Winter Holiday Literacy Activity: Borrowed Poems

Winter Holiday Activity literatelives.wordpress.comOne of the things I love doing with my students, which you can do either in the classroom or at home for fun, is write what I call Borrowed Poems.

What is a Borrowed Poem?

A borrowed poem is a new poem created by analyzing and playing with an already existing poem or song. The winter holiday season is so jam-packed with so many familiar songs that it lends itself well for this activity.

How to Write a Borrowed Poem

First, select the song you wish to play with. For this exercise, I have chosen a traditional favorite: “Deck the Halls.” If you ou your student do not know the words to the song, you will need to access them.

Observe and analyze the first verse of the song.

Deck the halls with boughs of holly.
Fa-la-la-la-la La-la La La
‘Tis the season to be jolly
Fa-la-la-la-la La-la La La

What do I notice?

The first sentence is an imperative statement, instructing the listener or an unknown participant to do something. As such, it begins with the verb, “deck,” meaning to decorate.

I also notice this song uses an ABAB rhyme scheme: the two A rhymes are  “holly” and “jolly,” the two B, part of a repeated refrain, repeat the final “la.”

Finally I notice the rhythm of the verse: Dum da Dum da Dum da DumDum. Since I will use the refrain as is, I have no need to analyze this. It may be helpful to select a song that does have some repeated verse or refrain that can be incorporated into the poem.

Plan, Prewrite, Compose

Jot down any ideas you have for your new poem:

  • Who is the narrator?
  • What is the setting?
  • What is the poem about?
  • What are some rhyming words that may suit your intent?

My first thoughts were that I wanted my poem to be about getting all dressed up and doing something fun. At first I considered making it a New Year’s Eve poem. However, my imagination, right now, is rather caught up in brightly colored lights and Christmas fun. The “lights” concept gave me one of my first rhyming words: “glow.” (I love light, especially in the dark days of December!)

Thinking about lights got me thinking about all the decorated houses in my neighborhood. I thought maybe the “fun” activity in my poem can be going out to view all the lights.

However, once I got to thinking about going out–outdoors–the traditional practice of caroling popped into my head. I decided caroling would be my activity.

And once I got to thinking about caroling, I thought about neighbors and all the ways we love and serve each other through the year.

With all those ideas in mind, it was time to write.

Write Your Poem

Prepare yourself with plenty of paper, a pencil, and possibly an eraser (although often in the midst of drafting, I don’t have the patience to erase and just cross words out and go on).

Do not expect perfection the first time out. Initially, I was determined to include a babysitter in the caroling rounds, but discovered the word just had too many syllables. After much switching words in and out, I at last settled on a cat sitter instead.

Even once you think your poem is done, don’t ink out a final copy right away. Set it aside and do something else. The idea for the cat sitter did not come to me until I had washed the dishes and gone upstairs to put away clothes.

Edit and Revise

Go back and look at your poem. Play with sound of the words using alliteration, assonance, consonance, and repetition.

Edit for grammar and punctuation. Don’t be intimidated. A sentence is a sentence whether it’s written as prose or a line in a poem. However, if you wish to get creative with grammar and punctuation, a poem can be a good place to do it.

Publish

Once you feel your poem is done, “publish” it. Publishing can come in many forms–inking out a final handwritten copy, entering it into a word-processing program and printing it out, doing either of the former and decorating the final copy with stickers, borders, zen-doodling, or clip art, or mounting it on some holiday paper.

Publishing also means sharing. Maybe you want to read it to family or friends one evening after dinner, post it on a bulletin board, or write it into a card.

Here is my poem:

Caroling in Oregon

Dress yourselves in clothes that glow,
Fa-la-la-la-la La-la La La,
Tonight, out caroling we’ll go,
Fa-la-la-la-la La-la La La.
First to Jim, who shares his garden bounty,
Fa-la-la La-la-la La La La.
Next, to Sue, best baker in the county,
Fa-la-la-la La,  La-la La La.

Santa songs for little Sam,
Fa-la-la-la-la La-la La La,
Angel’s carols for Mrs. Lamb,
Fa-la-la-la-la La-la La La.
Cross the street to cat-sitter Jayne’s
Fa-la-la La-la-la La La La,
All while hoping it won’t rain,
Fa-la-la-la La,  La-la La La.

Your Turn

Did you try it? Did you and your kids have any fun? Please use the comment box below to share the titles of other songs that have a refrain, or, even better, your own creation. Enjoy this week with the young people in your life and borrowed holiday poems.

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Enchanting Openings: The Throme of the Erril of Sherill by Patricia A. McKillip

Enchanting Openings: The Throme of Erril of Sherill by Patricia McKillipLast night, I began reading Patricia A. McKillip’s The Throme of the Erril of Sherill and I went to bed enchanted.

Selecting a New Book

I had just finished an author biography the previous day, so it was time to select a new book. I consulted my reading list. Ah. Time for a fantasy. The first book I picked up was not The Throme of the Erril of Sherill. It was however, the next book behind the bookmark on my fantasy shelf. Delighted to be reading a fantasy, I sat down to enjoy.

Within five pages, I had decided this was not the book for me. So disappointing, but that did not mean I couldn’t read a fantasy. Back to the bookshelves I went, and McKillip’s The Throme of the Erril of Sherill was next in line. 

I have been enjoying Patricia McKillip’s books for more years than I am willing to confess. Suffice it to say, I started out with the Riddlemaster of Hed trilogy and went on from there. However, somewhere along the way I had bypassed The Throme of the Erril of Sherill.

Enchantment

Within the first three sentences, I knew this book would be a delight. McKillip begins:

               The Erril of Sherill wrote a Throme. It was a deep Throme, and a dark, haunting, lovely Throme, a wild, special, sweet Throme made of the treasure of words in his deep heart. He wrote it long ago, in another world, a vaguely singing, boundariless land that did not exist within the kingdom of Magnus Thrall, King of Everywhere. The King had Cnites to come and go for him, and churttels to plant and harvest for him, but no Cnite had ever looked up into the winking morning sky and seen Sherill, and no churttel had ever looked at the rich clods of earth between his boots and seen the Erril’s world. Yet the Erril, long, long, ago wrote a Throme of singular and unsurpassed beauty, somewhere in his own land called Sherill, and the dark Kind of Everywhere desired that Throme.

Analysis

At first, it may strike you as odd that this captivated me, considering its weird, undefined words (Throme, Sherill, Cnites, and churttels) and repetitions, and yet, it was the very first words and repetitions that enthralled me.

My first thought was, “Jabberwocky!” It reminded me of Lewis Carrol‘s famous nonsense poem. The most obvious connection was the made-up words, however that was not all.

Although written as prose, this first paragraph is quite poetic. How?

First, it’s in the use of internal rhyme, for example, “Erril of Sherril.”

Furthermore, Mckillip uses repetition in a poetic way: “It was a deep Throme, and a dark, haunting, lovely Throme, a wild, special, sweet Throme made of the treasure of words in his deep heart.”

McKillip also employs alliteration (my particular favorite!): “a wild, special, sweet Throme…” The “wild,” “special,” and “sweet” just whisper to me like someone telling me a fantastic secret.

Furthermore, she did all this with complete confidence and authority, trusting her readers to understand and join in the journey.

And of course, there was the content itself:

  • The mysterious, yet decidedly haunting and musical Throme
  • The ideas of a boundriless land and a land literally named Everywhere
  • The curious citizens of Everywhere, Cnites and churttles, who have never seen Sherill
  • And, of course, the “dark” King Magnus, who desires the Throme.

The stage is set for a magical adventure.

Anticipation

I only read Chapter One last night, because it was a work night, and I am still recovering from a cold and needed rest, but, WOW, I am looking forward to reading more tonight.

Your Turn

Have you ever read a novel or short story that cast its spell over you with the very first words? Please use the comment space below to share the title and author, and the reasons it instantly grabbed hold of you.

Thanks so much! I love hearing from you!

 

 

Play Your Words Writing Prompt: A Bag of Bugs–Alliterative Writing Prompt

David Kirk’s Sunny Patch for Melissa and Doug Bag of Bugs

For today’s writing prompt, it’s time to get a little silly.

Last weekend my husband and I went garage sale-ing, a favorite summertime activity. At one particular home that had a titan’s cornucopia of crafting supplies, I found a bag of wooden, brightly painted, bug pins and I bought it. When I got in the car I said, “I love my bag of bugs!” and my husband started riffing on other alliterative insects in containers. Laughing, he finally suggested I use some of them as a writing prompt. So,  here they are:

Write a poem, paragraph-length description, or short story using one of the alliterative terms below (or you can make up your own.)

a bag of bugs
a sack of snails
a box of beetles

Have fun! Let your inner child out to play. It is important that we not only encourage our kids and ourselves to build writing skills, but we remember that writing can be fun.

And please, oh please, use the comment space below to share your response or riff further on alliterative containers for insects.

Summer Dreams and Plans: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt #23

Summer is almost here, and I know a lot of people who have hopes and dreams and plans for the season.

Pre-write

Get out a piece of paper, write “Summer” at the top, and draw a line down the middle, heading one side: “dreams,” and the other side: “plans.”

Set a timer for three or more minutes. (Minimum!) As soon as you start the timer jot down every idea you can come up with for the dreams and plans columns of your brainstorm sheet. Remember, when brainstorming, there is no idea too wacky or unusual to include in the list—after all, in the end you don’t have to use every idea you came up with. Start brainstorming under one heading—dreams or plans. Switch to the other heading every time you run out of ideas for the column you working on. Press yourself to keep coming up with ideas until the timer goes off.

Read over your work and highlight the things you would like to use in crafting your summer dreams and plans poem. Consider numbering each highlight in the order you want to use it.

Write

Draft your poem. You can make it free verse or formal. Get your ideas down on paper in the order you want to use them.

Revise

Read your poem out loud. How does it sound to you? Make some changes in word choices to play up the sounds of the poem so that they accentuate themes and feelings you wish to bring out.

Check your word choice. Are you using the word “car” in place of “Prius?” Are you using the word “friend” in place of your friend’s actual name? Did you use the term “city” to refer to Salem or Portland? Try to incorporate the most specific forms of word choice that you can. And that goes for more than just nouns. Do you look forward to “going through the sprinklers” versus “sprinting through the sprinklers” (Ooh! See how the second example not only incorporates a more specific verb but plays with the repetition of the sound “sp”?)

Share

When you’ve polished your poem into it’s sun-bright best, read what you’ve written with your writing partners or share it on the blog as a comment. (Here in Oregon, we still have gray skies and rain showers, I would so enjoy reading a sunlit summer poem!) Compliment one another on the strengths of the writing, including the way the sound of the poem matches its mood and ideas, and the marvelously specific word choices used.

Enjoy looking forward to summer. I know I am.

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt #12: A Snapshot from Your Future

Summer is so close I can taste it!

Brainstorm or web ideas for a perfect moment you plan to enjoy this summer. Consider what you will:

  • see
  • smell
  • touch
  • hear
  • taste
  • think
  • and feel

Select the idea and details you want to use, and write a poem in the past tense, as though you are remembering this delightful experience. You may write metered and rhymed poetry, free verse, or a tanka.

When you are done reread it. Consider revising for the following concepts:

  • Are your nouns and verbs strong and specific?
  • Is there a powerful sense of mood and place?
  • Does your poem have a sense of music or a pleasing repetition of sounds?
  • Do line breaks steer the poem?
  • Do line lengths echo the mood of the poem?

When you are done, share your poem with your writing partners. Enjoy one another’s’ work. Compliment each other on the strengths of the poem or words and phrases you particularly enjoyed.

Can you mark some time on the calendar to make this poem a reality?

I would love it if you would share your poem as a comment. Or, better yet, enjoy your day and then share the poem. Did your day live up to your dreams? I hope so.