Books for Back to School: Falling Down the Page

I love visiting bookstores, especially children’s bookstores, when I’m traveling. This summer, while I was on the road for work, I discovered lots of new books. (Truth be told, I also spent a little more than I should have on books for my toddler at home!) Over the coming weeks, I wanted to share a few I found that you might want to use during the first weeks of school.

I’ll start with a book edited by Georgia Heard, Falling Down the Page. It’s a collection of list poems by various writers. As Heard says in the introduction, her book shows the difference between “a regular what-I-want to-buy-at-the candy-store list, and a list poem,” in which poets “meticulously craft their words” to create deep meaning, inspire thought, and spur poetic observations by readers. The poems in this collection can spark a wide range of discussions early in the year. They might also lead your class to create some poems together themselves! For example:

Good-Byes,” by Eileen Spinelli, the first poem in this lovely-to-look-at book, captures some of what students have to leave behind when they return to school. It would be a great first day of school selection and could inspire a discussion about what students in your particular class are leaving behind. Students’ responses would allow them to begin getting to know each other. Their ideas could even be combined into your class’s first joint project—a class poem.

“Ways to Greet a Friend,” by Avis Harley, celebrates the joy and importance of simple greetings. You could use it to launch a discussion of why you will do greetings at your Morning Meetings this year and how powerful greetings are. Or, your class could work through the different language greetings in the poem during the first few weeks of school.

“Walking Home from School I See,” by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, is a testament to the power of observation and the beauty in everyday things. It could inspire careful observation and description by students, especially during those early weeks of school when they have to spend much of their time practicing routines, transitioning, and waiting. For instance, while taking your class back from a specials class to your room, challenge them to notice something interesting along the way and be ready to describe it when they return to the classroom. Once there, have students dictate their ideas to you or record them privately on paper. You could then combine those ideas into a class book or poem.

There are many more fun, interesting and unique poems in this collection! If you check it out, I’d love know what you think and how you’ve used these or other poems as you return to school.

P.S. If you aren’t already familiar with Georgia Heard and her work, I especially want to recommend her Awakening the Heart, one of my favorite books about how to nurture a love of poetry in children.

Margaret Berry Wilson is the author of several books, including: The Language of Learning, Doing Science in Morning Meeting (co-authored with Lara Webb), Interactive Modeling, and Teasing, Tattling, Defiance & More.

Tags: First Day of School, Language Arts