January and February are long stretches in the world of teaching. The frigid, gray days of the northeast make these teaching times even longer. When I had a classroom to myself, I always found ways to celebrate with kids to brighten up these dismal days. The celebrations always centered around stories and usually included art and cooking. We chanted Maurice Sendak’s “Chicken Soup and Rice” and then made a big steaming pot together. We read snowmen stories, stacked fat marshmallows on top of a large cookie, and decorated the marshmallows with icing and candies to create jolly snow fellows. We read about Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday and made pancakes for breakfast with gallons of maple syrup. It is these activities that students have come back to tell me about the impact they had made on their learning lives. It is the food and fun they remember. It is the stories they do not forget.
This week, I wanted to bring some food festivity into our 2nd grade classes, but due to COVID, we can no longer cook together. I wondered if I connected poetry and food, it would have the same fun factor, even if we didn’t get to make or eat anything. The first thing I did was to tell the girls that we would be talking about my two favorite subjects: poetry and food. Then I drew a diagram with the words Poetry and Food. I asked several students to define poetry and name the foods they loved. Everyone was engaged.
This class named lots of sweet treats, but when I asked another class earlier in the week, they came up with a very diverse list: eel rolls, kimchi, adobo, soufflé, crepes, dumplings…. I was surprised that their eclectic palates. In the past, students would shout out: pizza, mac and cheese, hot dogs, chocolate, cupcakes. It was wonderful to hear the ideas of adventurous young gourmets. I wrote all their ideas about favorite foods on the board so they could have a reference as they began to build their poems.
Next, we brainstormed action words that one might use in making their favorite recipe. Words like bake, mix, shake, and blend quickly came to mind. Again, I wrote all the students’ contributions on the board. The action words would make their poems come alive.
Finally, we brainstormed words that described how foods taste. Words like sweet, sour, salty, crunchy were shouted out happily. The board became filled with lots of tasty words and a couple of words that were just the opposite of delicious! They loved the word moldy, and I hoped someone would write a revolting recipe, but that did not happen – yet.
Now that the students were primed with lots of words, we were ready to tackle poetry mentor texts. I read some examples to them. We talked about the sound, shape, and rhythm. I reminded them that poems were constructed not to go across the page like a story, but to flow like a stream down the page. I shared a poem I had written first. Then I showed them some poems other students had written.
Before I set them off to write, we wrote a quick poem together. We talked about different ways of arranging the words on the page.
The girls were now eager to write. They took up their pencils and began to construct their poems. No one hesitated. The images of cotton candy, salty pretzels, steaming soup, and luscious cupcakes filled the air. Here are some of the young poets creations.
Food Poetry Books