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Fifteen poets who write with a science focus endorse their favorite collections of science-themed poetry for young readers.
I’ve made the case for connecting science and poetry many times in the last few years, focusing on how scientists and poets both observe the world closely and describe their observations in distinctive ways. I have also pointed out the long poetry tradition of capturing the natural world through lyrical language. This time, I’m turning to the poets themselves. I asked 15 poets who write science-themed poetry to recommend a favorite recent collection of science-themed poetry by another poet. None of them knew who was participating and which books others were choosing, so it was fun to see the team connections that emerged: many of them pinpointed other poets that I had queried, making the whole process very reminiscent of a game of tag.
Poetry and science may seem, at first glance, to be strange companions, but they offer interesting connections for children who view all the world with wonder. They need both information and inspiration to understand what they see, hear, touch, and learn. As Victor Hugo observed, “science is a ladder . . . poetry is a winged flight.” Surely we can provide both to the children we reach.
But let’s begin the game—Avis Harley, you’re it!
Avis Harley tags J. Patrick Lewis
Avis Harley explores the natural world through collections such as Sea Stars (2006), The Monarch’s Progress (2008), and African Acrostics (2012), and she has a knack for crafting poems in distinctive forms, some of which she has invented herself. Here Harley salutes The National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry (2012), edited by J. Patrick Lewis, calling it “a superb collection of 200 classic and contemporary poems, each paired with a spectacular photograph illustrating the beauty, wonder, and strangeness of the animal world. There is a section on the writing of such poems, plus valuable resources, and four indexes to guide you to a favorite animal. Poems and photos are humorous, serious, poignant, reflective, full of surprises: a truly gorgeous addition to your poetry shelf.”
J. Patrick Lewis tags Leslie Bulion
Former Children’s Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis has produced many cross-curricular collections of poetry, including several science-centric works like the insect poems in Face Bug (2013), as well as serving as an anthologist for the two collections cited here by others. Lewis applauds Random Body Parts (2015), by Leslie Bulion: “If what you’re after is a salmagundi of delightful poetry pieces, look no further than Leslie Bulion’s tour de force, an inventive mix of riddles, Shakespeare, and various verse forms. Elegant riddles are evoked in a limerick, a ballad stanza, a triolet, a double dactyl, and more. Playfully fashioned from shades of Shakespeare, each riddle is accompanied by an explanation of the body part as a helpful clue. And all the verse forms are deftly described in endnotes. Random Body Parts is sure to challenge anatomy buffs of all ages.”
Leslie Bulion tags Laura Purdie Salas
Leslie Bulion studied oceanography, and that science background comes through in her poetry, including At the Sea Floor Café (2011) and Hey There, Stink Bug! (2006), as well as this year’s Random Body Parts. When asked for her recommendation, she chose Water Can Be . . . (2014), by Laura Purdie Salas: “The brilliant imagery . . . invites me to linger on every single page. For example, ‘Picture Catcher’ transports my mind to wonderful water reflections I’ve seen, and when I read ‘Woodchuck Warmer,’ I wonder about those woodchucks tucked snug under snow in winter. Laura uses accessible, developmentally appropriate language to explain the science concepts behind each lyrical, rhythmic phrase in the back matter—perfect for young science poets!”
Laura Purdie Salas tags Irene Latham
Laura Purdie Salas has created several “can be” picture books, blending poetry with nonfiction in A Leaf Can Be . . . (2012) and Water Can Be . . . (2014). Additionally, she has authored several poetry collections with Capstone that explore science topics, such as And Then There Were Eight: Poems about Space (2008); Chatter, Sing, Roar, Buzz: Poems about the Rain Forest (2008); Seed Sower, Hat Thrower: Poems about Weather (2008); and Shrinking Days, Frosty Nights: Poems about Fall (2008). Here she praises Dear Wandering Wildebeest (2014), by Irene Latham: “I adore Dear Wandering Wildebeest, a collection of poems and short prose sidebars about African animals as they visit the watering hole from morning to night. Irene Latham’s poems are a feast of wonderful language seasoned with tasty animal and habitat facts and garnished with evocative moods and settings. And the fabulous illustrations by Anna Wadham are the frosting on the poetry cake (to mix my metaphors just a tiny bit!). Plus, she just makes me feel the animals. The strength and melancholy of that rhino—I still feel it every time I visit her book on my shelf.”
Betsy Franco tags Marilyn Singer
Betsy Franco has authored poetry collections that explore both science and math and are particularly useful for very young readers. Titles include Bees, Snails, & Peacock Tails (2008), Mathematickles! (2003), Counting Our Way to the 100th Day! (2004), and this year’s A Spectacular Selection of Sea Critters (2015). When asked to recommend her own favorites, she selected A Strange Place to Call Home (2012), by Marilyn Singer, and noted, “Marilyn Singer has outdone herself in this interweaving of impeccable poetry about harsh habitats and the stunning images by Ed Young that the poems inspired.”
Marilyn Singer tags Margarita Engle
Marilyn Singer’s first book of poetry, Turtle in July (1989), illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, was a lyrical look at various animals through the seasons of the year. Since then she has created many science-themed poetry books, including the trio of Footprints on the Roof: Poems about the Earth (2002), How to Cross a Pond: Poems about Water (2003), and Central Heating: Poems about Fire and Warmth (2005), as well as A Full Moon Is Rising (2011) and the book highlighted above, A Strange Place to Call Home. Singer commends Silver People (2014), by Margarita Engle: “This moving and disturbing novel in verse about the building of the Panama Canal beautifully juxtaposes poems from the flora and fauna with human voices to explore racism, romance, and the costs to people and the environment involved in an epic feat of engineering. One of Margarita Engle’s best!”
Margarita Engle tags Helen Frost
Margarita Engle’s extensive training as a botanist shines through in her writing for young people, shown in Silver People as well as Orangutanka (2015) and The Sky Painter: Louis Fuertes, Bird Artist (2015), among others. When asked to showcase another poetry book with a science focus, she celebrates Sweep Up the Sun (2015), by Helen Frost: “I love Sweep Up the Sun because of its simplicity and grace. This is the perfect book for introducing young children to the beauty, science, and thrill of learning about birds, without making them feel overwhelmed by complicated details and specialized language.”
Carole Gerber tags Susan Blackaby
Carole Gerber channels the child’s perspective in observing the natural world through her musical rhymes in Leaf Jumpers (2006), Winter Trees (2009), Spring Blossoms (2013), and Seeds, Bees, Butterflies, and More! (2013). She chose another book of nature-themed poetry as one of her favorites: Susan Blackaby’s Nest, Nook & Cranny (2010). She wrote, “twenty two clever poems describe features of animals, birds, and insects that live in wetlands and four other habitats. Back matter includes step-by-step examples of poetic forms children can follow to write their own poems, along with simple definitions of simile, metaphor, and other terms. My favorite is ‘Homebodies,’ which begins: ‘Some animals are homebodies / Like tortoises and snails. / Their heads stick out their front doors, / Out their back doors flick their tails.’”
Susan Blackaby tags April Pulley Sayre
In Nest, Nook & Cranny, Susan Blackaby uses multiple forms of poetry to explore several different kinds of animal habitats all in a sketchbook-style format. In addition, she provides narrative information about each of the five major habitats, as well as about the poem forms. So it is no surprise that she chose another genre-blending book, Raindrops Roll (2015), by April Pulley Sayre. She marvels, “Sayre is a master of rhyme, alliteration, imagery, and lyricism, as evidenced by this stormy sequence of poems that take you from drip-drop to downpour to the wonder of our planet’s water cycle. The only thing more exquisite and thoughtful than April’s poems are her accompanying photographs—lush and liquidy.”
David L. Harrison tags Joyce Sidman
David L. Harrison is a poet with a wide range of works including several science-focused titles such as Bugs: Poems about Creeping Things (2007) and the forthcoming Now You See Them, Now You Don’t: Poems about Creatures That Hide (2016). He is a big fan of Joyce Sidman’s poetry and chose her book Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold (2014) as a favorite. He notes, “In Winter Bees, Joyce Sidman shares the anxious anticipation of a swan the night before taking off into ‘the ice-blue sky and the yodel of flight.’ We meet a young moose who feels big and strong and brave with his moose mama close by his side, and a vole in its cozy tunnel under ‘a blanket made of sky-feathers,’ whose winter reverie is shockingly interrupted by a pouncing fox. Joyce Sidman’s respect for her subject, keen eye for the telling detail, and gift of lyrical language make her an ideal guide for moving in close to the wild things around us. Additional information complements each poem.”
Joyce Sidman tags Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
Joyce Sidman’s award-winning poetry is a beautiful blend of sharply observant poetry and engaging, informative prose passages particularly exemplified in Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems (2005), Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow (2006), Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night (2010), Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors (2010), and, of course, Winter Bees. She admires Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s first published work of poetry, Forest Has a Song (2013). Joyce observes, “This book invites the reader into the forest ecosystem with all five senses and a delicious sense of mystery. True science, for me, starts with a personal connection to nature, and I love how the young voice in these poems speaks to all she finds in the woods, asking questions, wondering, pondering. A perfect jumping-off point for further inquiry!”
Douglas Florian tags Michael J. Rosen
Artist and poet Douglas Florian is the creator of many beautiful picture books full of playful and informative poetry and unique, appealing illustrations, such as Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars (2007), Dinothesaurus (2009), and UnBEElievables (2012), to name a few recent examples. In his usual clever way, he praises The Maine Coon’s Haiku (2015), by Michael J. Rosen: “From Burmese to Russian Blue, Siamese and Bombay, too, these furrrocious poems and purrrfect paintings combine to charm any cat-lover’s fancy for wit and whimsy. UnCATegorically divine!”
Michael J. Rosen tags JooHee Yoon
Michael J. Rosen has authored three distinctive haiku collections, featuring birds in The Cuckoo’s Haiku and Other Birding Poems (2009), dogs in The Hound Dog’s Haiku and Other Poems for Dog Lovers (2011), and now cats with The Maine Coon’s Haiku. Michael J. Rosen admires Beastly Verse (2015), by JooHee Yoon, and how she reboots classic animal poems in visually fascinating ways. He explains, “With only three colors, JooHee Yoon’s Beastly Verse—a collection of 16 animal poems—creates an extraordinarily lush and complex range of eccentric environments that boldly span two- and sometimes three-page spreads. These enchanting prints are a perfect ‘habitat’ for young readers to wander, lingering over quirky details or drifting into thoughts of other favorite creatures whose odd traits or remarkable features they might be inspired to write about.”
Jane Yolen tags J. Patrick Lewis
Jane Yolen is well-known for a multitude of award-winning books, including the Caldecott Medal picture book Owl Moon (1987). People are often surprised to learn that she has authored many works of poetry, too, such as A Mirror to Nature (2009), An Egret’s Day (2010), Birds of a Feather (2011), Bug Off! (2012), and this year’s Sing a Season Song (2015). Yolen endorses the newest collection edited by J. Patrick Lewis, The National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry (2015): “For an overview that can fit anywhere in a school day, you can’t do better than J. Patrick Lewis’ National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry. Broad choices of both poets and poems (obligatory revelation: I am one of the many poets in the book), a high standard in the choices, and Lewis’ love of poetry shining through the whole. And of course National Geographic’s gorgeous production values.”
Lee Bennett Hopkins tags David Elliott
Finally, master anthologist Lee Bennett Hopkins has compiled decades of poetry for curricular connection with many science-themed works among them. Look for the now-classic Spectacular Science (1999), as well as Behind the Museum Door (2007), Incredible Inventions (2009), Sharing the Seasons (2010), and Nasty Bugs (2012), among others. He recommends On the Wing (2014), by David Elliott, noting, “Elliott’s 16 poems take flight in this beautifully illustrated collection. Readers will delight with the crow’s ‘caw-caw-phony,’ the puffin whose beak is unique, and other poetic wordplays for young birders to savor.”
The following lists the recommended titles discussed above, as well as additional relevant works by the suggested authors.
African Acrostics: A Word in Edgewise. By Avis Harley. Illus. by Deborah Noyes. 2009. Candlewick, $17.99 (9780763636210). Gr. 4–7.
And Then There Were Eight: Poems about Space. By Laura Purdie Salas. 2008. illus. Capstone, $26.65 (9781429612074). K–Gr. 2.
At the Sea Floor Café: Odd Ocean Critter Poems. By Leslie Bulion. Illus. by Leslie Evans. 2011. Peachtree, $14.95 (9781561455652). Gr. 4–6.
Beastly Verse. By JooHee Yoon. Illus. by the author. 2015. Enchanted Lion, $18.95 (9781592701667). K–Gr. 2.
Bees, Snails & Peacock Tails: Patterns & Shapes—Naturally. By Betsy Franco. Illus. by Steve Jenkins. 2008. Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry, $16.99 (9781416903864). PreS–Gr. 2.
Behind the Museum Door. Ed. by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Illus. by Stacey Dressen-McQueen. 2007. Abrams, $16.95 (9780810912045). K–Gr. 3.
Birds of a Feather. By Jane Yolen. Illus. by Jason Stemple. 2011. Boyds Mills/Wordsong, $17.95 (9781590788301). Gr. 2–6.
Bug Off! Creepy, Crawly Poems. By Jane Yolen. Illus. by Jason Stemple. 2012. Boyds Mills/Wordsong, $16.95 (9781590788622). K–Gr. 3.
Bugs: Poems about Creeping Things. By David L. Harrison. Illus. by Rob Shepperson. 2007. Boyds Mills/Wordsong, $16.95 (9781590784518). PreS–Gr. 2.
Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow. By Joyce Sidman. Illus. by Beth Krommes. 2006. HMH, $16 (9780618563135). Gr. 3–5.
Central Heating: Poems about Fire and Warmth. By Marilyn Singer. Illus. by Meilo So. 2005. Knopf, $15.95 (9780375829123). Gr. 3–5.
Chatter, Sing, Roar, Buzz: Poems about the Rain Forest. By Laura Purdie Salas. 2008. illus. Capstone, $26.65 (9781429617055). K–Gr. 2.
Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars. By Douglas Florian. Illus. by the author. 2007. Harcourt, $16 (9780152053727). Gr. 3–5.
Counting Our Way to the 100th Day! By Betsy Franco. Illus. by Steven Salerno. 2004. Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry, $15.95 (9780689847936). K–Gr. 2.
The Cuckoo’s Haiku and Other Birding Poems. By Michael J. Rosen. Illus. by Stan Fellows. 2009. Candlewick, $17.99 (9780763630492). Gr. 2–4.
Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night. By Joyce Sidman. Illus. by Rick Allen. 2010. HMH, $16.99 (9780547152288). Gr. 3–6.
Dear Wandering Wildebeest: And Other Poems from the Water Hole. By Irene Latham. Illus. by Anna Wadham. 2014. Lerner/Millbrook, $17.95 (9781467712323). Gr. 2–5.
Dinothesaurus: Prehistoric Poems and Paintings. By Douglas Florian. Illus. by the author. 2009. Atheneum, $17.99 (9781416979784). K–Gr. 3.
An Egret’s Day. By Jane Yolen. 2010. illus. Boyds Mills/Wordsong, $17.95 (9781590786505). Gr. 3–6.
Face Bug. By J. Patrick Lewis. Illus. by Kelly Murphy. 2013. Boyds Mills/Wordsong, $16.95 (9781590789254). Gr. 2–4.
Footprints on the Roof: Poems about the Earth. By Marilyn Singer. Illus. by Meilo So. 2002. Knopf, $14.95 (9780375810947). Gr. 5–10.
Forest Has a Song. By Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. Illus. by Robbin Gourley. 2013. Clarion, $16.99 (9780618843497). K–Gr. 3.
A Full Moon Is Rising. By Marilyn Singer. Illus. by Julia Cairns. 2011. Lee & Low, $19.95 (9781600603648). Gr. 2–4.
Hey There, Stink Bug! By Leslie Bulion. Illus. by Leslie Evans. 2006. Charlesbridge, $12.95 (9781580893046). Gr. 4–6.
The Hound Dog’s Haiku and Other Poems for Dog Lovers. By Michael J. Rosen. Illus. by Mary Azarian. 2011. Candlewick, $17.99 (9780763644994). Gr. 2–4.
How to Cross a Pond: Poems about Water. By Marilyn Singer. Illus. by Meilo So. 2003. Knopf, $14.95 (9780375823763). Gr. 3–5.
Incredible Inventions. Ed. by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Illus. by Julia Sarcone-Roach. 2009. Greenwillow, $17.99 (9780060872458). Gr. 1–4.
In the Sea. By David Elliott. Illus. by Holly Meade. 2012. Candlewick, $16.99 (9780763644987). PreS–Gr. 2.
In the Wild. By David Elliott. Illus. by Holly Meade. 2010. Candlewick, $16.99 (9780763644970). PreS–
A Leaf Can Be . . . By Laura Purdie Salas. Illus. by Violeta Dabija. 2012. Millbrook, $17.95 (9780761362036). PreS–Gr. 2.
Leaf Jumpers. By Carole Gerber. Illus. by Leslie Evans. 2004. Charlesbridge, $16.95 (9781570914980). PreS–Gr. 1.
The Maine Coon’s Haiku: And Other Poems for Cat Lovers. By Michael J. Rosen. Illus. by Lee White. 2015. Candlewick, $17.99 (9780763664923). Gr. 2–4.
Mathematickles! By Betsy Franco. Illus. by Steven Salerno. 2006. Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry, $7.99 (9781416918615). K–Gr. 5.
A Mirror to Nature: Poems about Reflection. By Jane Yolen. Illus. by Jason Stemple. 2009. Boyds Mills/Wordsong, $17.95 (9781590786246). Gr. 2–5.
The Monarch’s Progress: Poems with Wings. By Avis Harley. Illus. by the author. 2008. Boyds Mills/Wordsong, $16.95 (9781590785584). Gr. 3–5.
Nasty Bugs. Ed. by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Illus. by Will Terry. 2012. Dial, $17.99 (9780803737167).
The National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry. Ed. by J. Patrick Lewis. 2012. illus. National Geographic, $24.95 (9781426310096). PreS–Gr. 3.
The National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry. Ed. by J. Patrick Lewis. 2014. illus. National Geographic, $24.99 (9781426320941). PreS–Gr. 3.
Nest, Nook & Cranny. By Susan Blackaby. Illus. by Jamie Hogan. 2010. Charlesbridge, $15.95 (9781580893503). Gr. 3–6.
Now You See Them, Now You Don’t: Poems about Creatures That Hide. By David L. Harrison. Illus. by Giles Laroche. 2016. Charlesbridge, $17.95 (9781580896108). K–Gr. 4.
On the Farm. By David Elliott. Illus. by Holly Meade. 2008. Candlewick, $16.99 (9780763633226). PreS–
On the Wing. By David Elliott. Illus. by Becca Stadtlander. 2014. Candlewick, $16.99 (9780763653248). PreS–Gr. 1.
Orangutanka. By Margarita Engle. Illus. by Renee Kurilla. 2015. Holt, $17.99 (9780805098396). PreS–
Raindrops Roll. By April Pulley Sayre. 2015. illus. Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane, $17.99 (9781481420648). PreS–Gr. 1.
Random Body Parts: Gross Anatomy Riddles in Verse. By Leslie Bulion. Illus. by Mike Lowery. 2015. Peachtree, $14.95 (9781561457373). Gr. 6–8.
A Rock Can Be . . . By Laura Purdie Salas. Illus. by Violeta Dabija. 2015. Millbrook, $17.99 (9781467721103). PreS–Gr. 3.
Sea Stars: Saltwater Poems. By Avis Harley. Illus. by Margaret Butschler. 2006. Boyds Mills/Wordsong, $16.95 (9781590784297). Gr. 3–5.
Seeds, Bees, Butterflies, and More! Poems for Two Voices. By Carole Gerber. Illus. by Eugene Yelchin. 2013. Holt, $17.99 (9780805092110). Gr. 2–4.
Seed Sower, Hat Thrower: Poems about Weather. By Laura Purdie Salas. 2008. illus. Capstone, $26.65 (9781429612098). K–Gr. 2.
Sharing the Seasons: A Book of Poems. Ed. by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Illus. by David Diaz. 2010. Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry, $21.99 (9781416902102). Gr. 2–5.
Shrinking Days, Frosty Nights: Poems about Fall. By Laura Purdie Salas. 2008. illus. Capstone, $26.65 (9781429612050). K–Gr. 2.
Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal. By Margarita Engle. 2014. illus. HMH, $17.99 (9780544109414). Gr. 7–12.
Sing a Season Song. By Jane Yolen. Illus. by Lisel Jane Ashlock. 2015. Creative Editions, $18.99 (9781568462554). K–Gr. 1.
The Sky Painter: Louis Fuertes, Bird Artist. By Margarita Engle. Illus. by Aliona Bereghici. 2015. Amazon/Two Lions, $17.99 (9781477826331).
Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems. By Joyce Sidman. Illus. by Beckie Prange. 2005. HMH, $16 (9780618135479). Gr. 3–5.
Spectacular Science: A Book of Poems. By Lee Bennett Hopkins. Illus. by Virginia Halstead. 1999. Simon & Schuster, $7.99 (9780689851209). Gr. 2–4.
A Spectacular Selection of Sea Critters: Concrete Poems. By Betsy Franco. Illus. by Michael Wertz. 2015. Millbrook, $19.99 (9781467721523). Gr. 1–3.
Spring Blossoms. By Carole Gerber. Illus. by Leslie Evans. 2013. Charlesbridge, $16.95 (9781580894128). Gr. 1–3.
Step Gently Out. By Helen Frost. Illus. by Rick Lieder. 2012. Candlewick, $15.99 (9780763656010). PreS–Gr. 1.
A Strange Place to Call Home: The World’s Most Dangerous Habitats and the Animals That Call Them Home. By Marilyn Singer. Illus. by Ed Young. 2012. Chronicle, $16.99 (9781452101200). K–Gr. 3.
Sweep Up the Sun. By Helen Frost. Illus. by Rick Lieder. 2015. Candlewick, $15.99 (9780763669041). PreS–Gr. 2.
Turtle in July. By Marilyn Singer. Illus. by Jerry Pinkney. 1989. Atheneum. o.p. PreS–Gr. 2.
Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors. By Joyce Sidman. Illus. by Beckie Prange. 2010. HMH, $17 (9780618717194). Gr. 2–5.
UnBEElievables: Honeybee Poems and Paintings. By Douglas Florian. Illus. by the author. 2012. Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane, $16.99 (9781442426528). Gr. 2–5.
Water Can Be . . . By Laura Purdie Salas. Illus. by Violeta Dabija. 2014. Millbrook, $17.95 (9781467705912). K–Gr. 2.
Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold. By Joyce Sidman. Illus. by Rick Allen. 2014. Harcourt, $17.99 (9780547906508). K–Gr. 3.
Winter Trees. By Carole Gerber. Illus. by Leslie Evans. 2008. Charlesbridge, $15.95 (9781580891684). PreS–Gr. 2.
The following are suggestions for incorporating science-themed poetry into the curriculum while implementing the Common Core State standards. You can find more information about the standards at www.corestandards.org.
In the Classroom: Play science poetry tag! Gather a selection of science-themed poetry books and encourage children to browse through them, sharing poems spontaneously with one another. Then, choose one poem to begin. Read it aloud and talk about it together. Then find another poem to link to it based on some connection between the two poems: another poem by the same the poet, another poem on the same topic (animals, nature, planets, etc.), or another poem from the same area of science (biology, astronomy, etc.). Share that poem aloud and discuss and compare. If time allows, keep going by “tagging” another poem.
Common Core Connections
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.4. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.9. Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgably.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.2.2. Recount or describe key ideas or details from a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media.
In the Classroom: Start with science photos. There are so many excellent sources of images for science study, from those in print books, of course, to online sources such as National Geographic (e.g., Animals.NationalGeographic.com; Photography.NationalGeographic.com; Kids.NationalGeographic.com). Choose a subject that is of current relevance and interest (e.g., Mars, chimpanzees, bacteria) and peruse the available images (in print or online sources). Then, search through available poetry anthologies and see if you can find a poem to go with the image. It might be an explicit connection—a poem about the sun to go with an image of the sun—or it might be a more abstract connection, such as a poem about summer fun, day vs. night, or warmth and caring. Work together to create your own collaborative anthology of images and matching poems.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.7. Analyze how visual and multimedia elements contribute to the meaning, tone, or beauty of a text (e.g., graphic novel, multimedia presentation of fiction, folktale, myth, poem).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.2.7. Explain how specific images (e.g., a diagram showing how a machine works) contribute to and clarify a text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.3.4. Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.
In the Classroom: Many of the science-themed poetry books mentioned here weave together poetry, prose, and art. Challenge children to work in trios to research a science topic of their choice. Then allow them to choose their role for the next step: Who will write the explanatory prose paragraph? Who will write the poem? Who will create the accompanying illustration? Afterward, talk about each role and discuss which they find easiest or hardest and why. Invite them to challenge themselves by taking on one of the OTHER roles next time and talk about how each information source is valuable and unique: prose, poetry and art.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.7.3. Analyze the interaction between individuals, events, and ideas in a text; provide an objective summary of the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.4.1. Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.6.7. Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g. visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.
Sylvia M. Vardell, a professor of children’s and young-adult literature at Texas Woman’s University, is the author of the Poetry for Children blog and coeditor (with Janet Wong) of The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science (2014).
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