Month;
  • Carol-Ann Hoyte on Kwanzaa;
  • Nikki Grimes on MLK, Jr. Day;
  • Georgia Heard on Citizenship Day;
  • Jeannine Atkins on Women’s History Month;
  • Jane Yolen writing about an adoption anniversary;
  • and me (Janet Wong) on Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and National Hispanic Heritage Month (the point of that poem is that you don’t have to be Hispanic to celebrate this month).

You can find several of these poems at PoetryCelebrations.com, the companion website to our book. Encourage your students to write about the celebrations in their lives not just at the designated and obligatory times, but on any day. And yes, in April and all throughout the year: let’s celebrate with cake!

poetry cake jpeg

 


photo of janet wongJanet Wong is the author of 30 books for young people and the co-creator, with Sylvia Vardell, of The Poetry Friday Anthology series (PomeloBooks.com). If you bring a “tree poem”—by you, one of your students, or a favorite poet—to Janet’s session at KSRA this October, Janet will give you a free gift. (You will like it: guaranteed.) Register today for KSRA!

29 Comments Post a comment
  1. ello Janet,
    This is a wonderful post, I really loved the poetry and images are so nice.
    Its a great idea and a great post.

    Many thanks.

    Like

    July 12, 2015
  2. Dear All: I’ve really enjoyed reading your comments and I hope that you’ll join me and Mary Lee Hahn (5th grade teacher and frequent conference speaker) in our #nctechat on Twitter this Sunday at 8pm!

    Like

    April 16, 2015
    • #nctechat reminder: tonight at 8pm! It’s such a gorgeous day out; hopefully you’ve all been enjoying it. (The magnolias! the daffodils! the perfect temperature!!) But then, after a good dinner, if you find yourself in need of a 5-min “cyber fix”–please come visit at Twitter!

      Like

      April 19, 2015
  3. Chris #

    I love poetry! As a librarian, I have the pleasure of building our poetry collection with wonderful poets like Nikki Grimes, Janet Wong, J. Patrick Lewis, Joyce Sidman, Ralph Fletcher, and many more. I continue to grow it annually. Every year I set up a “March Madness” Poetry Playoff bracket for the teachers (K – 6) to share with their students daily. We start out with 32 poems (verse and free verse) and each day two poems square off in a round and the students vote. The teachers share their winner with me and I keep track on a bracket in the library. Many teachers also keep track on a copy of the bracket in their classrooms. The kids LOVE it! I started it 3 years ago and the children ask every year in March if we are having Poetry Playoffs. Of course, my answer is always a resounding YES!! The teachers also appreciate the 32 different mentor poets they get year after year.

    Like

    April 14, 2015
    • March Madness Poetry is definitely becoming more and more popular each year! A neat twist would be to have 32 poems all about various aspects of the sport of basketball, poems with lots of sports terms, poems about shoes, poems about sweat, winning, and so on. You’ll find so many great examples in THE CROSSOVER, of course . . . and The PFA for Celebrations has a great short poem (in English and Spanish) that uses the words “fast break,” “alley oop,” and “slam dunk” (CLAVADA in Spanish): “In Rhythm” by Charles Waters.

      Like

      April 14, 2015
  4. Jo Anne Johns #

    This Wednesday will be my favorite day of the school year will occur. The Poetry Tea! Each year the students look forward to preparing for this very special day. In addition to Poetry Fridays throughout the year, a month is set aside for the children to learn to write 4 – 5 different types of poetry, create invitations for parents, weave special placemats, bake scones and decorate their classroom. At the Poetry Tea we gather to share poetry read by small groups, individual students, parents, and staff. Some parents read in their mother tongue, translated by their children. This year I look forward to hearing Swedish and Russian poetry along with original poems written with great enthusiasm by my students. It is a wonderful day that leaves the community feeling happy to have spent the hour together, thoughtful for understanding the language of the heart, and of course, full of tea and jam, strawberries and cream, and delicious scones! If the children’s enthusiasm is any measure at all, Poetry month and Poetry Fridays are a delight.
    Joyce Sidman is one of my favorite poets for children. Her books are magnificently illustrated about the nature around us. ‘Welcome to the Night’ in her book, Dark Emporer and Other Poems of the Night is a wonderful introduction to nocturnal animals.

    Like

    April 14, 2015
    • The Poetry Tea: how FUN! Have you seen this book (TEA PARTY TODAY: Poems to Sip and Savor) by PA poet Eileen Spinelli? http://www.amazon.com/Tea-Party-Today-Poems-Savor/dp/1590784286

      Like

      April 15, 2015
    • Hi Jo Anne! Thanks so much for your comment! And we’re so happy to let you know that you’ve won a complimentary copy of The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations! Please email us at triciambe@gmail.com so we can put you in touch with Janet.

      Like

      April 15, 2015
      • Jo Anne Johns #

        Thank you very much!! I look forward to sharing the book with the children at school! I am sure they will enjoy the many poems inside :o)
        Thank you, once again.

        Like

        April 16, 2015
      • Jo Anne: You can send me an email with your snail mail address and I’ll pop a book in the mail. Congratulations! janet AT janetwong DOT com.

        Like

        April 16, 2015
  5. Elizabeth Pavone #

    I love the image of a single item representing someone’s personal “theme.” Love the poem!
    I try to incorporate poems all year, by sharing them at the beginning of a class. Sometimes, I connect them to the days lesson, other times I leave the space open for a thoughtful response…
    In March ish…I do “March Madness” with poetry. I either set up the brackets between classes or within a class. Each “team” shares a poem and students anonymously vote for their favorite…we vote until we have a champion…it usually takes until the end of the year

    Like

    April 14, 2015
    • More people need to know about March Madness–I’ll bet your students love it! What poem(s) won this year in your class(es)? Love the fact that you’re sharing poems at the beginning of a class all year long.

      Like

      April 14, 2015
  6. William Bell #

    Happy poetry month!! I love the fig image. Just think of something so small and seemingly insignificant leading to emotional and spiritual wellbeing. In my classroom (grade 3), we do a “poetry round”. I supply the topic and the first line and then in small groups, each group supplies another line. We decide which order is best, which lines go where, and we have a poem. We work on imagery and power words and celebrate poetry all at the same time.

    Like

    April 14, 2015
    • How fun to do Poetry Rounds with your class! For some additional inspiration, you might want to take a look at the progressive poem-in-progress (and past years’ progressive poems) at Irene Latham’s blog: http://irenelatham.blogspot.com/p/2013-progressive-poem.html. Thanks for sharing–and please post again later this month if you have a poem that you think we’d like!

      Like

      April 14, 2015
  7. I also love the Tree Day Celebration poem, and share Janice’s view that poetry should be enjoyed all year long. It is refreshing, as Spring is finally here, to switch gears after break and read things that feel a ‘lighter’, that put a spring in our steps. Today was my class’ first visit to Library this month, and almost every student took out a book of poems! We also celebrated Grandparents’ Day last Friday and performed a few poems and readers theater scripts for them. Great fun!

    Like

    April 13, 2015
    • Maribeth: How great to hear that your students are clearing out the 811 section of your library! Re Grandparents’ Day: many people also celebrate it in September–and The PFA for Celebrations has a terrific poem by Julie Larios about being far away from Abuelo and Abuela–with them sending “besitos” across the miles. Please take a look if you have access to a copy!

      Like

      April 14, 2015
  8. jmjd #

    Love the Barakat poem. With state testing going on right now, tricky to get poetry in at the moment, but we’ll work with some blackout poetry this week.

    Like

    April 13, 2015
  9. AK Berent #

    We began April with a fresh resolve to read and study poetry in my middle-level ELA classes. So far this month, I’ve been delighted by the students’ enthusiasm for poetry, and I’ve been impressed by their thoughtful insights as we read. The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations sounds perfect as we continue our search for poems to inspire our writing!

    Like

    April 12, 2015
    • Please tell us more about a favorite poem that you used and some of the student comments about it!

      Like

      April 13, 2015
  10. I haven’t purchased The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations yet, but I certainly will now. Sounds like a resource that needs to be on my bookshelf!

    Like

    April 10, 2015
    • Stacey (and All): tell us how you’re celebrating Poetry Month–and maybe you’ll win a book! (see the update above)

      Like

      April 13, 2015
  11. janiceewing #

    Adding my thanks for these wonderful ideas and resources… I love the metaphor of eating cake all year, with special cakes for celebrations, and you’ve shared so many reasons to celebrate! I hope to see you at KSRA with a tree poem in hand.

    Like

    April 8, 2015
    • Thank you, Janice, for providing the inspiration for this piece with your April 1st post—and I look forward to meeting you at KSRA, when we exchange your tree poem and my “mystery gift” for you!

      Like

      April 9, 2015
  12. Thank you for sharing all these wonderful ideas, and especially for introducing me to that Barakat poem. I will definitely be using it as a mentor text this month (and it works wonderfully in my world literature course).

    Like

    April 8, 2015
    • Thank you, Tricia, and please let us know how your students respond to Ibtisam Barakat’s poem!

      Like

      April 9, 2015
  13. Rita Sorrentino #

    Thank you. What a great resource for poetry on any day, in any class, at any time of year. Ready to get my poe-tree project going.

    Like

    April 8, 2015
    • Thank you, Rita! And I think I should bring cake to my KSRA session, don’t you? Hope to see you there!

      Like

      April 9, 2015
    • Rita: tell us more about your Poe-tree–or post a sketch of it! will you staple poems to a large paper tree, as if they were fruit? Or . . . ?? (and see the update re a chance to win a book!)

      Like

      April 13, 2015

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