Support Language Art & Community Engagement Through Poetry

Poem in Your Pocket Day
Supporting Language Art & Community Engagement

Thursday, April 24th, 2014, is national Poem in Your Pocket Day, a day when people select poems to share with others they encounter throughout their day. We love what the community in Charlottesville, VA, organized for this national day that celebrates poetry while supporting literacy. This great community building event was a collaboration between their library, schools and senior center.  It encouraged community engagement in various locations throughout their town, including their library, town common, hospital, and local businesses.  It also encourages literacy development and a love of language.

Wouldn’t it be great if communities, groups or individuals in Western MA did something similar? Tell us if you do! It could be as simple as a youth group doing something similar to this VA community on a much smaller scale, passing out poetry to passersby in Northampton, Greenfield, Pittsfield, Amherst or Springfield. Or you could become guerrilla poets, posting poems on community bulletin boards in your town. Share your ideas and be inspired!

Check out archived column, “One Clover & A Bee: Poems for Families to Learn & Love” for more encouragement that supports a love for poetry in our children and ourselves.

Edible Books Connect Culinary Arts & Literature

The Edible Book: A Benefit for the Friends of the Forbes & Lilly Libraries

The Forbes and Lilly Libraries are holding their Edible Book event on Sunday, April 6th this year, an annual event that crosses culinary arts and language arts with creative free play!

If you could make a piece of art that describes your favorite book, what would it look like? If you created a food whose flavor matches your family’s favorite story, what would it taste like? And what do you think would happen if you combined your art piece with the book’s perfect flavor match? Create a real-life edible artistic masterpiece – just like you’ve imagined! – by participating in Forbes Library’s event, Edible Book Northampton!

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NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program

National Novel Writing Month happens every November! It’s a fun, seat-of-your-pants writing event where the challenge is to complete an entire novel in just 30 days. For one month, you get to lock away your inner editor, let your imagination take over, and just create!

Have you ever wanted to write a novel? Take on the challenge as a family with NaNoWriMo! NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – is an annual event where writers challenge themselves to create a novel within only 30 days! Technically beginning at the first of the month and ending at midnight on the 30th, NaNoWriMo is a fun exercise in creativity where writers get to turn off their inner editor, skip endless revising, and just write straight through an entire story!

Of course, novel writing is an activity best suited for older skilled writers, but NaNoWriMo is something that writers of all ages can participate in! And even though November has already started, there’s still plenty of time to participate. Younger writers for whom an entire novel may not be a reasonable goal can determine for themselves what their writing goal should be (instead of the adult goal of 50,000), in terms of number of words (Not sure how many words to write? The NaNoWriMo website offers a special Word Count Generator tool to users who have signed up for the challenge.), And of course, you’re welcome to surpass your word count goal or keep working on your story once the month is over – just work to meet your goal by November 30th, and everything past that is extra! Read the rest of this entry »

One Clover & A Bee: Poems for Autumn

Fall Changes—Poems for Outside & In

Fall is a great time for poetry. The season is bursting with vivid sights, sounds and smells. It’s wonderful to be outside, taking in the warm autumn colors that surround us and that late-day, slanting light that makes everything look like it’s dipped in honey.

The next time you’re enjoying the out-of-doors, bring this poem by Lilian Moore along. It’s an easy one for little kids to remember, and is fun for saying aloud and making into a game, because the poem breaks down the experience of crunching through dry leaves so     that     we     can     feel     every step.

Try saying it with your child as you walk, using the line breaks as a guide to where you should slow down and speed up.

New Sounds

by Lilian Moore

New sounds to
walk on
today,

dry
leaves
talking
in hoarse
whispers
under bare trees.

Indoors, many of us are also making transitions, starting school or other new routines, taking stock of the year ahead. When it’s time to pull out the sweaters and long pants, there might be some surprises…

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One Clover & A Bee: Belle of Amherst

The Bee of Amherst

Emily Dickinson is one of our best-known poets, and many of us can probably conjure up a few of her most quoted lines. But while we know she’s important, I’m willing to bet that most of us also find her poems somewhat difficult. They’re so compact, so very personal, full of references that are difficult to grasp from our modern perspective.

As a result, when we’re first introduced to her work, sometimes the poems that are selected—because they seem more accessible—are also kind of…greeting card sweet (Please, no hate mail!). This is a shame, because when we take the time to read more of Dickinson’s work, we find an incredibly inventive, smart and passionate poet. She can even be quite funny. Hey, I named this column after her—so you know I’m a fan.

Therefore, on behalf of the Belle of Amherst, I offer a poem of hers that I think is a winner for families on all counts: it’s very accessible, but not at the expense of smart. It’s fun to say out loud, and not as twisty in its rhythms as some of her work. It is sweet, but not syrupy—more like refreshing, ice-cold, home-made lemonade on a hot summer day…

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Journal-Making: Inspiration for Writing & Drawing

Making Journals with Kids Can Encourage & Support Language & Visual Art Skills

This Sunday, July 21 at 1pm, children’s illustrator Pamela Zagarenski will lead a drawing and booklet binding workshop in the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art’s studio in Amherst. Kids of all ages can come play a drawing-based game and learn how to bind their drawings into a booklet. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield – Handmade journals at the Hilltown Spring Festival Kids’ Made Craft Bazaar)

It’s no secret of parenting that kids have a lot to say. Just as our own adult brains are constantly stirring through ideas, memories, and observations, children’s brains are working just as hard. They make note of interesting things that they see in their surroundings, develop characters and stories inspired by their experiences, and they may even craft clever illustrations to their thoughts inside the confines of their neural connections. Giving kids an outlet isn’t difficult – younger children can often satisfy their creative urges with a basket of crayons and some recycled paper, while older children create more sophisticated drawings, diagrams, stories, or logs when they’ve got something to record.

A great summer project to do as a family to encourage kids’ writing and drawing skills is journal-making…

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One Clover & A Bee: Story of Summer with E. E. Cummings

Take a Poem to the Beach

To kick off the summer, here’s a poem by E.E. Cummings. Cummings is known for his inventiveness—his play with language and form. That playfulness is usually most obvious in the capitalization (or lack of) and punctuation (seemingly random) in his poems, and kids love to see a grown-up breaking those rules.

———

maggie and milly and molly and may
by E. E. Cummings

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach (to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles, and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles: and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

[From "The Complete Poems: 1904-1962" by E. E. Cummings, Edited by George J. Firmage.]

———

In this poem the sense of play is also present in the parenthetical asides; they create an extra intimacy—I feel like the poet is speaking just to me, letting me into his confidence. Sort of like when you watch an episode of The Office (or a Shakespeare play), and the actors break out of character and speak directly to the camera/audience…

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One Clover & A Bee: A Writing Challenge for Families

Big Ideas (in the Ordinary)

This month I invite you to take all of those lost imaginative ideas and share them by writing with your child! In fact, you could try a writing game where you just put a bunch of ordinary stuff from your house on a table, then challenge each other to write a poem that has all the stuff on the table in it… and, if you like, feel free to post your family’s writing here in the comments. I would love to see what you come up with!

I’ve noticed that often when we try to write, we get stuck because we think we need to write about “big” subjects. So we sit and chew on our pencil and stare into space and decide our lives just aren’t exciting enough for Art with a capital A. It’s really a shame, because lots of interesting, imaginative writing gets lost this way.

The poem I’ve chosen for this month’s column, “Today,” by Frank O’Hara, is a great antidote to this kind of inhibition. O’Hara was immersed in the New York art scene, and his poems reflect the exciting changes that were happening in the visual arts of the 1950’s. They’re colorful, irreverent, noisy, seemingly casual but secretly well-crafted.

But what I appreciate most about this poem (and others by O’Hara) is that it shows us that anything can be in art, and art can be about anything. Just by writing about it, by putting the ordinary stuff of our lives into a poem it becomes changed and celebrated. It becomes interesting.

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Equality for All: Spoken Word Video Contest for Western MA Youth

Hampshire County Law Day 2013
Spoken Word Contest for Middle & High School Youth

Hampshire County LAW DAY 2013: A Spoken Word Video Contest for Middle & High School Aged Youth. — Spoken word poetry is a powerful, high energy form of storytelling intended for onstage performance. It has ties to hip hop, modern poetry, postmodern performance and monologue theater, as well as jazz, blues and folk music.

As we teach our children how to conceptualize the world, they are most certainly forming their own opinions about what it means to live and exist within it.  We give them lots of information on the past, and perhaps even more than that, we give them advice and guidance for navigating today and the future.  We share with them critical information about our history – both as individuals and as a country and culture – and we try to help them make sense of it.  Whatever they gain from it, they then use to find their own place in the world.  But rarely do we ask them to tell us what it means to them.

When we teach students about things like feminism, civil rights, tolerance, and equality, the topics become important to them not when we teach them, but when they find a way to connect to them.  And what better way to find out what they’ve learned than to ask them to share what these things mean to them?

The upcoming Hampshire County Law Day (which will take place on May 1st, 2013) is offering an opportunity for middle and high school students to do just that.  Youth interested in making themselves heard can create an original piece of spoken word to the Northwest District Attorney’s Citizen Advisory Board – pieces will be reviewed by the board and three students will be given the chance to share their voice and their perspective during the event.  Held to celebrate the steady development of equality in America, the event focuses on the same ideals shared by those who wrote the Emancipation Proclamation 150 years ago, as well as followers of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose famous, “I Have a Dream,” speech took place 50 years ago.

Submissions to the contest should be in video form, as the most important element in spoken word is the delivery of the poet’s work.  The deadline for submission is 4pm on Tuesday, April 23rd.  For more information about both the contest and the event, including specific content guidelines for submissions, visit northwesternda.org.

Edible Books Encourage Creative Free Play in the Kitchen

The Edible Book: A Benefit for the Friends of the Forbes & Lilly Libraries

Edible Book events have been held worldwide since 1999! This is the Forbes and Lilly Libraries 6th annual event. Registration deadline is April 16th and the event takes place on April 22nd at the Florence Civic Center.

The Forbes and Lilly Libraries are holding their Edible Book event on Sunday, April 22nd this year, an annual event that crosses culinary arts and language arts with creative free play! And April vacation week is the perfect time to start thinking with your kids about participating and supporting our local libraries!

What is an Edible Book? It’s exactly what it sounds like – community members create their own edible versions of their favorite books (fiction & non-fiction)!  Previous years’ entries have included Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar made out of cookies and the Audubon Book of Birds featuring shortbread avian specimens.

Edible Book events have been held worldwide since 1999 and pays tribute to French gastronome Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin’s book The Physiology of Taste!  The event is an opportunity for families to celebrate reading together, as well as an opportunity for creative free play via culinary arts.  

If your family doesn’t want to enter, you can still attend the Edible Book event to check out others’ entries!  All entrants will get a ribbon, and there will be prizes in multiple categories.  The event will take place on Sunday, April 22nd from 2-4pm at the Florence Civic Center, and admission is $5 (kids 10yo and under are free) and goest towards supporting the Forbes and Lilly Libraries.  For more information, call Bonnie at 413-584-7482 or email bonnieburnham@comcast.net. Registration deadline is Monday, April 16th.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Betsy Roe

3 Wishes Writing Contest for Elementary Kids

Three Wishes Writing Contest

South Hadley's independent book store, Odyssey Bookshop, hosts their annual creative writing contest for kids ages 5-11years old. Deadline to enter: April 11, 2012.

If your child had three wishes, what would their wishes be and where would they take them?  The Odyssey Bookshop’s annual children’s creative writing contest’s theme this year is “Wishes” – kids ages 5-11 years old can enter by writing a story or essay addressing their three wishes.

The contest’s goal is to get kids to practice writing creatively and to learn to articulate their thoughts and express themselves freely.  Essays can be submitted in either English or Spanish, and kids are welcome to include their own illustrations.  There are prizes available for each grade/age range, and there are special prizes for the best Spanish story and the best original illustration.

Kids ages 8-11/grades 3-5 should type their stories (a great opportunity to learn about word processing!), but kids ages 6-8/grades 1-2 are encouraged to practice their best handwriting for their submission.

The deadline to enter is April 11th – so get writing!  For more information, visit the Odyssey Bookshop’s website at www.odysseybks.com.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Allan Foster]

Spoken Word: Nurture & Empower Individuality

Embracing Difference Empowers Individuality

Although all of my previous posts have dealt with the lessons I learned and taught inside my classroom, some of the most profound moments have come when my students walk out of these doors to create the next chapter of their lives.

Today I received an email from a former student simply entitled “Thank You.” When I saw who the sender was, I couldn’t help but smile.

Here was a girl who nearly everyone had written off in high school, even her parents. When she first walked into my classroom, she carried the stigmas of being not smart enough, not pretty enough, not good enough. Through her essays and journal writings, I got the sense that her confidence and self-worth had been constricted and strangled by many strands of these thick and heavy “nots”. Ironically, and thankfully, the strongest strand that weaved its way throughout all of her writing was that of hope.

The semester that she was my student just so happened to be the one that I chose to teach from Jean Auel’s, The Clan of the Cave Bear. Themes of Love and Power and Feminine Strength filled the classroom everyday, and I found that this seventeen year old student related to the traits of individuality, perseverance and honor exuded by the main character in the story.

As her peers, parents, and even other teachers continued to label her as academically and socially unmanageable, I hung on to that glimmer and spark which still shone bright in her eyes just behind her veil of insecurity and self-doubt. Along with honest and supportive feedback regarding her coursework, praise for her efforts and pride for her accomplishments were all she heard from me on a daily basis. Over the course of the term, her writing became more insightful and her discussions more expressive. She was beginning to shed the heavy burdens of self-deprecation to reveal her true identity which had been forced to hide in the shadows for so many years. She was growing up, and embracing her positive changes.

When she graduated, I held on to the hope that she would have the strength to maintain out in the real world, for she would be surrounded once again by those who would rather ignore her than try to get to know her.

A year after she walked out of my classroom door for the last time, I received her email and was reminded once again that instead of shunning those deemed different, we should nurture and empower their individuality. For these will be the ones who shine the brightest in our lives.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeff Winston ♦ Teaching Teens: Lessons I’ve Learned in the High School Classroom

Jeff Winston writes our monthly column, Teaching Teens: Lessons I’ve Learned in the High School Classroom, illustrating the life lessons that he taught, and just as often learned, both in and out of the classroom. Jeff has lived in Easthampton since 2007, after moving up from Philadelphia with his wife, Alli, and their 3 dogs, Murphy, Zoey and Maggie. Jeff has a private tutoring business, Tap Your Truth, specific to enhancing writing and study skills, focusing on empowering individuals through their own written and spoken words. Jeff writes a blog called Better Out Than In…, a place to read creative expressions of his life’s experiences, samples of his student’s work, and tidbits that will enable readers to gain insight into their own lives.

100 Links (Spring/Summer 2011)

100 Links (Spring/Summer 2011)

Nearly every day we add recommended links to the Hilltown Families bank of on-line resources.  Some of you might find these links well suited for your family, others, maybe not so much.  But it’s a fun and useful list worth perusing of online resource that are educational and entertaining!

Follow Me on DeliciousWhere are these links? Hilltown Families Del.ici.ous Page!  This icon can be found at the top of our site, in the left-hand column.  Click any time to see what links we’ve added!

Below is the latest 100 links we’ve shared: (you will need to use the “back” button to return to this page). All links are provided as a courtesy and not as an endorsement:

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100 Links (Winter/Spring 2011)

100 Links (Winter/Spring 2011)

Nearly every day we add recommended links to the Hilltown Families bank of on-line resources.  Some of you might find these links well suited for your family, others, maybe not so much.  But it’s a fun and useful list worth perusing!  If you have a link you’d like to share, post it in our comment box below.

Where are these links? You won’t find them on your blog reader, nor via email if you subscribe to our newsfeed.  Sometime we share these links on the Hilltown Families Facebook page, with members of our listserv, or even Tweet about a few – but if you visit Hilltown Families on-line and scroll half way down, on the left you will find the column, “Links We Recommend.” There you’ll find our list of the most recent recommended links.

Archived Lists of 100 Links: If you’d like to peruse our list of 100 Links from months past, click HERE and then scroll down.

100 Links (Winter/Spring 2011): If you haven’t been visiting the site regularly to peruse these great resources, not to worry – below is the most recent 100 links we’ve shared: (you will need to use the “back” button to return to this page):

Read the rest of this entry »

100 Links (Fall 2010/Winter 2011)

100 Links (Fall 2010/Winter 2011)

Nearly every day we add recommended links to the Hilltown Families bank of on-line resources.  Some of you might find these links well suited for your family, others, maybe not so much.  But it’s a fun and useful list worth perusing!  If you have a link you’d like to share, post it in our comment box below.

Where are these links? You won’t find them on your blog reader nor via email if you subscribe to our newsfeed.  Sometime we share these links on the Hilltown Families Facebook page, with members of our listserv, or even Tweet about a few – but if you visit Hilltown Families on-line and scroll half way down, on the left you will find the column, “Links We Recommend.” There you’ll find our list of the most recent recommended links.

Archived Lists of 100 Links: If you’d like to peruse our list of 100 Links from months past, click HERE and then scroll down.

100 Links (Fall 2010/Winter 2011): If you haven’t been visiting the site regularly to peruse these great resources, not to worry – below is the most recent 100 links we’ve shared: (you will need to use the “back” button to return to this page):

Read the rest of this entry »

100 Links (Summer/Fall 2010)

100 Links (Summer/Fall 2010)

Nearly every day we add recommended links to the Hilltown Families bank of on-line resources.  Some of you might find these links well suited for your family, others, maybe not so much.  But it’s a fun and useful list worth perusing!  If you have a link you’d like to share, post it in our comment box below.

Where are these links? You won’t find them on your blog reader nor via email if you subscribe to our newsfeed.  Sometime we share these links on the Hilltown Families Facebook page, with members of our listserv, or even Tweet about a few – but if you visit Hilltown Families on-line and scroll half way down, on the left you will find the column, “Links We Recommend.” There you’ll find our bank of the most recent 25 recommended links.

Archived Lists of 100 Links: If you’d like to peruse our list of 100 Links from months past, click HERE and then scroll down.

100 Links (Summer/Fall 2010): If you haven’t been visiting the site regularly to peruse these great resources, not to worry – below is the most recent 100 links we’ve shared: (you will need to use the “back” button to return to this page):


  • One Hungry Mama Guide to Halloween
  • Daddy Issues: How Can I Keep My Daughter Loving Science? (article)
  • Science Experiments You Can Do At Home or School
  • Booklists for Teens (Boston Public Library)
  • AAASpell.com – Practice Your Spelling
  • The wisdom of teenagers (article)
  • Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child Is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, Energetic
  • Out in the Berkshires (LGBT Life in the Berkshires)
  • Day of the Dead: History, Facts, and Resources
  • Maths Teaching Ideas
  • Sidekicks: Graphic Novel Reviews for Kids
  • HauntedHappenings.org (Halloween in Salem, MA)
  • Banking Curriculum
  • Best Documentaries on Eating Green
  • Math Game: 100s Grid
  • Glow in the Woods (For Babylost Parents)
  • My Science Box
  • Ashfield Local Goods Catalog
  • Johnnie’s Math Page
  • RECOMMENDED DVD: Life in the Undergrowth w/ David Attenborough (Nature Science)
  • ArtsVivants/ArtsAlive
  • Kids Caving
  • Online Spelling Course
  • Virtual Skies
  • Smithsonian Education for Students
  • Read the rest of this entry »
  • Sight Word Bingo

    Learning Sight Words: Grades K-3rd

    My daughter is in kindergarten this year (a K/1st mix) and one of the learning techniques in language arts that her teacher employs is the use of “sight words.” The idea is to learn a bank of words that do not correspond to the basic phonetic rules. Words like away, blue, ate, and, the, put, buy, because, why and so on.

    I recently read “Make Friends with Sight Words” by Liana Mahoney, a K-12 teacher from upstate New York. She writes:

    “With phonics, what beginning readers see is what they get. But unfortunately, some of the most common words in our language–such as have, what, or who–just don’t follow the rules. Just by looking at it, for example, you’d think that “what” should rhyme with “cat,” but no; it rhymes with “hut”! The word “have”, one of the top 100 words in the English language, doesn’t follow that long vowel, silent “e” rule that we see in a word such as “cake.”

    In school, we call these “sight words,” and in first grade, teachers spend lots of time purposely building a “word bank” so that kids can recognize and read them instantly. Having a strong sight vocabulary builds reading fluency and confidence, so it’s well worth some time and practice at home.”

    In her article Play Post-It Bingo, posted on Education.com, Liana gives the outline of a game you can play with your kids that supports the learning of “sight words.” Click here to read on.

    Video Review: School House Grammar Rock

    NATIONAL GRAMMAR DAY

    March 4th is National Grammar Day. In honor of this new holiday (click here to read more) we’ve posted eight videos celebrating Nouns, Verbs, Pronounds, Adverbs, Prepositions, Conjunctions, Adjectives and Interjections. These School House Rock grammar videos will stir fond memories in most parents while capturing the attention of your kids. Have fun!

    NOUNS

    VERBS

    PRONOUNS

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