Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Goodbye (for now), National Poetry Month!

It's been a spectacular month, and we're sad to see it go, but the departure of National Poetry Month doesn't mean our love of poetry has to go with it!

Find out more about inspiring your students with poetry by clicking on some of these fantastic links:

Academy of American Poets: For Educators
Free poetry resources, curriculum, essays on teaching, tips for teaching, ideas

EDSITEment: The Best of the Humanities on the Web
Literature and language arts lesson plans for grades K-12

826 National Teacher Support
Publications about writing and teaching from 826 National

Favorite Poem Project
Poetry lesson plans, K-12

Folger Shakespeare Library Poetry in the Schools
DC-area Poetry in the Schools program info

Library of Congress Poetry & Literature Lesson Plans
Resources for grades 6-12

National Education Association: Bringing Poetry to the Classroom
Lessons, activities, and AV resources

Poetry Foundation Articles for Teachers & Students
Links for students and teaching ideas for instructors

Poetry Out Loud Teaching Resources
Teacher resources for national student recitation contest Poetry Out Loud

Ideas and methods for teaching poetry

K-12 reading and language arts classroom resources for educators and students

Teachers & Writers Collaborative
Digital resources and lesson plans for teachers

Web English Teacher
Links to activities and lesson plans related to specific types of poetry and poets

Writers in the Schools
Educator resources blog from the Writers in the Schools (WITS) program

Youth Speaks Teen Poetry Slam
Nonprofit teen spoken word organization based in San Francisco

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Happy Birthday Shakespeare!

Happy 449th to William Shakespeare! We hope you'll check out our birthday party activities and free cupcake templates for ideas on creating your own party for the Bard!

To celebrate today, we're taking a trip back in time with some Medieval and Elizabethan recipes: soda bread, cheese tarts, salmagundi, and rice pudding. Yum!

(Clicking on the recipe will bring you to the original recipe source, where you can find even more interesting menu options.)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Happy Poem in Your Pocket Day!

As part of National Poetry Month, poetry enthusiasts everywhere are celebrating Poem in Your Pocket Day today, April 18th!

Is your pocket still empty? Don't worry, here are some great links to get you started:

Click a pocket to download a poem!
Resources for teachers on PIYP Day
Classroom Activities for PIYP Day
100 Poems to rip out and read!

We'd like to share this beautiful pocket-sized poem with you! It is a fragment from Sappho, a Greek poet who was born around 615 B.C.

    from Fragment 16
    By Sappho, translated by Anne Carson

    Some men say an army of horse and some men say an army on foot
    and some men say an army of ships is the most beautiful thing
    on this black earth. But I say it is
    what you love.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Fun with Shakespeare Research (Seriously!)

Did you know that Shakespeare is considered to have invented more than 500 words, including amazement, flowery, and countless?*

Did you know Shakespeare's shortest play is The Comedy of Errors, with 1,787 lines? And that his longest play is Hamlet, with 4,042 lines?*

Did you know that in Shakespeare's time, all the female roles in his plays were played by men or boys?*

You probably already knew this, but researching Shakespeare can be fun! In our newest activity, students enjoy researching the time period and background of Shakespeare as they assume various roles and tasks outlined by the RAFT cards. RAFT (Role, Audience, Format, Task) is a differentiated writing strategy that helps students understand their role as writers for specific audiences (not just for their teachers!).

This CCSS-aligned product includes a poster, 10 RAFT cards with assigned roles (plus 2 blank cards), directions, handouts, checklists, and answer guides!

BONUS! We also now offer a special bundle! Now you can get all of our introductory Shakespeare products at a $3.00 discountthat includes our Shakespeare's Birthday Party Activities, Research RAFT Cards, Sonnets Lesson Plan, and Iambic Pentameter Poster!

*Source for Shakespeare facts: The Folger Shakespeare Library

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

We LOVE to READ the SONnets BY the BARD!

The HAPpy GOATS are GRAZing IN the GRASS.

They LIKE to EAT the FLOwers AND the HAY.

And AFter THAT they'll READ a SHAKEspeare PLAY!

We could speak in iambic pentameter all day, but we'll let these charming goats do the talking (bleating?) for us. This poster serves as an excellent visual aid to help students understand the rhythm of iambic pentameter. It's available as a high-resolution 20" x 30" digital download, and there is also a mini version (8.5" x 11") that comes free with our Sonnet Lesson Plan. If you happen to have access to an enormous printer, then hey, that's great! Otherwise, you can do what we did and send the file to Walgreens (or Kinkos, or any other online printing service).

As it turns out, behinds are a BIG HIT with the middle school crowd. The poster we put up created such a buzz that another class took a "field trip" down the hall just to marvel at the goat butt. We think Shakespeare would be proud. 

FYI, this poster is also available as a hard copy print in several sizes from Zazzle!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

"What need I fear of thee?": Teaching Shakespeare's Sonnets

Spoiler Alert: Shakespeare is not as scary as your students might think. 

Actually, we don't find him very scary at all. (Well, maybe some of his tragedies qualify as scary...)

Teaching Shakespeare shouldn't have to be intimidating either; one great method of introducing his work to your students is to start with one of his 154 sonnets. Read one of our favorites here:

    Sonnet 18
    By William Shakespeare

    Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? 
    Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
    Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
    And summer's lease hath all too short a date: 
    Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
    And often is his gold complexion dimm'd; 
    And every fair from fair sometime declines,
    By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
    But thy eternal summer shall not fade
    Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
    Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
    When in eternal lines to time thou growest: 
       So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
       So long lives this and this gives life to thee. 

Our CCSS-aligned Sonnets Lesson Plan includes activities, a poster, and instructions, and it uses "Sonnet 18" as a starting point. From there, students learn about the structure, form, and meaning of this sonnet. They stomp and shout the syllables of iambic pentameter, and then they practice using extended metaphors, rhythm, and argumentation. Step-by-step plans take five or six days, and students will emerge unscathed, having analyzed a sonnet and written one of their own!

We agree that Old English may sometimes prove challenging, but the words quatrain, couplet, and volta should be part of any young poet's vocabulary. Check out our store for more details.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Celebrate Shakespeare's Birthday (on any day)!

William Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564, and he died on the same day in 1616. We think that if Shakespeare were here to celebrate his 449th birthday, he would absolutely love the party we cooked up in his honor.

Our Shakespeare's Birthday Party set features a colorful poster and 32 task cards featuring fun trivia and lines from Shakespeare's plays. It also includes a "modernize Shakespeare" activity, where students update a line drawing of Shakespeare by cutting, gluing, drawing, and otherwise transforming to bring his image into the 21st century. (Middle school students have a ton of fun equipping Shakespeare with Kindles, iPods, and Kanye glasses.) The party is a great way to kick off a Shakespeare unit or to introduce him to apprehensive students!

The set also includes 12 printable cupcake wrapper templates (both in color and in black-and-white). The wraps feature our own original artwork of a coy little Shakespearean cat and dog donning their Elizabethan best, and quotes from Shakespeare plays. Some of the quotes we included are these:

"If music be the food of love, play on." (Twelfth Night)
"Prepare for mirth, for mirth becomes a feast." (Pericles, Prince of Tyre)
"Honey, and milk, and sugar; there is three." (Love's Labours Lost)

Look at how adorable the cupcakes turned out! The wraps in the picture below were printed in black-and-white on colored paper.

And these were printed in color. If you happen to own a fancy pair of scissors (like the ones that can cut in zigzags or waves), they would probably add an excellent touch.

Yum! Educational and delicious! Olive the cat was quite fond of them too.

You can download four of the cupcake templates for free here!

Monday, April 1, 2013

April is National Poetry Month!

March comes in like a lion and out like a... poet? Maybe we don't have that quite right, but we do know one thing: we couldn't be more excited about this year's National Poetry Month!

As advocates of writing and reading, we encourage you to check out the Academy of American Poets website this month for some great ideas to bring poetry into your classroom. If you teach grades 7-10, take a look at these free lesson plans that are aligned to common core. And while you're at it, sign up for a gorgeous free poster (while supplies last) to hang at your school.

We plan on celebrating this month with a nod to a true master of verse: William Shakespeare. Stay tuned for featured products, facts, and freebies that center around the Great Bard!

But for now, we'll leave you with a poem to celebrate the season. Enjoy William Wordsworth's famous ballad, "Lines Written in Early Spring" (1798):

    Lines Written in Early Spring
    by William Wordsworth

    I heard a thousand blended notes,
    While in a grove I sate reclined,
    In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
    Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

    To her fair works did nature link
    The human soul that through me ran;
    And much it grieved my heart to think
    What man has made of man.

    Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
    The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
    And 'tis my faith that every flower
    Enjoys the air it breathes.

    The birds around me hopped and played:
    Their thoughts I cannot measure:——
    But the least motion which they made,
    It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

    The budding twigs spread out their fan,
    To catch the breezy air;
    And I must think, do all I can,
    That there was pleasure there.

    If this belief from heaven be sent,
    If such be Nature's holy plan,
    Have I not reason to lament
    What man has made of man?