Friday, March 27, 2015

Tips and Resources for Poem in your Pocket Day


Tips and Resources for Poem in your Pocket Day
by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com


Poem in Your Pocket Day 2015 will be held on Thursday, April 30. It’s part of a national emphasis on poetry in the USA for the month of April. By my reckoning, it ought to be celebrated world-wide! I love the way Poem in Your Pocket Day is so simple and achievable. The idea is to select a poem, carry it in some kind of pocket, and share it with others. Children can choose a favourite poem someone else has written, or choose to celebrate themselves as poets by carrying a creation of their own.

Poem in Your Pocket Suggestions:

* Young children can learn a lot not only by listening to poetry read aloud, but by the process of actually writing a shortish one out by hand. Let kids browse all the poems they want before they choose their favourite for copying.

* Students might prefer to create their own poetry. Shape poems and haiku are usually short if you lack time, or children might be inspired by some of the poetry anthologies in your library.

* Student poetry could be displayed on pocket-shaped papers around the school. I’ve made a free PDF with four pockets. Children can cut them out and use for a display, or to keep their own poems  safe. After cutting around the outside edge, kids just need to glue around three edges to a backing sheet of paper or card, leaving an opening at top, or staple around three sides to some kind of material. Pop the poem in at top once glue is dry.


* Have kids think about pockets. Does a pocket need to be attached to clothing? Could they perhaps create a special, standalone, pocket for holding a special poem? What could the design be? How will they make it? Some cute pockets I’ve seen have been cut off old jeans and sewn into little bags. Use my free PDF (see above) to challenge kids to come up with something much more creative!

* What fun to browse books of poems, revisit loved poems, ask relatives for favourites, and choose one special poem for The Day!

* Have kids experiment with apps to make their own pocket poems. Apps like Sticky Words and Read Write Think’s Word Mover are exactly like digital fridge magnets, and a fun way to create poems. Pic-Lits isn’t an app for tablets, but does a similar function, online. Other apps like Phonto can be used to add text to an image for a shortish poem. Noteography features a fancy starting letter, with the short poem underneath. You can see samples made with Phonto (left) and Noteography, below. Digital poems like this could be printed out and rolled into a scroll. Tie gently with ribbon.


* When looking for suitable poems to inspire kids, be sure to check out Poetry Minute and Giggle Poetry, both of which host poems suitable for elementary/primary aged kids. Australian Children’s Poetry showcases the work of contemporary Australian children’s poets.

* Children might like to design their own bookmarks, copy poems onto them, and give the bookmarks to friends, relatives and students in other classes.

* Read Write Think have an interactive of staple-less books that children can use to set up and print their poem(s).

* Although it’s lovely to write out and decorate a special poem on a sheet of paper, why not go high-tech and have children record themselves reading a poem? Using audio or video software, it can be copied onto a thumb drive, or a smart phone and that’s just the right size for a pocket too! Remind children they’ll need a device to play such a recording if they choose a thumb drive.

* How about a poetry cafe as a highlight of Poem in your Pocket Day? Invite guests such as parents or community members to attend. Have poetry readings. Celebrate pocket poetry with panache!

Poem in your Pocket Day is just one of many way to involve children with poetry. Encourage kids to memorise poems. It’s an excellent way for them to internalise interesting vocabulary and the wonderful nuances and rhythms of language. There’s a US contest called Poetry Out Loud where kids recite poems they’ve learned by heart, and the website has great resources. If you need a romantic (or is that just me?) role model for your kids, here’s Neil Gaiman reciting Jabberwocky.

Are you looking for poetry activities that might encourage your children to write their own poems for Poem in Your Pocket Day? Check out some posts here at The Book Chook:

and one I’ve written for the Australian Children’s Poetry website, called Using Technology for Poetry Creation and Presentation.

Poem in your Pocket Day is already on my list of Book-related Special Days. This post will be added to my list, Poetry with Kids

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Children’s Book Review, Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise



Children's Book Review by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com

Children's Book Review

Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise is a children’s picture book written by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Jean Jullien and published by Walker Books Australia, 2014 and Random House in the USA.

From the publisher:

Hoot Owl is no ordinary owl - oh no! - he's a MASTER OF DISGUISE! And he will use his formidable camouflage powers to trick his unsuspecting prey into succumbing to him! Tiny animals of the night ... BEWARE! But, SOMEHOW, Hoot Owl's prey keeps escaping... Hmmm, perhaps he isn't quite as masterful as he believes. Will he ever succeed in catching himself some dinner? Hilarity, ridiculousness and VERY bad costume changes abound in this wildly inventive new title from Sean Taylor and brand new picture book talent, Jean Jullien.

Taylor has invented an irresistible main character in the optimistic and very hungry Hoot Owl, master of disguise and would-be-scourge of all he sees. Alas, despite so many brilliant costumes, Hoot Owl’s prey always escapes him. Until something changes… As well as creating suspense in many hilarious situations, Taylor uses language delightfully to create dramatic word pictures for us:

The terrible silence of the night spreads everywhere.
But I cut through it like a knife.

I love good graphic design and was pulled instantly into Jullien’s illustrations. His bold use of colour on a black background, and amazing ability to portray emotion with a couple of lines, really adds depth to the book, making it one kids won’t forget. There are activity sheets available at the Walker Books website, featuring Jullien’s artwork.

Children will enjoy this very funny story as much as I did. They’ll get caught up in the drama, love predicting the outcome of the next cunning plan, and delight in joining in with “I am Hoot Owl, I am hungry, And here I come!” I am so looking forward to reading it to my kids in Storytime at the library - I think we’ll create a Hoot Owl game with some dress-ups, and pierce the library hush with our enjoyment!

Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise will move straight onto my list of very favourite children’s picture books for 2015.

Find more Children's Book Reviews on The Book Chook by clicking Reviews in the right sidebar.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Creative Prompt for Kids, Start with an Animal


Creative Prompt for Kids, Start with an Animal
by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com


Here’s a new creative prompt in my series that hopes to inspire some creativity in your kids. You can find more creative prompts for children in my list, embedded below.

* Observe an animal really carefully but from a safe distance. Jot down all the details you notice about it, sketch it, take photos or all three. What does the animal feel like/look like/sound like/smell like? What do those things remind you of? How does it move? Combine your ideas into a poem.

* Choose an animal character to write or tell a story about.

* Let your imagination run riot and invent your own animal. You might like to draw or design it first. Questions to think about: what sort of habitat does your animal live in and how does that affect it? what family of animals does yours belong to? what is its head/body/legs like? what does it eat? what preys on it? how does it defend itself from predators?

* Use some of the elements available in an image editor and combine them to create your own animal. Give it a name and design a habitat for it. I combined elements available at PicMonkey to create my Stinsect, above.

* Gather a group of friends and each design part of a fantasy animal separately. Then put all the parts together to create this strange and amazing creature. Write a description of your animal, or re-draw it, labelling the parts.

* Choose your favourite animal and craft it using recycled junk.

* Design and make an animal puppet.

* Find a photograph of an animal in a book or online, and let it be the prompt for some kind of creating.

* Imagine you’re an animal, hiding from a hunter. Describe your feelings and thoughts. How will you escape?

* If a very grumpy penguin met a curious polar bear cub, what might happen? Get together with a friend and improvise a scene between these two characters.

* Imagine you are a vet or a vet’s helper. Make up a story about the strangest day in your life.

If you’re looking for websites that encourage kids to learn about animals, check out my recent article for Scholastic Parents.

Friday, March 20, 2015

A List of Important Special Days for Kids


A List of Important Special Days for Kids
by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com


A few months ago I published a List of Book-related Special Days. Then I shared a List of Fun Special Days for Kids. Today’s list is of the “important” special days we can use as a focus for children's learning, that are not specifically book-related.

It’s difficult to separate Important Special Days from Fun Special Days, and indeed from Book-related Special Days. Why shouldn’t the important days be fun too? Of course they are. But generally I have called the more frivolous special days “Fun” - days like Talk Like a Pirate Day and Dance Like a Chicken Day. Whereas in this list of the Important Special Days, you’ll find days like Harmony Day and Anzac Day, days when we encourage kids to think about, and discuss more serious issues. Naturally books can be involved in any special day, but you’ll find specifically literacy-related days like World Literacy Day in the List of Book-related Special Days.

In the list embedded below, I have not included religious special days and holidays like Christmas, Easter and Diwali as most general calendars show them. I’ve put my chosen important days into calendar order, and added dates and links where possible.

I hope you’ll find this list useful when planning your program of coming events with the children in your care. I’ll update this list over time, so feel free to bookmark it and share it with others. If there are other Important Special Days you want to suggest for this list, please contact me.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Children’s Book Review, Anders and the Comet


Children's Book Review by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com


Anders and the Comet is a graphic novel suitable for kids 6 - 9. It was created by Gregory Mackay and published by Allen and Unwin, 2015.

From the publisher:

Meet Anders, Eden and their new friend, Bernie. It's the school holidays, and there are comics to be made, games to be played, ice-cream to be eaten, and rhinos to impress at Wekiwa water park.

Then Anders and his friends meet the Green Grabber and things take on a whole new twist, leading Anders to a wonderful pet, Skip, and to wild adventures - and a dramatic rescue - in the sky.

An endearing story of fun, friendship and unexpected courage.


This is an interesting concept. A black and white comic format brings us the story of Anders’ life - school, holiday fun, a new friend who was bullied at his last school, family interactions… and the mysterious Green Grabber! While I’m mostly used to graphic novels being in full colour, the black and white presentation had a gentle retro charm to it.

At first I was surprised by the amount of detail in the book. The start was slow because of this as we read lots of dialogue - realistic, but not contributing much to the story. And yet that very slowness is ideal for beginning readers. They have time to get to know the characters and the setting, and are given lots of opportunities for repetition, to consolidate word decoding. The familiarity of the settings - home, school, the neighbourhood - and much of the action will help kids predict what the text is about.

I think under tens who are not yet convinced they love to read will grab Anders and the Comet. It’s not a daunting read - there aren’t lots of words in dense paragraphs. Instead they’ll find dialogue in speech bubbles and hundreds of illustrations, each in its own panel. The story itself is unusually-told, but gentle and lots of the adventures will be familiar to youngsters - building cubbies, playing with bows and arrows, making breakfast, interactions with families, while others not so much - gyrocopters, comets, escaping bouncy castles and flying with the aid of beetles!

NOTE: Librarians should be aware that there is a word - beginning with f and referring to a by-product of the digestive system - in the book. It will make kids laugh the way it has since time began no doubt, but there may be parents who will take exception to it. I thought it was totally appropriate because this is the way kids actually talk!

Discover more about Anders and the Comet in the video below.



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