With Memorial Day come and gone, it sort of feels like summer already, doesn't it?
But the reality is that we have several weeks left of spring, and I am sticking to that until June 21 - living here in Phoenix, I like to prolong the cooler mindset of spring as long as I can!
Springtime's sensory bonanza provides a palette of colorful language, experiences, and details that our students can pull into their own writing. And what better way to mentor our young writers through the process than with picture books that feature seasonal poetry?
I've collected nine wonderful titles to share with you today, along with a few instructional tie-ins and activity ideas along the way.
Sun Above and Blooms Below: A Springtime of Opposites by Felicia Sanzari Chemesky and illustrated by Susan SwanWhile this book is written in verse - qualifying it for our spring poetry category - it has a bonus: Every page features at least one pair of opposites. (Cameo credits to some adorable hatching chicks, another springtime theme that I recently shared a few books and activities for.) Idea - Create a class book of other thematically-curated opposites in verse!
Did You Hear Wind Sing Your Name?: An Oneida Song of Spring by Sandra De Coteau Orie and illustrated by Christopher CanyonRichly written and illustrated in imagery and symbolism that reflects Oneida tradition, this book is described by the author as "a song." Idea - Discuss various places poetry is found in our daily lives - poems, songs, raps, jumprope rhymes, hand-clapping games, advertising slogans, etc.
Seeds, Bees, Butterflies, and More!: Poems for Two Voices by Carole Gerber and illustrated by Eugene YeltsinMy students have always enjoyed the playful interaction required to read a "poem for two voices." They're also a lot of fun to write with a buddy! Idea - Challenge students to work in pairs to write and perform their own poems for two voices.
Spring Rain Winter Snow by Edward J. Rielly and illustrated by Angelina BuonaiutoHaiku is such a natural fit to describe seasons; after all, haiku by definition is poetry to describe our relationship with nature. Idea - One project my kids have always loved is to paint a nature scene in watercolor, add their own related haiku in permanent marker, and finish it on a student-made scroll. I will try to write a post about this later; they turn out so beautiful and make a wonderful display.
Hi, Koo!: A Year of Seasons by Jon J. MuthHere is more seasonal haiku fun with a healthy dose of friendship tossed in for good measure. (The author was awarded Caldecott honors for his Zen Shorts.) Idea - Muth deviates from the traditional haiku format, leading to valuable classroom discussion of poetry form and "rules."
Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems by Francisco Alarcon and illustrated by Maya Christina GonzalezI have a particular fondness for books that provide text immediately accessible in both English and another language. Children naturally seek to break the code of languages other than their own home language - and quite often the home language is something other than English. Bilingual books tap into the diversity of language and into our students' natural curiosity about it. As the title hints, this book features a lot of fun examples of anthropomorphic figurative language. Idea - Examine as a class how this type of figurative language contributes to the imagery of the poem. Why does some anthropomorphism work? (It works when the behavior seems almost believable for that particular non-human thing.) Why would some not work? (It doesn't work when the behavior is not even close to being believable by any stretch of the imagination.) Students work in pairs to brainstorm a list of human behaviors that might be displayed by a non-human thing. After they select their favorite from their list, they join into a collaborative small-group discussion about why their particular favorite works.
Outside Your Window: A First Book of Nature by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Mark HearldThis gorgeously illustrated book features poetry about nature in our own everyday environment. Idea - Take a playground field trip with clipboards in hand. Students note examples of nature on the playground (or other nearby locale), and choose from their list to write a Nature Outside Our Window poem. This makes a great classroom book!
A Stick is an Excellent Thing: Poems Celebrating Outdoor Play by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by LeUyen PhamThe title says it all! This fun volume of poetry extolls the value of timeless outdoor pastimes - many of them likely brand-new to some of our students. Idea - What fun to set up Celebrating Outdoor Play stations that feature jacks, catch, hopscotch, and other activities featured in the book so that students can rotate through and experience these playtime staples for themselves!
Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Pamela ZagarenskiThis 2010 Caldecott Honor book features a beautifully sensory exploration of color in nature through the seasons. Idea - Use a web graphic organizer to brainstorm examples of color in nature. After completing one as a class, students can work on their own or in small groups to generate more ideas.
I hope this list provides you with a new title or two to add to your favorites list - if you have more book or activity ideas, please share them in the comments section!