During National Poetry Month this month, San Ramon schools are getting kids excited about reading and writing poetry.
Korby Saunders' fifth grade class at Country Club Elementary School is celebrating National Poetry Month with their "buddy class," Janice Stivers' second grade.
"Both classes read Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox," said Saunders, explaining that it's a book about an old woman losing her memory and a young boy who doesn't know what a memory is.
"We came together and used the common topic, memories, and presented the writing part of the project," said Stivers. "First they researched their memories."
The fifth graders helped the second graders brainstorm their special people, special places, and special things as a way to understand what a memory is. Each student will write an "I come from" poem.
"Listing memories was really fun," said second-grade student Theodore Hahn. "We got to think back on the things we've already done. I'm going to Napa today and Napa was one of my memories. My grandpa has a place in Napa and we always go there."
Stivers said the students "love being together and the fifth-graders love to help guide the second-graders. The fifth-graders can take the same lesson and take it to a higher level, whereas the second-graders take it at face value."
"Whenever I read poetry I can feel what the author is trying to say and I can see what the author is describing in my head," said fifth-grade student Natlie Lee.
Saunders and Stivers managed to incorporate art as part of the poetry project: Each student will draw create a self portrait to be displayed with their poetry at Open House on May 20.
"There's no right answer when you're writing poetry," said Saunders. "Every memory is beautiful and it's important to share them."
Jane Ware's third-grade class at Coyote Creek Elementary School is also studying poetry, but they do it all year long.
Kathy Moore, a teacher on special assignment with the San Ramon Unified School District, team-teaches poetry with Ware every Friday morning.
"We have poetry café at the end of the poetry lesson," said Ware. "They do a reading, sitting around in a circle."
The students also do poetry in two voices. Two students take a poem and alternate reading lines, with some lines read together.
With a desire to make learning poetry fun, Ware mixes up the lessons. Sometimes written poetry becomes the mentor, other times the students pick favorite lines of poetry and incorporate them in their own works. They'll even take lines and change the order of the words to create the start of a new poem.
"They've learned how to use white space when writing poetry, how to do line breaks, how they can relate poetry to their own lives, and how to pick out a line from prose (lift a line) and bring it into their poetry and move it around," explained Ware, of the lessons her students enjoy.
Several of Ware's students shared lines of poetry they've written.
Charlie Sussman said, "Green is alive in the spring."
Faiza Kamili's favorite line of poetry is "Inside a box I can see a bed full of flowers."
"Sky, a floating sea" is a line of poetry Liam Dowd wrote and likes a lot.
Ware said the students cheer when it's time for a poetry lesson, and they're beginning to transfer their poetic descriptive writing into a longer narrative piece.
"Poetry is not a unit. It should be done everyday," said Ware. "Poetry is not something to be done in a month and forgotten. As human beings we need to live in a world of poetry."
To learn more about poetry and National Poetry Month, visit Poets.org.