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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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:
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!
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!
Janet 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!