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Poetry Friday : November 5, 2016.

I have fallen in love with Caldecott Honor Book
Song of the Water Boatman & Other Pond Poems,
written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Beckie Prange.


If you know me, you will know why when you read
the description from the inside flap of its dust jacket.


Yes, I love nature.
I love the changing of the seasons — the days when we slip from spring to summer, to autumn, to winter.  I love the out-of-doors. And since my childhood, I’ve loved ponds and creeks and woods.

But most of all, I love words. Words that form shapes and splash color on plain paper. Words that slip and tumble smoothly off my tongue. Words that make music driven by the rhythms of my heart–rhythms of sorrow and joy, of failure and success, of sunrises and sunsets. Words that record as extraordinary the ordinary tick-tock of my days. Words that talk to me. Yes, I love words.

So it was that on a rainy, chilly Saturday morning, with my most recent picture book purchases stacked on the floor, I poured a cup of coffee with extra cream and opened Joyce Sidman’s book for the first time. I was instantly captivated–first by the title and then by the words of her first poem “Listen for Me.”

Listen for me on a spring night,
on a wet night,
on a rainy night.
Listen for me on a still night,
for in the night, I sing.

That is when my heart thaws,
my skin thaws,
my hunger thaws,
That is when the world thaws,
and the air begins to ring.

Read the entire poem here.
And while on the page, be sure to click Listen to hear the words sung by the Tonka District Children’s Choirs and the 2016 Twin Cities West Metro Children’s Choir Invitational, with Patti Arntz conducting, and click View PDF to open the music score.

When you visit Joyce Sidman’s website, don’t miss her page for Song of the Water Boatman. Be sure to open her “Reader’s Guide” — four pages of suggestions for reading aloud and activities for science, writing, and art.

In My Classroom . . .

Discuss the spring pond as a metaphor, as a microcosm of society. What might we think of as the night? Who might sing in that nighttime? What conditions or situations might thaw?

Poetry and Informational Text.
Joyce Sidman has perfectly paired beautifully written poetry and nonfiction text in her award-winning book. About it, she writes, “This book is a compromise between my wish to give each pond creature an imaginative voice (the poems), and my fascination with their real-life behavior (the nonfiction notes).” Here’s the information text “Spring Peepers” that is paired with her poem “Listen to Me.”


Sentence Level Writing.
“Spring Peepers” is a wonderfully written text, five sentences rich with interesting and accurate information. It is the quality of text that I like to use to practice sentence combining skills. Here’s how I do it.

  1. I devolved the text, sentence by sentence, creating two or more sentences using the words and phrases of the original sentence. I keep the main idea in a “base” sentence.
  2. I give students the devolved copy, usually one set of devolved sentences at a time.
  3. Students work to combine the devolved sentences into a single sentence using three general sentence-combining moves–reduction, coordination, subordination.
  4. Depending on student skills, I may or may not share tips with students, e.g, identifying the revision moves students can make, suggesting the conjunction or preposition students can use. I refer to these as “cued sentences.”  Without suggestions, I call them “open sentences,” and students can choose how they want to combine the sentences.
  5. Students compare their sentence with the author’s sentence, discussing the moves they used to combine the sentences and how the meaning or emphasis might have changed.
  6. In my teaching notes, I list words, punctuation, spelling found in the original sentence that I will bring to the attention of students.

Click for a copy of my teaching points for sentence combining using devolved sentences.
Click for a copy of the student paper.


 Head on over to Jama Rattigan’s blog Jama’s Alphabet Soup for more Poetry Friday.