Two-Voice Poetry

5th grade spent two days reading and creating two voice poetry. This project came about after I met with Mrs. Freeman to brainstorm ideas for her ELA classes.  We were looking at this standard:

ELAGSE5RL6  Describe how a narrator’s or speaker’s point of view influences how events are described.

During our planning, we looked at books and poetry that featured multiple perspectives and decided that we would focus on poetry.  I found several books to serve as mentor texts.

  • Messing Around the Monkey Bars by Betsy Franco
  • Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship by Irene Lathan & Charles Waters
  • Seeds, Bees, Butterflies, & More by Carole Gerber
  • Joyful Noise by Paul Fleischman
  • The Friendly Four by Eloise Greenfield
  • This is Just to Say by Joyce Sidman

During the 2-day project, the students, Mrs. Freeman, and I read aloud examples of poems from each book and talked about the perspectives and style of the poem.  Some were funny.  Some were serious or about historical events. Some were sarcastic. We tried to showcase examples that would appeal to many different interests.  Then, we set students up for their work session.

In pairs, students continued to read mentor poems from the featured books to get more familiar with how two voices could work together from two different perspectives.

When they felt ready, they moved to a brainstorming sheet. On the sheet, they thought of possible topics along with what two perspectives could talk about that topic in the poem.  We encouraged students to choose two perspectives that would offer a different take on the chosen topic.  We tried not to give too many examples, but if students were stuck, we made suggestions that might spark their own ideas: hot cheetos/hot takis, cell phone/landline, nintendo/xbox, school/home, twitter/instagram, etc.

Once they decided on the topic and perspectives they liked, they started trying out some lines of their poem.  Many students looked back to the mentor poems for a structure or style of writing.  Others picked topics like politics, where they needed to do some additional research in order to truly take on the perspective they were attempting.

Mrs. Freeman, Mr. Kinnaird (student teacher), Mrs. Mullins (collaborative spectrum teacher), Mrs. Kelley (special education teacher) and I all walked around and conferenced with writing pairs.  We nudged them to expand their voice, use descriptive language, and practice their poem before publishing.

The work session spanned both days.  Once students were ready to publish, they used their computers to record their poem on Flipgrid.  This is a piece of the project that will continue in the coming days as students finish their poetry.

There were several moments where I paused and looked around at the whole group of students working. What amazed me was how engaged each pair of students was.  Yes, students worked at different paces and some needed more support than others, but no student sat back and did nothing. They were focused on the task, and it made me wonder about this particular experience and what made all students engaged.  Was it the choice? Was it the partnership? Was it the freedom of poetry? Was it interest? Was it the authentic audience on Flipgrid?  I don’t have the answer, but what I do know is that I loved this experience and I hope I can continue to create these kinds of projects with teachers and students in the future.

Please take time to listen to the many student voices on this Flipgrid.  You can leave students comments on this post or use the emoji reactions on each video to let them know how their poetry made you feel.

Rhyming Words and Storybird

Our Kindergarten students have been learning about rhyming words.  For our library lesson, we read two different stories.

Storybird - Say What-! (Our Version)For our first story, we read Cats’ Night Out by Caroline Stutson.  Students gave me a thumbs up when they heard rhyming words.  Sometimes we paused and they told a partner the rhyming words they heard.  Other times we shared them aloud to the whole group.  We also took time to notice that there was a counting pattern in this book, counting by twos.

For our second story, we read Say What? by Angela DiTerlizzi.  This book explores the sounds that animals make and thinks about what animals might really be saying when they make their sounds.  This book sets up a great pattern that students can model in their own writing.cats' night out

For our work time, I put together a Storybird to use with all of the classes that participated in this lesson.  I searched for animal pictures within Storybird and pulled a few onto each page of the book.  Then, I typed the sentence starters for each animal.  “When a _______________ says _______________ does she really mean _________________________?”  Each class brainstormed rhyming word pairs for each animal picture.  It was about 2-3 pictures per class.  After the final class, we had written a collaborative ebook.  I emailed the link to all of the teachers so that students could see how the book turned out.

This lesson also served another purpose.  It was an authentic way to show a web tool that students would be using in the future.  Rather than teach about making a Storybird, students saw a Storybird in action.  Now, when we actually look at some of the steps, they’ll have a concrete example of a finished product to reference.  This was the first time that I have tried this, and I’m curious to see how it will impact future Storybird projects.

Read their final version of the story here.

Crowd-Sourced Poem in My Pocket

IMG_0073 - CopyEach year for our Poem In Your Pocket Celebration I try to write a poem that somehow connects with what I love.  This year, I had an idea.  Since I have talked to the students so much this year about what I hope our library represents and how I want them to take ownership of the space, I thought it would be perfect for them to help me write about that.  Also, I often hear adults telling students that “the library is a quiet place”.  While that is true sometimes, it’s not really the kind of library that I think we have here at Barrow.  Putting these 2 thoughts together, I created a Google form with some various stems about our library not being quiet:  Our library is not a quiet place it’s a…, In our library you can hear…, In our library you can see…., In our library you can feel…

I emailed the form out to students and also sent it to teachers so that they could do it with their whole class.  After lots of submissions, I went through and pulled lines to use in our poem.  I used at least one idea from every entry that was submitted.  The following poem is the one that I will carry in my pocket Thursday and Friday and read into the microphone to start each poetry reading session.

Our Library is NOT a Quiet Place

A Crowd-sourced Poem By Barrow Students


Our library is not a quiet place

It’s an energetic, media place

a chatty and productive place

a sort of noisy place

You can hear

people talking creativity

the beep, beep, beep of the checkout machine

kids discussing books

pages flipping

fingers typing across keyboards

fans whirling

projects connecting with the world


Our library is not a quiet place

It’s a reading place

a cheering place

You can see

shelves lined with well-loved books

happiness for a nook

people reading

smiling faces

kids enjoying, researching

checking out books on their own

children running, shouting, free

imaginations soaring


Our library is not a quiet place

It’s a wild safari

a wonderful, awesome place

you can feel


the hum of energy


warm and safe

complete and overjoyed

calmness, floating




Our library is not a quiet place

It’s a word place

A big, loud punch in the face place

Sometimes a rambunctious place

Even an aggravating place

You can hear


kids laughing

mentors reading

Quiet talks about books

Authors and experts skyping

Students blogging and commenting


Our library is not a quiet place

It’s a living space

Buzzing with awesomeness


Our library is not a quiet place

It’s everybody’s learning base

In Our Desks: A Collaborative List Poem Across the Miles

IMG_0427Shannon Miller and I have been trying to connect our 2nd graders again, but it has been such a challenge to find a time.  Today I had a window of time that might work, and Shannon did her very best to make that time work for her students.  With just an hour to spare, she got confirmation that the time would work.  I quickly called my teachers who were on standby to come.  I love the flexibility that  these two 2nd grade teachers have with their students when it comes to unique, meaningful learning opportunities.  Then, Shannon and I got to work fine tuning what we would do.  We emailed, made a Google doc, and ended by Skyping with one another to fine tune the plan and plan other connections too.

Our planning sounded and looked something like this:

Shannon (at 11:00):  My teachers can connect today at 12:00.  Can yours?

Me (after a quick phone call to 2nd grade):  Sure.  This will be fun.

Shannon:  What should we do during our connection?

Me (after roaming the shelves and thinking):  How about doing a list poem?  We could use “In My Desk” and write a collaborative poem. I’ll make a Google doc for us to type into.

Shannon:  Sounds great.  (Opens Google Doc and makes a colorful title for our poem using spell in Flickr)

10 minute Skype session to confirm plan, plan a K connection, and a future 2nd grade connection.  (Walking to our next class, carrying our laptops, finishing our chat, and disconnecting)

During our Skype, I read the poem “In My Desk” by Jane Yolen, which can be found in the book Falling Down the Page: A Book of List Poems edited by Georgia Heard.  I talked with students in both states about how we’ve probably all cleaned out a backpack, desk, or something else and found something unusual.  We each pulled up the Google doc to show students.

Each of us turned down our sound and started getting ideas from our students and adding them to the doc.  The room at Barrow was filled with energy as numerous hands shot up to give lines for the poem.  The teachers and I helped students think about being more descriptive by adding adjectives and also really thinking about things that might actually make their way into their desks.  As we typed, we also saw Shannon typing.  This proved to be a great way for students to see how a Google doc could be used effectively.  We even stopped to talk about how Shannon and I were not typing in the exact same space and how I did not delete or change any of Shannon’s work (a common problem we’ve seen with students collaborating at our school).  This one skill will carry directly back to a Social Studies project our 2nd graders are working on.

FireShot Screen Capture #019 - 'Shannon Miller (shannonmmiller) on Twitter' - twitter_com_shannonmmillerWhile we were typing, Shannon tweeted the link to our doc so that people could begin seeing our poem as it was written.  In seconds, we had 48 people viewing the doc, and the kids were beyond ecstatic.  Knowing that they were immediately made into published authors with a real audience made them want to keep going.  I think they could have made this the longest list poem ever, but we had to stop.

We ended our time by reading our final poem and laughing together at our shared words.  This was so much fun.  It may have been a lightning-fast collaboration, but it was filled with meaningful, authentic learning experiences for our students that will carry into many other kinds of learning this year and beyond.

By 2nd Grade Students at Barrow Elementary in Athens, GA

and Van Meter Elementary in Van Meter, IA


In our desks you will find…

one big folder

three dirty notebooks

my stuffed puppy

tiny crumbs

unfinished work

an old crumby lunchbox

two broken pencils

one moldy sock

a tree with a happy family

scraps of paper

one bright striped pencil case

two green and red notebooks

a ripped up paper

my art shirt that has a picture of a puppy on it

old, rotten, bruised banana

a piece of crusty meat

an old broken iPod

a rotten, smooshed up goldfish

a dusty box of crayons

a ripped up dictionary

some broken crayons

a sticky, green, watermelon lollipop

an old tooth that never got taken by the tooth fairy

a chewed up yellow pencil

one pair of blue broken glasses

four wiggly worms that eat rotten apples

an old broken math journal

Godzilla finger puppets

a rusty old necklace

a teared up eraser

an old bag of McDonald’s apples

my football I got for Christmas

a couple of old, smelly shoes

a slimy stuffed animal

a stale chocolate bunny

little dots of paper from my paper punch

an old bouquet of flowers from the playground

mom’s old wig.