Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems

April 12, 2018

Observing nature quiets a soul and calms our fast-paced lives. Children need time to process their learning, time to explore and think.

Old Elm Speaks, by Kristine O’Connell George, invites you to interact with the world around you. Trees have personalities and beckon us to tell a story. Can you hear the stories the stories they can write? Climbing. Tree houses. Mushroom hunting. On her website, Kristine O’Connell George shares some writing and science activities that go along with this book. Other poetry ideas are on her website as well.  Celebrate Poetry Month by including these poems that will connect with children’s hearts. Take a nature walk around the school and notice nature. What tree speaks to you?


Ordinary yet unique.

Inaudible yet whispering.


by MHGensch

Savorings for Old Elm Speaks Tree Poems:

  • Personification
  • Everyday life – gathering stories/ poetry from around us
  • Figurative Language – “a tiny velveteen satchel
  • Description – using comparisons, figurative language, rich language
  • Science Link
  • Class book idea – create a photo book of trees with the students’ poems, memories



Cara’s Kindness

February 17, 2018

Pay it forward. In a time when turmoil and fear encircle us, we can choose to break the mold by helping others. Cara’s Kindness is a story of one character putting aside her problem to help another. In turn, the pay it forward then goes from one friend to another character. View a snippet of the book on this link. Kids of all ages can begin to think of ways to help others around them. Start in your classroom. Encourage it at home. How can they help the community?

The story also features a growth mindset.

“Well of course! That’s part of skating {or any part of life}. So the first think you need to learn is how to get back up.”

Kristi Yamaguchi shares her book at this link. She also has a website, Always Dream Foundation, that focuses on supporting early literacy and paying it forward to children in need.

Savorings for Cara’s Kindness:

  • Growth Mindset
  • Repeating line – “No worries…just pass on the kindness!
  • Alliteration – gracefully glided, character names
  • Theme – Caring makes a difference!
  • Small Moments in Time
  • Every day happenings

Where’s My TRUCK?

July 2, 2014

I enjoy children’s books. Some books are okay. Some books are great and some books are ones I will hang on to. Where’s my T-R-U-C-K? by Karen Beaumont is a gold mine. David Catrow’s illustrations caught my eye. His fun, unique colored drawings brings out the child-like fun. He draws the character emotions of the boy brilliantly, making me feel like I am right in the room. On the title page, the kick the little boy has just given the toys immediately makes you go, “Uh-oh. Somebody is NOT happy.”

I read this book during summer school to my kindergarten kids. They loved it. The figity boys were hanging on each page wondering what was going to happen next. The conflict in the book is an everyday happening. Kids relate to losing things. (I do. How many times have you misplaced your keys or phone?) Frustration wells up when looking for your lost item. Nothing else will appease.

The parents and siblings try to subdue him, but to no avail. The beginning starts:

Shhh!” I hear my parents say.

“Tommy’s not himself today. He’s lost his T*R*U*C*K!”

When reading the book, the kids would spell the word in a whisper voice or in a more intense tone depending on the character speaking. The kids loved being involved in the story. Each connected with a story of their own.

David Catrow uses the dog to be telling a parrallel story. Notice the items the dog is taking in each scene. After reading the book, I showed the kids the illustrations again. We enjoyed rereading the book again.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Where’s My TRUCK?:

  • Everyday Happening
  • Foreshadowing – watch the dog
  • Connect with the word family “uck”
  • Verbs and Nouns – a great way to teach younger (and older) children to identify the parts of speech
  • Voice


Small Poetry

November 12, 2011

Jaime Adoff collection of poems focus on the theme of being small in Small Fry. His perspective gives you a glimpse of trials and triumphs being short can be. I envision these poems will ignite conversations within your classroom and poem sharing their wishes.  Mike Reed illustrations the feels inlaid in the text. View an interview with Jaime Adoff as he talks about the influences his parents, Virginia Hamilton and Arnold Adoff, had on him as a writer.

  • No Fun Allowed focuses on not being tall enough for an amusement ride.
  • Cool Fun Fort Forever shines on the imaginative play young children can have.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Small Fry:

  • Narrative-like poems
  • Kid Voice
  • Varied types of poems – long skinny, stanzas, questions, short, conversational
  • Connections
  • Everyday Happenings

Halloween Howls

October 31, 2011

Holiday celebrations invite poetry creations and shares. Lee Bennett Hopkins selected several poems around the Halloween theme in Halloween Howls Holiday Poetry. During the fall season, it is fun to read short poems to catch your students’ attention.

A table of contents is featured at the beginning of the book with correlating page numbers. What a fun way to introduce this concept used in chapter and reference books.

Rebecca Kai Dotlich pens the poem Costume Hour. Children will relate to dressing up and imagining themselves as a fantasy character.

Sweet Tooth by Candace Pearson describes candy corn. After reading this poem, you could ask your students to write about their favorite candy, a snapshot of eating or making something delicious.

Use your imagination and have fun with poetry.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Halloween Howls:

  • Questions
  • Sensory Description
  • Visualizing
  • Memories
  • Making Connections

SOL: The Power of a Vowel

October 25, 2011

Children say the funniest things. It’s priceless catching the moment. Everyone needs some type of comic relief, and I love sharing these little bits of nothing with my colleagues.

Vowels are so important in our language. The smallest sound changes the meaning of a word.

One young first grader was writing diligently in his book during writer’s workshop. When I conferred with him, Ernie looked up with excitement in his eyes.  “Mrs. Gensch, I’m writing about bulls. When I was like two years old, I went to a RADIO and saw a bull-fight. Those bulls are mean. Their horns can hurt people!”

I smiled and applauded his enthusiasm. Radio. Rodeo. Close enough.

Pumpkin Patch

October 22, 2011

Patty’s Pumpkin Patch by Teri Sloat is a hybrid text full of fun for the autumn season. I happened upon an early childhood website with class activity possibilities.

The text is written in a two-lined rhyme, describing the beauty of the fall season. Along the bottom of the pages, the alphabet is featured with upper and lower case letters. Between the letters is a zoomed in illustration featuring an animal or insect found in nature. A Junco, Pheasant, and a Vixen are a few examples. Your students could create an alphabet book about Autumn. The text lends itself to connecting with a natural science lesson.

Savorings for reading and in writing for Patty’s Pumpkin Patch:

  • Class Book – alphabet structure
  • Poetry
  • Science connection – insects, birds, animals
  • Agricultural setting – every day happenings for those living in a rural setting
  • Timeline – spring to fall


My Farm Friends

September 5, 2011

On the book jacket, Wendell Minor shares a photo of himself as a youngster sitting near chickens. As I share the book with children, I would show this picture and allow them to wonder about where the author is and how it relates to the book. This little feature connects the story with the seed idea the author used.

My Farm Friends begins with an introduction to the farm, enticing you to explore the farm. This test would support students who live in an agricultural setting,  sparking ideas to write about. For those students living in an urban setting, the pictures will bring the farm to them.

Nine animals are featured. The text has a repeated structure, describing characteristics of the animals, rhyming lines (ABCB pattern). A fun fact is added in. For example, did yo know that turkeys purr when content?

For a sneak peak at the book, view the YouTube video:

At the end, each animal is featured in a two page fun fact spread. It’s a great example for a nonfiction unit of study. Six internet sources are included for further research. A favorite is http://www.kiddyhouse.com/farm.

Savorings for reading and in writing for My Farm Friends:

  • Magic of 3 – in the introduction
  • Repeated Structure
  • Adjectives – great for young children to learn and understand
  • Character descriptions
  • Everyday Happenings – on the farm

Warsaw Community Public Library – new book