Ron Koertge

A little prose diversion for today.

This past weekend I was checking out some of the 101 Best Websites put together by Writer’s Digest every year. Since I’m planning on writing a children’s book this year for NaNoWriMo, I thought I’d check out some of the sites related to writing for children.

And am I glad I did.

One of the sites was Cynsations, a blog by writer Cynthia Leitich Smith. On her blog I found a guest post by Ron Koertge. All I knew about him before that was a poem that he wrote that I have read aloud to my students: “Do You Have Any Advice For Those of Us Just Starting Out?” (It’s a great poem – you should read it.)

Well, I discovered that he writes books for young people. His blog post was about a sequel he had written to a previous book. What caught my attention was a book called Shakespeare Bats Cleanup. I quickly went online and found that they had a copy at my second-closest Barnes & Noble. In running errands on Sunday, we didn’t make it over there, but I went Monday night and picked it up.

Here’s the blurb on the back page:

At fourteen, Kevin Boland is a straight-talking MVP first baseman who can’t tell a ballad from a salad. But when he is diagnosed with mono and is forced to spend months at home recuperating, Kevin secretly borrows his father’s poetry book and starts writing, just to pass the time. Inside the book, Kevin discovers more than haiku and sonnets. He gains insight – sometimes humorous, sometimes painful – as he records his candid observations on junior-high romance, daydreams of baseball stardom, and sorrow over the recent death of his mother, and learns how words can open doors to the soul.

Makes you want to read it, doesn’t it? I bought it. I can’t wait to read it. As soon as I’ve finished it – which might not happen until I finish my first set of report cards for this school year – I’ll post a review here.

If I like it, I may read parts (or all) of it to my students as part of my Elementary School Poetry 180 project.

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I’m raising funds for The Office of Letters and Light, the nonprofit organization that sponsors National Novel Writing Month in November. Please check out my Night of Writing Dangerously post.

Thanks to Brenda and Joss for their donations. You are writing heroes. I’m almost one-fourth of the way to my goal. Thanks!

Elementary School Poetry – Week Four

“Radio” is another great poem from Poetry 180. It’s accessible and fun. City kids get this one real quick.
I can’t locate where I found “Could Have Been Worse” at the moment. It’s a humorous poem from a poetry book for kids, probably one of those anthologies of poems that kids like. It’s one of those “underwear” poems that makes kids groan. Lots of fun to read.
Addendum: I decided to do an internet search before I posted this, and sure enough, I located it. It’s from Kids Pick the Funniest Poems – and I found it reposted online as well. Enjoy!
“The Farewell” is a great poem to read. It’s also one that I might bring up later when we talk about trust and distrust.
“Knoxville, Tennessee” is a great poem by Nikki Giovanni. It’s in our reading anthology; there’s a small unit on poetry. But it comes with illustrations. I like students to read (or hear) poems on their own without illustrations. Pictures made by someone other than the poet guides student interpretations, and I want them to come up with their own interpretation.
“The Poet” is a fun one. Poets write poems about poetry and poets. This is a good example of that.

Elementary School Poetry 180 – Week Three

Here are the five poems for week three:

I pulled the other two poems from books I have. There is a series of books of poetry for children, and I selected “Dream Variations” from the one on Langston Hughes. It is titled Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes, edited by David Roessel and Arnold Rampersad. “Blackberry Eating” came from A Poem for Every Day! by Susan Moger.

Elementary School Poetry 180 – Week Two

Here are the five poems I read last week:

I still have a student who says, “That was short” when I finish reading a poem. All of these fit on a single page except for “Numbers”. There was some discussion of the last stanza of that one, a bit of confusion about what to make of “three boys”, “two Italians”, and “one sock”.

I think I’m going to drop “Ozymandias”. While I like it, and it’s fun to read aloud, I think it’s too heady for ten-year-olds. They just don’t know what to make of it.

Elementary School Poetry 180 – Week One

It was way too crazy a week ago for me to post the poems I was going to read. Instead, on Mondays I will be posting the poems I read the previous week to my students.  In fact, I didn’t get to reading any poems aloud until the fourth day, when I read four in a row.

In the spirit of “Introduction to Poetry”, we just “walk inside the poem’s room”. Students are welcome to comment, if they like, but I ask no questions of them. There is no analysis. That may come later – and as a separate activity. I am going to try poems with VTS, Visual Thinking Strategies, this year. I think “The Tyger” might be an interesting one to try later in the year.

“Jabberwocky” was a poem some students had heard or read before. All the others were new to them. We did comment on the made up words in the Lewis Carroll poem. And a student did mention how “This Is Just to Say” was a poem of apology.