Making Thinking Visible

Making Thinking Visible
Making Thinking Visible

Arts Integration

Arts Integration
Arts Integration

My Funny Valentine: Love Letters by Arnold Adoff

"You're my funny valentine, sweet comic valentine
You make me smile with my heart
Your looks are laughable, unphotographable
Yet, you're my favorite work of art."
By Rodgers & Hart

Growing up, I never crushed on the cutie patooties or the hottie patotties.  I fell for the guys who could make me laugh hysterically or make me swoon by reciting poetry.  So, it's only natural that as a teacher, the valentine books I love the most incorporate poetry and humor.  That's what led me to Love Letters by Arnold Adoff.  This book is comprised of funny, touching, and yet untraditional love letters written as poems.  The letters are addressed to teachers, classmates, family members, or to"fill-in-your-own-name," which is the perfect poem for those people who have a harem of admirers.  The poems in this book stand independently and could be shared one at a time over the course of a couple of weeks. 
Adoff uses fantastic imagery that any child can relate to,  "I love you more than peanut butter cookies crumble. I  love you more than yellow bees bumble. I also love you more than dark thunder clouds rumble..."  These lines are from the poem entitle "Dear Tall Girl at the Front Table," one of my favorites in the book.
I shared this book with my students this past week.  My fourth grade boys were over the moon with silliness (4th grade crushes are in full bloom).  After they got over their giggling fits, they thoroughly enjoyed it.  In fact, one of those giggling boys actually quoted some of the poems, telling the others that he loved this book.
Then, I introduced  the idea of writing our own love letters to things we love.  I wanted to avoid people because as I've said before, love is in the air in room 7.  Some of the poems in Love Letters are responses to love letters received.  Those responses make it clear that the affection isn't returned.  So I really wanted to avoid writing to people.
We brainstormed a list of ideas that included: A  pet dog, cat, guinea pig, etc., pepperoni pizza, mom's lasagna, brussel sprouts, broccoli, piano, hockey stick, soccer ball, x-box, play station, Legos, teddy bear, favorite book, favorite book character, etc.
My teaching partner had recently taught a mini-unit on using figurative language, and students had zeroed in on this during our reading of Love Letters. I modeled my own love letter to macaroni  & cheese.  You can see it below:

Dear Macaroni and Cheese,
I looooove your cheesy goodness.
I am overwhelmed by your
bubbling orange-ness.
I love you more than a dog
loves its bone,
more than a baby
loves its bottle.
Your crispy cracker crumbs,
golden like the summer sun,
send me over the moon.
I will love you forever.
Your Hungry Fan

(By Ms. Willis)
My students identified comparative statements (simile-like), personification, alliteration, and descriptive language.  Then, I modeled a not-so-loving letter.  You can also see it below:
Dear Brussel Sprouts,
I loathe your army-green leafy heads
wrapped tightly on my dinner plate.
No bacon or butter
can disguise your nastiness,
your cruciferous  metallic taste.
You look like mutant baby heads.
And on dark and lonely nights,
you hold me hostage
at the supper table,
long after the dishes have been done,
and the kitchen
has been cleaned.
 Signed with disgust,
I'll-eat-any-other-vegetable-other-than-you Girl
Our students were so excited to try writing their own.  After I modelled writing my two poems, they got down to business.  We're still working on these poems  and will be compiling them in an envelope book that will kept in our classroom library. 
My favorite line from a student poem is by one of our  newcomer students.  He writes in his love letter to the moon, "You visit me each night. I love you more than the sun.  I love you more than a Justin Bieber song."  He is a HUGE Justin Bieber fan. 
Our funny valentines definitely made me smile at the end of a very long, and tiring week. 
To spread the love, feel free to click below for a free set of valentine bookmarks for your students. 
Wishing you love, smiles, and laughter!
Tracy @

Check out these teacher-writers below for some inspiring ideas!


Thunderbolts and Lightning: A Teacher Finds Balance, Revisited

In January, I wrote about "doing the fandango" to Freddie Mercury as I attempted to find balance in the year 2016.   I began an anti-Alzheimer nutrition make-over and fumbled my way through discovering the delights of eating healthy greens and legumes.  Years ago, I followed a self-help guru who believed that when we put ideas out into the universe, the universe responds with challenges to help us learn.  I always think about her belief when I choose a new theme for the New Year.   And if I'm honest, it makes me feel a bit fearful. It's kind of like that old adage, "Careful what you wish for..." and I await thunderbolts and lightning.

Regardless of my personal belief system, thunderbolts and lightning struck this month, at the very beginning of my 2016.   My mom died.  Unexpectedly. And, any fleeting sense of balance I had developed disintegrated in an instant.  Funeral plans, substitute plans, life insurance appointments a grieving father and sister, and my own over-whelming grief took center stage.  According to that self-help guru, the universe had responded.  Guess what? I'm learning some big lessons. 

Have you ever stood on a Bosu ball and tried to do squats?  A Bosu ball is one of those big exercise balls cut in half with a hard platform on one side of it.  So you stand on the ball side, with the platform flat on the floor, and you do weird stuff like squats and lunges with weights, all the while teetering and struggling.  It activates core muscles, at least that's what a sadistic trainer once told me.

These past two weeks have been like trying to balance on a Bosu ball.  I fell off a few times, but I got back on.  I ate food that was put before me because I couldn't cope with cooking, but I watched my portions.  I did what I needed to do for myself and my family.  I teetered. I struggled.  But, I got back on.

February is here, and it's time to find a new focus for my balancing efforts.  My mom was a positive person.  I used to refer to her as "Little Miss Mary Sunshine."  Sometimes, I was annoyed by her Pollyanna outlook.  But to remember her, and maintain my balance through grief, I will be tracking joy.  Yep. You read that right.  Every day, I will be reflecting on what brought me joy.  It may be the smallest, most fleeting thing, but I need to balance out my sadness.  Some days, I will need to plan it.  Some days, I will fall off the Bosu ball.

You can check out my "Joy Tracking" materials below. They're free for the taking.  I hope they help you balance on the Bosu this month.

                                                                                          Teach on, my friends!
                                                                                              Tracy @