Up in the air and down!

Last year, I was so busy trying to figure out what I was supposed to do that I didn’t get to know the students as well as I would have liked, which made things rather difficult. This year, though, I teach a 6th grade class, and I know my students’ names and I am in their business. It’s tricky sometimes, because I need for them to have a relationship with me and a relationship with the library even after our six-week class is over. But, for the most part, I think it’s been a successful venture, with students seeing the library as a positive place and having positive interactions with me. Also, I give them candy. Sometimes they tell me I am their favorite teacher. Usually, this is after I have given them candy. Sixth graders have notoriously short memories. They do manage, however, to remember the important things. Like candy.

One of the things I wanted to do this year was to do a better job of celebrating National Poetry Month. I decided that I would actually do something to celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day, which is the last day of April. You are supposed to carry a copy of a poem that you love around with you that day and share it with people. At my school, we have announcements that scroll on the television, so I put an announcement up that said that if you bring me a copy of your favorite poem or lyric that day, I will give you a reward.

Even though it is not yet April 30th, the response has already been more than I had dared to hope for. Students have been barraging me with questions all week. Can I bring Dr. Seuss? Yes, you can. Can I bring a poem that I wrote? Yes, you can. Can I give you my poem now? No, you cannot. I said April 30th, not April 3rd. I am very interested to see the poems that they themselves have written. That question, the way that some of them were almost too embarrassed to ask if they could bring their own poem, well, let’s just say that I was close to tearing up a couple of times. I am also interested to see what an 8th grader will bring me compared to what a 6th grader will bring me. Those two years make a big difference, and I am fascinated to see how that will play out.

I haven’t yet decided what poem I will carry with me that day. I think, though, that since spring has sprung, the poem that has been in my head the most is “The Swing” by Robert Louis Stevenson.

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
River and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside—

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown—
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!

When Melissa and her kids were over a few Sundays ago, we ended up playing with the neighbors on their swingset. As I pushed River on the swing, I couldn’t help but think of all the times I have heard my mother recite this poem as she pushed me on a swing. There is nothing like flying through the air on a bright spring day. When I took my Battle of the Books students to UNCG for our competition, the highlights of the day were when we went to Yum Yums for ice cream and when I took them to the swingset by the library. It was one of those perfect spring days, and I loved watching them play. Even my most mature 8th graders were just kids when it came to the swingset.

I have laminated many, many copies of these pocket-sized poems to give out as rewards on April 30th, and I am going to let the students choose the poem they like from among those. Also, I will probably give out some candy. I want them to have a more positive experience with poetry than I did in school, and if I have to bribe them into it, well, so be it.

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  1. By On Our Way To Crazy on 4/30/2009 at

    […] honor of the last day of National Poetry Month, which I really only know about because Kari is a good teacher, I wanted to post a couple of my favorites […]

5 Comments

  1. you’re so brilliant. where were you when i was hating the library at school and never reading poetry because no teacher ever showed me how cool it could be???!! i liked reading at home with my family, but hardly ever had a connection with it at school. i love your fun ideas for the kids! sometimes our girls from the neighborhood will read us poems that they’ve written, and it always makes me cry and feel all happy all at the same time. they can blow me away with their insight and depth.

    and of course, i love your poem of choice as well. 😉 great post!

    Posted 4/3/2009 at | Permalink
  2. My Granny had me memorize that poem when I was really young. I still remember it. 🙂

    Posted 4/4/2009 at | Permalink
  3. Carol

    That is a poem passed down through the generations, I guess. Other than probably some nursery rhymes, I think it is the first poem I ever memorized, and that was because it was my mother’s favorite poem as a little girl and she recited it and read it to me over and over. We had the book A Child’s Garden of Verses by RLS, and it was one of my favorites. I am glad that the poem continues to resonate with you.

    Posted 4/4/2009 at | Permalink
  4. Rebecca

    This is SUCH a great idea, Kari! The students at your school are so very lucky.

    Posted 4/4/2009 at | Permalink
  5. That sounds like so much fun! You are an excellent teacher.

    Posted 4/6/2009 at | Permalink

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