February holds a special place in my heart. Not because it’s my birthday month, that will come soon enough, but because it is the month of my anniversary, my Grandpa Charlie’s and my mother’s birthday. She would have been 99 this month! When February rolls along, I bring out my red: little heart dishes, candles, flowers, and little things to brighten and cheer this long winter space.
In the classroom, I turn to poetry and talk to the children about loving kindness, first to themselves and then to others. We make lots of lists of the things we love. These lists mostly revolve around family and food. We practice writing odes and shout outs to all the things we love and are grateful for. Odes were originally songs performed to the accompaniment of a musical instrument, and sometimes a brave soul will write a song and perform it. I love these small moments of celebration: no cake, no presents, just the simple pleasure of the written and spoken word.
To begin introducing odes to the children I choose Pablo Neruda’s “Ode to Tomatoes.” I think the sparseness and brilliant imagery will capture their attention and imagination. This is how Neruda begins:
Ode to Tomatoes
filled with tomatoes,
through the streets.
it enters at lunchtime,
its own light,
Neruda perfectly places each word and gives each the importance it deserves. After the students choose an object of their affection, I ask them to write a list of all the words to describe that object. We share the lists and our classmates offer more suggestions. Then it is time to write. Here are a few the students created.
Ode to Horses
in the middle of the night
when nobody is watching,
their manes flying in the wind
as they go by.
They talk to each other
with a simple “Neigh.”
When the sun comes up,
they are all tired from a long night.
Their eyes still glow with delight.
They have a long day,
but they keep on trotting on
because they know
what the night brings.
Ode to Candles
Out in the living room
Aspiring to burn the brightest
Standing tall and proud
Wax running down the side
When the flame has died
It goes to sleep
Dreaming about a great flame
The people huddle round
Outside the snow falls
Ode to Puppies
Your fluffy feet
And velvety ears
Make me want to cuddle you all day long!
You make me smile
When you run around on your fluffy feet
And when you curl up into a ball to sleep
You make me want to hug you
Your tiny teeth may nip,
And your miniature claws may scratch
But I love you just the same.
I love your little tail
As it wags, wags, wags
And your round tummy
As you chow on yummy food
You make me laugh
When you chew on a bone
And chase your tail
And lie down on your bed
I love you
Ode to My Goggles
During the day my goggles
Open their eyes and see
All the swimmers swimming.
They swim with me
In the pool
And protects my eyes.
At night they dream
Of swimming in the ocean,
Seeing all the fish and coral.
They wake up,
Ready to swim.
Thank you, goggles!
Another poem type I came across recently are Shout Outs. Shout out poems are poems that thank people, animals or things that are personally important. Sekou Sundiata created this type of poetry. His poem has a lot of music in it. Here is a small part of his poem. You can listen to the entire poem here: SHOUT OUT!
Here’s to the best words
In the right place at the perfect time
Here’s to three hour dinners
And long conversations,
and a beautiful day.
To the increase, to the decrease
To the do, to the do
To the did to the did
To the done done
To the lonely.
To the brokenhearted.
To the new, blue haiku.
Here’s to all or nothing at all.
Here’s to the sick, and the shut-in.
Here’s to the was you been to the is you in
To what’s deep and deep
To what’s down and down
To the lost, and the blind,
and the almost found.
Here is my attempt at a Shout Out poem. When teaching poetry to children, I think it is essential to write and create and revise right alongside them so that the class become a community of writers fully engaged in the process.
Earth Shout Out
Here’s to the seasons turning
To the bright spring flowers
To the cardinals and jays singing in the trees
Shout out to the clear blue sky
To the fluffy whipped cream clouds
To the children running and playing
To their laughter and wild freedom.
Shout out to the peaceful world
To the beautiful earth
To the golden sun and silver moon
And to the twinkly diamond stars!
I encourage students to describe the things they love in unusual ways. I don’t make them stick to one form and have fifteen cookiecutter poems. I want them to explore the form and push the boundaries of their thinking. One great book to share with children is Shout!: Little Poems that Roar by Brod Bagert.
Winter SHOUT OUT!!!
Here’s to the snowy blizzards
To the skiing vacations
To the warm winter coats
Shout out to the Christmas fun
To the cozy Vermont cabins
To the tight ice skates
To the creamy hot chocolate
Shout out to the warm, doughy cookies
To the steep sledding hills
To the family movies, snuggled under blankets
And to the winter wonderland outside my warm, cozy house
Shout out to Pizza
Pizza is cheesy goodness
Pizza is a great wheel of sauce
Pizza I love your hot and cheesy flavor
I love you with veggies on top
I adore pepperoni too
I shout to the sky
Pizza you are the BEST!
Shout Out to Ice Cream
Ice cream you are the dairy king
You taste better than anything
You come in a lot of flavors
All which I savor
Even though you’re very cold
That makes you even more bold.
You can be eaten in bowls,
And you can be eaten in cones
And with your toppings that are so delish
You are my number one wish!
Odes and Shout Outs are a great way to liven up these dreary winter days. They serve as a little light in the darkness. They remind us about what we love and why. They help us to reflect and have gratitude for the big and small things in our lives.
Here are some great books to celebrate loving kindness and Valentine’s Day.
- Arthur’s Valentine by Marc Brown
- Guess How Much I Love You? By Sam McBratney
- Happy Valentine’s Day, Mouse by Laura Numeroff
- Here Comes Valentine Cat by Deborah Underwood
- Hug Machine by Scott Campbell
- Lilly’s Chocolate Heart by Kevin Henkes
- Llama, Llama, I Love You by Anna Dewdney
- Love from the Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
- Love from the Crayons by Drew Dayward
- Love Letters by Arnold Adoff
- Love Monster by Rachel Bright
- Love, Splat by Rob Scotton
- Louanne Pig in the Mysterious Valentine by Nancy Carlson
- Ollie’s Valentine by Olivier Dunrea
- One Zillion Valentines by FrankModell
- Pete the Cat: Valentine’s Day is Cool by James Dean
- Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatcher by Eileen Spinelli
- Snowy Valentine by David Peterson
- The Best Valentine in the World by Marjorie Weisman Sharmat
- The Biggest Valentine Ever by Steven Kroll
- The Day it Rained Hearts by Felicia Bond
- The Ballad of Valentine by Alison Jackson
- The Valentine Bears by Eve Bunting
- This is NOT a Valentine by Carter Higgins
- Valensteins by Ethan Long
- Valentine’s Day by Gail Gibbons