31 January 2012

Poetry Performance

Today we used the fantastic sound poems the students created for last week's Learning Log and explored another way the arts can be used to perform. Students worked with a partner or group to experiment with sound effects using musical instruments. We really enjoyed listening to each poetry performance, giving feedback in the form of 'I liked..' and 'Next time I would..........'. We realised you have to be very organised to be ready with your sound effect! Watch the video at the end of this post to find out what our poems sounded like.

As we are coming to the end of this unit I asked students to think about how they would like to show what they have learned. We brainstormed our ideas about poems we could perform and how we could perform them. Some students would like to create a new piece, others would like to work with a poem they've already written or read in a poetry book. We also viewed some performances by other students for some new ideas, although we've collected lots of ideas along the way!

Sound Poetry Performance from ISOCS on Vimeo.
Members of the Middle Primary Class at ISOCS perform "Sound Poems" they wrote as part of their unit of inquiry into Poetry.

30 January 2012

Personal Connections (30.1.12) and Yves Tanguy

Today we looked at the work of the surrealist artist Yves Tanguy. He explored the imagination and dreams through his art work. We talked a little about what we saw in his art and wondered what he had been thinking or been influenced by. Students noticed the artist's skill to create a three dimensional effect. One student commented that maybe the Second World War had influenced one of his pieces after seeing the dates of Tanguy's life (1900-1955). This showed great awareness considering surrealism was born out of the despair of World War One. I then asked students to spend ten minutes sketching a dream they had experienced. They could also mix it with reality or the imaginary.

Sharing the dream
Using this as an inspiration students created their own dream poem. It's very satisfying to see how independently the students can now write poetry sprinkled with similes, adjectives and action verbs.

The next step was to print out the poem and cut it out. Some students have already begun to use mixture of text and paper to collage the dream to create multi-textured pieces of art work.

Personal Connections

Your 'Personal Connections' task is to choose two of Tanguy's paintings by following the link and complete a 'I See, I Think, I Wonder' routine for each. If you click on the picture, it will enlarge. Remember to be detailed in your response and use a line guide. Please write the title of the painting at the top of the page.

Plus: Tracks and reading

Due date: Monday 6th February

Check out Kathy's blog post about the poet Edward Lear. It's the anniversary of his death today. As well as writing 'The Owl and the Pussy Cat', Lear was particularly famous for his limericks.

24 January 2012

Expressing Feelings Through Art

We've been exploring and discovering so much new vocabualry during this unit, that is was time to have our language inspire our art. Following on from yesterday's 'feelings' poetry, each student chose four feeling words. Using an online thesaurus students found exciting synonyms and brainstormed these in their art journals. They then chose one feeling to explore through art. Influenced by the vocabulary and by the style of Henri Matisse's paper cuts, students created their own masterpiece. There's always such a great vibe in the room when we get creative! You can't miss our pictures on the wall when you walk into our classroom.

We also returned to discussing poetry in our reading groups, using the same four questions from last week. It was great fun to hear some new poems too by Jack Prelutsky, Spike Milligan, Allan Ahlberg and Shel Silverstein.

We've also been looking at some poems performed by students to start gathering our ideas together for our own poetry performances at the end of the unit. We will be inviting you along to be our audience! This will be after the break. Please search out a black outfit at home for your child to wear. 

23 January 2012

Our Top Similes

Today we took a gallery walk around all those great ideas for similes that the students have brought in. Out of these we each chose one we really liked. In no particular order, here our 'Top Similes': 
  1. As cross as a bull.
  2. As ruffled as a potato chip.
  3. You are as tall as a mountain.
  4. He is as fit as Usain Bolt.
  5. That is as smooth as glass.
  6. It's as easy as ABC.
  7. As angry as a hungry bull.
  8. As cold as ice.
  9. As warm as toast.
  10. She’s as smooth as a snake.
  11. As fit as an Olympic athlete.
The students performed their sound poems too, including one with recorded sound effects, a shape poem and one with complimentary illustrations. I was very impressed with the students' choice of vocabulary. These will be up for display shortly.
Performing a sound poem
G enjoying the humour of his poem
Reading our simile chart
Sharing a Learning Log
As we were writing poetry about feelings today, I really noticed how students are making much more informed choices about the framework and language they choose. For example some chose acrostic, list or free verse. The students have begun to develop a much wider repertoire of poetry frameworks and language.

I have asked students to read, practice Tracks and visit the Wiki over the next couple of days. Mr. V. will set a maths task this Wednesday to be handed in on Wednesday 1st February. 

18 January 2012

The Explicit Teaching of Writing

One thing I learned when completing a training course a few years ago was that as teachers we needed to be teaching the wider experience of writing as we often spent time on a very narrow variety of forms.

'The act of writing consists of multiple processes, strategies and conventions that intertwine and overlap. Teachers need to be explicit in demonstrating and talking to students about what effective writers do. Teachers also need to provide opportunities for students to apply new understandings in their own authentic writing contexts.'
First Steps Writing Resource Book p.1

Think of all the purposes you actually write for: shopping lists (instructions), sending invitations via email (socialise), making up the rules in our households (explain) and recording minutes to business meetings (recount). Students need to be aware that every time we write, we are writing with a specific purpose in mind. Each purpose we choose has a variety of forms and a framework that helps us organise our ideas. In addition there are a variety of language features that we use to bring out the best in our writing. Using 'First Steps' as a resource for writing there are eight purposes for writing:

  • Writing to Entertain
  • Writing to Describe
  • Writing to Explain
  • Writing to Inquire¨
  • Writing to Instruct
  • Writing to Persuade
  • Writing to Recount
  • Writing to Socialise

Today we revisited the purpose behind writing poetry in general. We agreed we used it to express our ideas and to entertain. We discussed how many forms we had already encountered in our unit including list poems, story poems, diamante poems and acrostic and the form lay outs or frameworks for these forms. We also saw that in these forms poets use language features such as powerful adjectives, action verbs, alliteration, similes, rhyme, onomatopoeia and devices such as a repeating line or refrain. Pattern and rhythm is particularly important.  As poets as ourselves we are deepening our understanding and skills in order to write powerful poetry ourselves.

Using an 'Explorers' Circle' together we identified the frameworks and language features from a free verse poem 'The Song the Train Sang' by Neil Adams.

The students will now look at a wide variety of forms of poetry, including some new forms such as haiku, tanka, cinquain, rondelot, shape and lantern, and identify frameworks and language features for each using the format above.

Poetry and Art

Following on from last week, we returned to the four questions we used to dig deeper into poetry. 
  1. Does this poem remind you of anything?
  2. Does it remind you of anything you've read?
  3. Are there any questions you'd like to ask the poet about?
  4. Are there any questions you'd like to ask of anybody or anything in the poem?

Each reading group selected a poem and discussed these questions. When they had really talked at length each group made notes of their key ideas which they then shared with the class. We got to hear about some new poems as well as some that are becoming firm favourites. For me, I was particularly interested in the text to real life connections the students were making. We are also seeing how many poems are dramatised real life experiences. 

We also finished off our animal poems by having a Quaker read where each child stands up in a quiet room only when they are ready to speak. It was a very effective strategy that allowed a quiet space in which the poetry could really be heard clearly.

We finished the day by responding * to art. I showed the class a piece by a mystery artist and asked them to record their response to the piece using the three sentence starters 'I see, I think, I wonder'. What interesting responses resulted. One student thought the shapes could be leaves coloured to represent different seasons, another thought it could be a bush hiding a secret the artist didn't want us to know, some saw hands, others seaweed, many colours, excitement, a coral reef and the shape of a clam. We thought the artist must like these colours, maybe he just did a random drawing to show how he felt, it wasn't easy to make, it's bigger than you think, the artist wanted to say something happy and funny to us and the leaves are all different. We wondered what the 'HM 53' represented in the corner, if we could make a picture like this, what was the artist thinking before he made this and if the artist liked summer and fall.

In our next step the students are going to create their own title for the piece before I reveal Matisse's chosen title. This session then leads to next week's investigation into poetic vocabulary and how we can create art to express our poetic ideas and emotions. Henri Matisse's paper cuts are our inspiration.

We watched this video in class:

*There are two element to the visual arts: responding and creating.

16 January 2012

Action Verbs

Today we looked at how interesting choices of verbs can bring our poetry alive. We used an interactive lesson exploring verbs found by Kathy. This was also a good opportunity to revisit adverbs, adjectives and nouns. Using the structure provided by the site the students created animal  poetry. We are gradually listening to one another's poems giving constructive feedback. This feedback can take the form of a specific compliment or a suggestion to add or improve vocabulary. This is really helpful as it can be difficult to find an alternative word or phrase yourself.

A quick update on our Monday schedule. I have swapped over our 'Monday Routines' (5Ws and How, headline writing, DIY writing and Tracks) to after break instead of before break. I also now have a new group of students using 'Look, Cover, Say, Write, Check' to learn some words they have misspelt. They are free to add words they would like to learn too. Our headline sharing happens in the afternoon. This is something you could discuss on the way to school with your child: What could your weekend headline be?

I am noticing students sharing poetry in class just for fun, please feel free to borrow a school poetry book in your Thursday book selection with Mr. V.

Personal Connections (Homework) 16.1.12

Stick the Similes sheet in your Learning Log. Using your new understanding of similes, create new similies using the listed words.

Sounds Good

On the first page:
In your Learning Log write down all the sounds you can possibly think of. Here's a start:
crashing, banging, whispering, whistling, splashing, pattering

Create poetry lines using these words. You might have more than one line for each.
Rocks crashing down a mountainside.
Hammer banging on a nail.
Wind whispering in the tree tops.
Whispering voices heard through the house.

Look, I've started a poem!

On the second page:
Select lines from your draft and organise your lines in a way you like. Publish your poem on the next page. You can illustrate it, put the lines into shapes, in fact however you would like to present your poem. Be ready to perform your piece. (If you are using straight lines, please use your line guide.)

Plus reading each evening and Tracks
Due: Monday 23rd January

11 January 2012

Our Earliest Connections With Poetry

At the beginning of our unit students were asked to bring in a rhyme parents sung or spoke to them when they were 'really' little. We have a fine collection of these on our wall. Then I asked students to learn a new finger rhyme to teach the Early Years students. On Tuesday afternoon students worked in groups to teach the new rhymes. To end the session we all sat together and heard each rhyme in turn. You should have seen the excitement on one particular student's face as he gradually gained the confidence to join in with a rhyme. I really appreciated the care and patience the Middle Primary students demonstratedHave a look at some of the photographs below.

It was important to put this learning experience into context. When we returned to our classroom we discussed two important questions:

Why do we listen to and learn nursery, bedtime and finger rhymes when we are very young?
  • To get us to sleep
  • It makes us laugh
  • So that we can learn something, it’s nice to learn rhymes
  • So we can do something when we’re bored
  • So children can teach their friends
  • These are things our mums & dads teach us, we can then teach them to our children and friends. We’re passing on a tradition.
  • It’s sharing words
  • Helps us learn to talk
  • Builds a relationship with the person we repeat the rhyme with
  • Calms children
  • Children become interested in words and actions, engages the emotions
  • Basic concepts introduced e.g. numbers, size, growth
  • Uses the skills of listening & observing
  • Sharing experience
  • Important to be exposed to rhyme early on in our lives (foundation of reading and writing).
Why did we teach the EY nursery, bedtime and finger rhymes in this unit?
  • So the EYs know the poems too, it’s good to share and teach others
  • We’re looking at poems in our unit, these are a kind of poem
  • These types if rhymes are often our earliest experience of rhyme and poetry
  • We're inquiring into how we use poetry to express ourselves.
The next day an Early Years student shared a newly learned poem from home in our 'Celebration of Learning'. It was wonderful to know this action had been inspired by the Middle Primary visit. A big thank you to the Early Years for a delightful afternoon. 

10 January 2012


Transdisciplinary theme: How we express ourselves
Central idea: The Arts create another reality and lets us discover new worlds.
Concepts: form, connection, reflection, poetry, expression, performance, creativity
Title: The Voice of the Poet

Over the past couple of days we have been reconnecting with our unit of inquiry 'The Voice of the Poet'. In our central idea there's the word 'create' and our focus attitude is 'creativity'. So we started the term off by watching the video on our wiki to help us think about what it means to be creative through language and the arts. I asked the questions:
  1. What’s the message in the film?
  2. How can we be creative?
  3. Do we all have creative potential?
Watch the video and see what you think.

Obvious to you. Amazing to others. from Derek Sivers on Vimeo.
Obvious to you. Amazing to others.
From http://sivers.org/obvious
Outtake from the book "Anything You Want" - by Derek Sivers

I continued by then asking the students to discuss the following ideas in groups and then share their ideas with the whole class. It is my target this term to encourage students to go beyond the obvious and really get discussing in depth. 
  1. What is poetry?
  2. Why read and write poetry?
  3. What are my thoughts about poetry?
  4. How can I use poetry to express myself?
  5. Are there ways I could use the arts to perform and reflect on poetry? (I explained to the class how we'll be using the arts to perform our poetry at the end of the unit.)
Today we've been entertained by the poet Michael Rosen. We viewed his poem 'Michael's Big Book of Bad Things' and laughed a lot! 

Then in groups we discussed:

  1. Does this poem remind you of anything?
  2. Does it remind you of anything you've read?
  3. Are there any questions you'd like to ask the poet about?
  4. Are there any questions you'd like to ask of anybody or anything in the poem?
These are really good questions suggested by the poet himself to get children engaged in the poems they read. We certainly found lots of connections to the 'bad things' we have done! We also looked at the layout of the poem and discovered how a 'story poem' can be organised. Using this as our inspiration we created our own story poems, some based on real life situations. 

(Check out Michael Rosen's great website.)

Personal Connections (Homework) 10.1.12

Exploring the Language Features of Poetry

We've been discovering that similes can be found just about anywhere; from the printed word to oral conversation; in language, literature, and music. A simile is an analogy that compares two things that are alike in one way. To help you identify a simile, know that the words “like” or “as” are always used. Examples of similes are: “cute as a kitten,” comparing the way someone looks to the way a kitten looks, and “as busy as a bee” comparing someone’s level of energy to a fast-flying bee. 

Similes can make our language more descriptive and enjoyable. Writers, poets, and songwriters make use of similes often to add depth and emphasize what they are trying to convey to the reader or listener. Similes can be funny, serious, mean, or creative. 

We read the famous poem by Robert Burns:

A Red, Red Rose
O My Luve's like a red, red rose,
That's newly sprung in June;
O My Luve's like the melodie
That's sweetly played in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear
While the sands o' life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only luve,
And fare thee weel, awhile!
And I will come again, my luve
Tho' it ware ten thousand mile!

After listening to the poem we discussed why the poet compared love to a red rose. Students described how a rose is beautiful and that love is special. Red is the colour of love, like valentine hearts. This led to the idea that emotions can be given colours. The rose is also the romantic flower men give to women, you wouldn't give a black rose. Finally that roses often make up wedding bouquets. 

We also noticed how different the language is to the English we speak. This led to an interesting comment that maybe language changes with time. Perhaps the way we speak will sound old fashioned in years to come!  We also observed there are regional differences in the way English is spoken.

What do these similes mean?


Your task: 
1. Read through the sheets describing similes.
2. As you read, listen or talk this week, collect similes to bring to school and post on our simile chart.
3. Just for fun, check the Using ICTs @ ISOCS blog and try out some similes using Flickr Poet.

(Tracks begins again next week.)
Information from: http://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-similes.html

04 January 2012

A Child's Garden of Poetry

For the ISOCS Middle Primary Class, which is investigating "the voice of the poet":

One of our loyal agents sent me the link to A Child's Garden of Poetry, and a video of "Hope is a thing with feathers" by Emily Dickinson.

"In this (HBO) half hour special, children discuss the meaning and mystery of poetry and recite some of their favorites by heart. Poets featured in this program are Li Bai, Matsuo Basho, Robert Frost, E. E. Cummings, Emily Dickinson, Mary Ann Hoberman, Langston Hughes, Edward Lear, Claude McKay, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Carl Sandburg, William Shakespeare, Robert Louis Stevenson, William Wordsworth, and William Butler Yeats."

Screen shot of http://www.poetryfoundation.org/

Click through to watch and listen to "Hope is the thing with feathers", as well as two other videos of other poems.

Daguerreotype of the poet Emily Dickinson, 
taken circa 1848. (Original is scratched.) 
From the Todd-Bingham Picture Collection 
and Family Papers, Yale University 
Manuscripts & Archives Digital Images Database, 
You'll find the text of "Hope is the thing with feathers" and a bit of commentary at this web page from the English Department of the City University of New York (CUNY), Brooklyn.