Making Thinking Visible

Making Thinking Visible
Making Thinking Visible

Arts Integration

Arts Integration
Arts Integration

Love Letters & Brussel Sprouts: Exploring Odes and Point-of-View

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.
-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 and odes.  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.

Every year, I share this book with my students.  My fourth and fifth graders love it and "get" the humor in it. I use it to introduce odes and anti-odes. We brainstorm a list of ideas for our own odes, for example: 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. 

After we've made our collaborative list, they choose a few of the topics that grab them, and sort them into the categories "things I love," and "things I hate. Once they've done this type of thinking, they zoom in one topic and dig deeper into their feelings about the topic. Here's an example:

Then they explore point-of-view. In Love Letters, the poems are sometimes companion poems that explore different view points. So if I'm writing about brussel sprouts, I write about own point-of-view and how much I loathe them. And then, if the brussel sprouts were to write a letter back to me, what would they say? As a poet, I explore both viewpoints.

Finally, my students begin their rough drafts. We spend about two sessions drafting and revising. I make sure to include a mini-lesson about line breaks, because fourth and fifth grade students still tend to write poetry in paragraph form. We do a lot of reading aloud to ourselves using our whisper phones. By the way, this is AWESOME fluency practice! I teach my kiddos that poetry is actually an art form that is meant to be read aloud. So when they choose to read poetry books or their own poems during independent reading time, I let them go hog wild with whisper phones. 

I should add that I model each pre-writing, drafting and revision step for my students. Here are two examples of poems that I wrote with them in order to model the process:

 Dear Macaroni and Cheese,
I looooove your cheesy goodness.
I am overwhelmed by your
bubbling orangeiness.
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 identify comparative statements (simile-like), personification, alliteration, and descriptive language as I write and we discuss.  Then, I model an anti-ode.  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

After students have published their poems on the special valentine stationery I provide for them, we use an envelope template and make envelopes for our poems. They address the envelopes. They put their published poems in their envelopes, and we display them for everyone to read.

Valentine's Day can be a tricky holiday in upper elementary. Hormones have begun to rage, friendships are precariously navigated, and feeling are easily hurt. This project is one of my students' favorites, year after year. It's funny, creative, and non-threatening (and Common Core aligned)!

To learn more about using it in your own classroom, simply click on the picture.

If you're looking for more upper elementary valentine resources, you might also check these out. Two of them are free!