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Start with a book

A walk Through the Rainforest: free verse

While every learning experiences do not have to start with a book, many of mine do. Even when we are heading outside to do something hands on or physically challenging, I will often begin with a book. We may not have a tropical rainforest outside our school library doors to go exploring in, but we can read a great book, close our eyes and visualize (and smell, hear, taste, and feel). Books can transport us through time, across lands, and even into fantastical worlds we may never actually experience first hand. But no matter, our imaginations, if tapped into and cultivated and valued, can be vast and wonderfully entertaining.

One of the most interesting, challenging and fun aspects of being a teacher librarian is collaborative planning and teaching.  It is such a privilege to be able to work with so many amazing teachers and their classes.

When one of the grade 2 teachers asked me to do poetry with her class, I jumped at the chance. And after she mentioned their upcoming rainforest unit, I knew we had to tie the two together. Since the children had not yet begun their exploration of the rainforest, we had to do some front loading. After all, the tropical rainforest isn’t a common thing kids from the inner city have personal experience with.

Where to start? The shelves of course! I hit the shelves looking for a beautifully illustrated information book with a strong narrative. It could not be too long and yet needed to describe a tropical rainforest with enough detail that they could visualize being there.

 

 

Lessons 1 & 2

“Let’s visualize being in the rainforest,” I told the children gathered at the carpet. “Close your eyes. Imagine yourself walking through the rainforest as I read. What do you see? Smell? Hear? Feel? Taste?”

After reading and thinking aloud, we looked at the Rainforest Walk template I had prepared and filled one out together as a class. Encouraging descriptive and interesting words, we wrote a class poem. the students then filled out their own Rainforest Walk sheets, wrote poems, and decorated them with gorgeous illustrations.

Here is the Rainforest Walk 2 – version 2. I modified it after learning what was confusing and what was effective.

Lesson 3

Rainforest Haiku

Continuing our Rainforest theme, Ms. L suggested teaching the children to write Haikus. But haikus, delightful little poems, require an understanding of syllables. Do grade twos know this? I had no idea! Hoping for the best, I asked them what a syllable was. They knew! Then I asked who had a one syllable name. Some hands went up and we clapped their names. I asked who has a two syllable name and we clapped those too. Then we asked for three or more syllable names and luckily we had a few.

Feeling confident that they understood syllables, I moved onto the poems I had written on the chart. We read and clapped them, counting the syllables, looking at the descriptive words. Then we had a look at the Rainforest Haiku template: brainstorming at the top, writing the draft at the bottom. For our example we wrote  about the Giant Anteater. Fascinating fellow. Did you know he has tiny spikes on his tongue that point upwards? Then the students wrote their poems on plain paper and illustrated them. In retrospect, I didn’t have enough information for the students to work with. They had to share books which was a little frustrating. Next time I would make this into two lessons, this one being the second and the first one reading about our animal. Still, the poems were wonderful!

Student Haikus

Snakes
Sharp and little teeth
They are skinny and slither
They have little eyes
 
Hummingbird
Hummingbirds are bright
Her eggs are the size of peas
Love to eat nectar
 
Mosquito
Drinking lots of blood
It looks like a dragonfly
Coming out at night
 
Gorilla
They are very strong
Sleeping, walking on the ground
Peaceful and gentle
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