WITS Voices: Pairing Poems with the Weather
December 13, 2017
By Karen Finneyfrock, WITS Writer-in-Residence
I’ve have success and fun in the classroom connecting students with poetry that feature the seasons or the weather.
Each November, I bring my fifth grade classes the poem “This is a Letter” by Rebecca Dunham. Young students are especially drawn to images like “the broken confetti of late fall leaves.” I ask the kids how many of them have ever picked up a handful of dried leaves from the playground and thrown them. Most have. Later, I ask students if anyone besides me gets fruit flies in their kitchens in November. Then, I ask which images resonate with them. At the end of the lesson, we write our own letter poems to November in which we ask November questions and tell November secrets.
Come winter, I like to introduce the poem “January” by John Updike to the fourth grade. It doesn’t snow much in Seattle, but sometimes I get lucky and have a little flurry for the kids to get excited about. I teach in an older building with a hulking, noisy heating system, so everyone enjoys the last lines, “The radiator / Purrs all day.” The poem’s images lead nicely into our prompt. I assign each student a month and ask them to write about that month using the five senses.
In the spring, I present the third grade with “April Rain Song” by Langston Hughes. Living in Seattle, it’s a good bet that students will have heard rain on their roofs the night before. It’s fun to talk about what the rain sounds like before we write our own poems to the weather. The craft focus for this lesson is repetition. In the same way that Hughes tells us that “the rain makes running pools in the gutter,” I ask students to decide what the sun or the moon makes. They write poems that might be called, “April Sun Song,” or “Spring Moon Poem.” Here’s one example:
The moon makes day into night,
The moon makes the sky a light,
The moon makes the tide fly,
The moon makes the evening sky.
The moon makes the raccoons awake,
The moon makes itself change shape,
The moon makes the wolves howl,
The moon makes sun hide,
I love the moon.
Karen Finneyfrock is a poet and novelist. She is the author of two young adult novels: The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door and Starbird Murphy and the World Outside, both published by Viking Children’s Books. She is one of the editors of the anthology Courage: Daring Poems for Gutsy Girls, and the author of Ceremony for the Choking Ghost, both released on Write Bloody Press. She is a former Writer-in-Residence at Hugo House.