Tabletop display of students' tree poems

Teacher's Guide

Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems

Follow the links below for writing exercises, curriculum resources, and some tree-ific links on trees.
 

Tree Voices writing exercises (includes Mask/Persona Poems)
 
My Favorite Tree writing exercises
 
Maple Seed Science  an amazing site and a fun way to integrate science and poetry
 

Tree-ific Sites 

 




Writing Exercise
(Mask Poems!)


Tree Voices







 

Remember me?

I helicoptered past 

your kitchen window last fall.

 I dream wild

 I am forest.

 

Above are some examples of "tree voices" from Old Elm Speaks. When I was writing these poems, I enjoyed the challenge of using different "voices." 

 

For example: I "talked" to a tree in "Celebration."  In "Old Elm Speaks" , "Oak's Introduction", and "Maple Shoot in the Pumpkin Patch", I pretended to be a tree. So, these poems were written in the "voice" of the tree.

Several of the poems in Old Elm Speaks are written from different points of view - using different "voices." Some of the "voices" you will discover in Old Elm Speaks are: 

An oak tree introducing itself to a child

A vain willow

A street tree with a secret

Children enjoy pretending to be something else and intuitively understand seeing their world in this way. they quickly realize that a tree is "speaking" in these poems, and then have a new approach to use in their own poetry.

Poems like these, in which the subject of the poem is the speaker, are sometimes called "mask" or "persona" poems.  

To introduce the idea of the mask poem, start with one that is already familiar: "I'm a little teapot." Ask your students who is speaking.  Then, read a selection of mask poems aloud, including the ones mentioned above from Old Elm Speaks, and ask your students to identify the speaker in each poem.  

Once students are comfortable with the idea of mask poems, have them pretend they are something else, inanimate or animate.  A stapler? A squirrel? A cloud? A soccer ball? The tree they can see from their bedroom window?  Questions you might want your students to think about are:

What is your day like?

What do you see? Feel? Hear? Smell?

What do you enjoy? Fear? What do you dream about?

Introducing children to the various "voices" of poetry has sparked some of my most exciting poetry workshops. The poems students write when they experiment with different voices are often wildly creative and totally original.  (After I did this exercise with students, one second-grader went home and reported to his mother that the "poetry lady" had "morphed" him into a lion!) 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

 

Dirty Laundry Pile by Paul Janeczko is an anthology of mask poems.

Poem-Making: Ways to Begin Writing Poetry by Myra Cohn Livingston and illustrated by Lisa Desimini

Poetry A to Z: A Guide for Young Writers by Paul Janeczko

Some wonderful examples of mask poems by Elaine Magliaro.

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Writing Exercise


My Favorite Tree
 

"My tree horse shakes

his rustling green mane."


"There is a doorway

in this ancient Sequoia

that is just the right size

for me to step inside."

In Old Elm Speaks I wrote about trees that were important to me.  Anyone lucky enough to grow up around trees probably knows some that are special to them.  Ask your students to recall a favorite tree.  It might be a neighborhood meeting place, the first tree they climbed, or a tree they helped to plant.  

 

Ask students to  brainstorm answers to questions such as these:
 

Why is this tree special to you?

Pretend you are introducing your special tree to your classmates. How would you describe it? Is it always the same, or does it change — if so, when and how?

If you could give this tree a secret message, what would it be?

 
 You might even display photographs or drawings of each child's tree to accompany their poems

 

 NOTE: This exercise can be expanded to include other favorites: a sport, a person, a stuffed animal, a building, a best friend . . .


MUSICAL RESOURCES

 

Music can help to create a calm and "woodsy" atmosphere for your students when they are writing about trees.  Two of my favorites are:
 

The Last of the Mohicans  "The Glade"

Forest by George Winston 



 



 

Maple Seed Science

 

 

Take a Moment - Iris Harshaw discovers maple seeds


The idea for my poem, "Maple Shoot in the Pumpkin Patch" arrived one night while I was doing the dishes. I happened to look up and saw a maple seed twirling by. Suddenly, I wondered: Where had it been? Where was it going? This questioning lead to the first draft of the poem.


I should also mention that maple seeds are not common here in California. As a matter of fact, kind teachers and librarians in the East and Midwest have kept me supplied with maple seeds since I need them to show to my California students what a maple seed looks like. (California students haven't seen the way these seeds twirl and I often end up leaving handfuls of my "show and tell" maple seeds behind.)


In doing research for Old Elm Speaks, I ran across "The Journal of Maple Seed Science." Imagine! A whole site about the aerodynamics of the maple seed. I thought the exercises on this site, combined with "Maple Shoot in the Pumpkin Patch" would make for a wonderful unit that integrates both science and poetry.


Here's the link:

The Journal of Maple Seed Science


Let me know if you develop a lesson plan using maple seeds!


 

 

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Some Tree-ific Sites

 

Earth Day Groceries One of the most dynamic Earth Day projects around 
 

Explore the secret life of trees with the University of Illinois Extension
 

A World Community of Old Trees an eco-art project in progress
 

"Time to Plant a Tree" for information about Tu B'Shevat
 

Spirit of Trees - an elegant resource featuring multicultural folktales
 

Coalition to Save the Elms
 

 

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Copyright 1997 - 2013 
Kristine O'Connell George. All rights reserved.

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Poems, excerpts, audio, video, text, and art images on this site are copyrighted and used with the permission of their creators. Please respect their rights!
Content may NOT be re-posted or re-used electronically or in print without permission.
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Home     Kristine's Books     Poetry Aloud    Appearances   Teachers/Parents     Kids     Bio     E-mail


 

Poetry +PLUS+ Newsletter

 


 

 

 
Copyright 1997 - 2013 
Kristine O'Connell George. All rights reserved.

Site Information & Privacy Notice | Site Map
Poems, excerpts, audio, video, text, and art images on this site are copyrighted and used with the permission of their creators. Please respect their rights!
Content may NOT be re-posted or re-used electronically or in print without permission.
Contact author to  request permission for reposting and reprint rights.

 

 

Home     Kristine's Books     Poetry Aloud    Appearances   Teachers/Parents     Kids     Bio     E-mail


 

Poetry +PLUS+ Newsletter

 


 

 

 
Copyright 1997 - 2013 
Kristine O'Connell George. All rights reserved.

Site Information & Privacy Notice | Site Map
Poems, excerpts, audio, video, text, and art images on this site are copyrighted and used with the permission of their creators. Please respect their rights!
Content may NOT be re-posted or re-used electronically or in print without permission.
Contact author to  request permission for reposting and reprint rights.