Celebrating Poetry Through Book Spine Poems

book spine poem

One of our favorite kinds of poetry to create each year is book spine poetry. It is a kind of found poetry where the words found on the spines of books create the lines of a poem. Every 2nd grade class came to the library for a one-hour session to create book spine poems individually or in pairs.

To begin our time, I briefly explained found poetry and then told a story about how I created my own book spine poem. The story was meant to serve as a model for how students might craft their own poem, but they certainly didn’t have to go about the process the exact same way as me.

Book spine poem #poetrymonth #poetry #poetryreading #bookspinepoetry #writing #librariesofinstagram

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I started in the everybody section of the library and started reading the spines of all the books on the shelf from the beginning. I was looking for a title that jumped out at me as a starting place. I happened upon Quest and Journey by Aaron Becker. I loved how those two words sounded together and I decided to start looking for titles that seemed to go with those two words, which meant looking for titles that were about traveling in some way. I passed by many titles that didn’t fit, so I left them on the shelf without pulling them off. I continued this process until I had found I Took a Walk, In My Dreams I Can Fly, and Goin’ Someplace Special. I also had the book The Ride but I decided that I didn’t like the sound of those words with the others in my stack so I put that book back on the return cart. Next, I tried several ways of arranging the books until I had a sequence I was happy with. After practicing a few times, I recorded my poem with my phone and uploaded it online to share with the world.

Time for more book spine poems #poetry #poetrymonth #bookspinepoetry #pocketpoem #librariesofinstagram

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After my short story, we went back through the steps and put them into a concise list on the board for students to reference. Then, students got to work. They wandered the shelves looking for that first book and then went from there. As was expected, some of them found their own strategies for creating the poems. Some struggled with finding that first book. Some wanted the support of someone walking with them to look for books. The teacher and I wandered around too and talked with individual students until they started reaching the recording phase.

Book spine poems in progress. #foundpoetry #writing #poem #poetry #pocketpoem #librariesofinstagram

A video posted by Barrow Media Center (@barrowmediacenter) on

Once students recorded using an iPad, they brought the iPad to me and we immediately plugged the iPad into my computer and uploaded to Youtube. They also went to the teacher to take a photograph of their book stack that could be printed and put into their poetry books they are creating in class. All books that were used went onto a cart parked in the middle of the library, and students were welcome to read those books while they waited on classmates to finish.

When students finished, I pulled all of their work into Youtube playlists which I emailed to teachers to share with families. We concluded our time by sitting together and snapping for each poem on our playlist. I hope you’ll take a moment to listen to, enjoy, and snap for the poems from each 2nd grade class.

2016 Poem In Your Pocket Day 2

Today we wrapped up our 2016 Poem In Your Pocket poetry cafe with 13 more classes reading poetry into our open microphone. It was another day of many special moments.

5th graders wrote many original and powerful poems.


Students read poems written by other students.

It's always special when students share poems by other students. #barrowpoems

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Memorized Sylvia Plath

Memorized Sylvia Plath poetry. Impressive! #barrowpoems

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Awesome costumes were worn.

So many awesome props and costumes in Ms Tesler's class. #barrowpoems #pocketpoem

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Teachers and families helped us document the day.


Take a moment to watch today’s archives.  You can still Tweet about our poems using the hashtag #barrowpoems


Here’s a collection of scenes from today:

Until next year…

Poem in Your Pocket 2016 Day 1

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Day 1 of Poem In Your Pocket Day is a wrap. Fourteen classes came to the library for 20-30 minute sessions of poetry reading. Each student had an opportunity to step up to our open microphone and read an original or favorite poem. It is truly amazing to see some students step out of their comfort zone to speak in front of their peers for a very short amount of time. Poetry is so accessible to so many people. It opens opportunities for students that sometimes other kinds of writing can’t. As always, there were magical moments during the day.

A student folded his poem into a piece of origami.

An origami poem in a pocket. #pocketpoem #barrowpoems

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A student who wouldn’t read his poem on camera shared it with me instead, and it was a poem about me.

Honored to be the subject of a poem in a pocket. #barrowpoems #poetry #pocketpoem #writing #librariesofinstagram #studentwork

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Ms. Kelly’s class created asemic writing and truly showed us what it means to perform and interpret poetry.

Amazing asemic poetry from Ms Kelly's class. #barrowpoems #studentwork #writing #art #studentvoice #stretchourthinking

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Take a look at some of the magical moments from today.

Also, take a look at Instagram and Twitter and search the hashtag #barrowpoems to see even more. We had several special posts and messages from people all over.

Finally, take some time to listen back to some of these amazing poets.

The Magic of Poetry

I love reading poetry and creating poetry with kids. I’m always amazed at the freedom that many kids feel when they express themselves through poetry and give themselves permission to abandon some of the “rules” we must follow when we write in other forms.  While there are many “rules” in poetry too, I’ve noticed that many kids aren’t intimidated by writing a poem when they realize that poetry is painting a picture with words and not necessarily writing in a complete sentence.

Getting some decorations in place for poem in your pocket. #barrowpoems #barrowbuddies #librariesofinstagram #poetry #poetryreading

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I’m happy to work with students on poetry all year round, but we of course do our fair share of lessons in April for poetry month. Recently, Ms. Lauren’s Kindergarten class came to the library for an introduction to poetry leading up to our annual Poem In Your Pocket poetry cafe.

Recycled vases ready for poetry flowers #barrowpoems

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Rather than read a bunch of poetry, I chose to read one poem that is a full length book called Black Magic by Dinah Johnson and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie.  The text is filled with vivid similes about the color black such as “black is loud like my best tap shoes making happy noise with every move.”

Inspiring text for color poetry #barrowpoems #barrowbuddies #librariesofinstagram #poetry #poetrymonth

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Prior to reading the book, I wrote “Green Magic” on the board and asked students to think of a list of things that they thought of when they thought of the color green.  Their list looked like this:

  • green flags
  • green leaves
  • green books
  • green beans
  • green stickers
  • green turtles

Then, we read the book.  We paused along the way and paid attention to the language.  I wasn’t specifically focusing on similes with them but instead just noticing the unusual descriptions or the vivid descriptions.

Following the book, we revisited our list.  I asked them, “How can we take each of these things in our list and make it more vivid or unusual?”  Students took turns offering suggestions.  Sometimes we went with the first thing a student said, and other times we listened to several suggestions before deciding what to add.  I let the students come up with the words, and I wrote them for us on the board.

To close our time, we read the poem twice. First, I read it aloud, and then we did a choral reading.

Green Magic

By Ms. Lauren’s Kindergarten Class

Green flags waving in the sky

Green leaves falling from the trees

Green books sitting in the library

Green beans dancing in my mouth

Green stickers sleeping on my hand

Green turtles minding their own business

Now, many of these students want to go back into the classroom and try writing their own color poetry modeled after this one. This time of writing really seems like magic to me.  Students come in with a blank screen in front of them and we unite our minds and voices to create something together as a community that just seems to spark when it is spoken into the air. We did this without any fancy technology or bells and whistles.  It was just us, our imaginations, an inspiring text, and a dry erase board and marker.

What poetry magic have you created this month?

Celebrate Poem In Your Pocket Day with Us!

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Poem in Your Pocket Day is a national celebration of poetry where everyone is encouraged to carry an original or a favorite poem in their pocket and share the poem with friends, family, and even strangers during the day. The official day is April 21 this year, but due to state testing we celebrate early and use this celebration to kickoff Poetry Month and National School Library Month.

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On April 7th and 8th, every class in the school will come to the library for a special poetry cafe. We’ll have special seating, special lighting, an open microphone, and a poet’s stool.  Students and teachers are welcome to come to the open microphone during their time slot and share poetry until time runs out.  No one is forced to come to the microphone, but what we’ve found is that almost every students and teacher in the school shares a poem on this special day.

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Family and community are welcome to attend in person, but we know that not everyone can join us in person.  For the past several years, we have broadcast our poetry readings live and encouraged people to leave comments for the poets.  Last year, we tried Google Hangouts for our event and encouraged people to tweet comments to our poets using a hashtag.

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This year, we are once again broadcasting our poetry and we would love for it to be the best year yet.  We would love for you to tune in to any of our poetry readings taking place throughout the day on April 7 and 8.  You can even tune in late by watching the archives.  Everything you need to know is housed on a special Smore page.

Everything you need to know about our event is here!

During the event, I will have a special “wall of social” displayed on our projection screen so that students can see any comments that you leave for them on social media such as Twitter and Instagram.  Be sure to use the hashtag #barrowpoems so that we see your comments.

Happy Poetry Month and School Library Month!  We hope to see you online!


Thursday April 7, 2016

9:40 2nd grade- Brink

10:00 2nd grade – Yawn

10:20 2nd grade- VanderWall

10:40 2nd grade- Hutcherson

11:00 Lunch

11:20 PreK-Trina

11:40 PreK-Wisz

12:00 Kindergarten-Hocking

12:20 Kindergarten – Sandifer

12:40 Boyle

1:00 1st grade Skinner

1:20 1st grade Wyatt

1:40 1st grade Stuckey

2:00 1st grade Cunningham

2:20 1st grade Seeling

Friday April 8, 2016

8:00 2nd grade Ramseyer

8:30 5th grade language arts

9:00 3rd grade- Clarke

9:30 5th grade language arts

10:00 3rd grade- Haley

10:30 3rd grade- Hart

11:00 3rd grade – Em

11:30 5th grade language arts

12:00 Kindergarten- Ms. Choate

12:20 Kindergarten-Ms. Lauren

12:40 Lunch

1:00 4th grade Coleman

1:30 4th grade Tesler

2:00 4th grade Weaver

National Poetry Month: Book Spine Poetry Lessons

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I love found poetry.  It is so interesting to think about how words, phrases, and sentences that already exist in the world can be remixed into something new.  We recently spent some time creating blackout poetry, and now students have been coming to the library to create book spine poems.  Each year that we try this type of found poetry, I’m finding that we get a little bit better and add some new strategies for crafting a book spine poem.

This year I decided to do some storytelling to share with students how I crafted my own book spine poem.  Rather than give a list of tasks to do, I told my story and let that guide our instructions for how to make a book spine poem.

“When I made my book spine poem, I just wandered around and picked a shelf in the library.  I spent time at the shelf scanning every title and looking for a title that spoke to me in some way.  The first book that jumped out to me was In My Mothers’ House.  I continued creeping along that same section of the library looking for a title that seemed to go with the one that I had already found.  I didn’t really know if I had found my first line of the poem or just a piece of the poem, but when I came across The Wonderful Happens, it seemed like magic.  Both of those titles just sounded like the beginning of the poem to me.  Now I had a focus.  I needed to find more books that told more about In My Mothers’ House.  I didn’t really worry about order.  I just wanted books that sounded like a good fit.  Once I found 3-4 more, I went to a table and started arranging them and reading them aloud.  I tried many different ways to see what sounded right.  I even had a book that just didn’t seem to fit, so I decided to put that one back on the cart at the front of the library.  When my poem felt just right, I knew I was reading to record myself reading it.”

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By telling this story, I really felt like student had a good sense of what to do, but we did still rephrase the steps together.

1.  Choose a place to start.

2.  Look for books that speak to you and only take the ones that you think you will use.

3.  Continue choosing books that connect to one another

4.  Arrange them in a way that sounds right and put the extras on the cart at the front of the library.

5.  Record yourself reading your poem and return your books to the cart at the front of the library.

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Students got to work.  Most of them jumped right in, but a few had trouble starting.  I found a few students who just wandered around without knowing how to start, so I encouraged them to stop wandering and start reading titles.  Some were very focused on content which made it a bit harder to craft a poem.  They wanted a book about X instead of thinking about a book’s actual title.  I tried to explain that the content of the book really didn’t matter. All that mattered was the title.  It took some time for that to click with some students.  I didn’t want to tell students not to use the computer, but we did nudge students to really try looking at the shelves rather than try to find something on the computer.  Most students who tried the computer strategy ended up abandoning it anyway because it added too much time and frustration to the process.

As students recorded their poems, they came to me at a table.  I had an iPad cord plugged into my computer, so we just connected and uploaded straight to Youtube and put the videos into a class playlist of poetry.

You can enjoy their work in each of these playlists.

2015 Poem In Your Pocket (Part 2)

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Our live poetry cafe continued today with 11 more sessions.  Again, we broadcast each reading through Google Hangouts and encouraged people to Tweet about our poetry using the hashtag #barrowpoems.  You can read about yesterday here.

I always love the surprises that come up from students: a student reading from a computer, a student who barely speaks who reads an incredibly descriptive poem, a student giving his teacher a standing ovation, a student who shared a poem in Chinese and then English, students encouraging their friends with a “you can do it”, a student sharing a poem about his home country, a student reading a poem for another student who was too shy to come up, and  a student handing me her poem to carry in my pocket.

Today I added a little sign to help with our traffic in and out of the library for checkout.

The energy of our students sharing poetry is simply amazing and inspiring.  Check out all these pictures of the students in action.

Our Twitter wall was very popular with students during the two days:

A few tweets from today:

Watch all of today’s archives: