Friday, October 19, 2018

3-in-1: Poetry Tool, Song a Writing Exercise

Howdy, Campers, and Happy Poetry Friday! The link to PF is below.

 TeachingAuthors' posts this round are about the various ways we continue to school ourselves in the craft of writing. Bobby kicked us off by discussing a new book on craft she's studying while also re-reading a favorite classic. Esther shared about being inspired by a new collection of essays from fellow teacher Sharon Darrow. Mary Ann also turns to books for her re-education, not only craft books but new fiction, too. In contrast, Carla's ongoing education comes from talking to and working with other writers. Carmela went "back to school" by attending the SCBWI-Wisconsin 2018 Fall Retreat and Conference held in Green Lake, WI

And I've gone back to school singing.

We're four weeks into my ten-week class on Writing the Children's Picture Book at UCLA Extension. This week we learned about some of the poet's tools (rhyme, rhythm, alliteration, metaphor, simile, sounds, repetition). Can I teach them everything in one three-hour class?  I can't. So I focus on my favorite:                                                 

There are so many books from which to choose! I usually read aloud: YOU NEST HERE WITH ME by Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y.Stemple, illustrated by Melissa Sweet; WAIT, written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis (a story written in 18 words...99% are either "hurry!" or "wait!"); BUZZ by Janet S. Wong, illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine (all the ways "buzz" is in our lives); RED IS BEST by Kathy Stinson, illustrated by Robin Baird Lewis ; WHEN I WAS YOUNG IN THE MOUNTAINS by Cynthia Rylant (fabulous details), illustrated by DianeGoode; MILLIONS OF CATS by Wanda Gag, first published in 1928; ALL THE WORLD by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee (we saw how much heavy-lifting illustrator Marla Frazee did to tell this story; give the illustrator room to dance!), and the classic, WHAT DO YOU SAY, DEAR by Sesyle Joslin, illustrated by Maurice Sendak.

Repetition makes words playful or powerful or mournful or hopeful. Listeners can't help but join in.

Next, I teach them to sing this sea shanty:

Deep Blue Sea (traditional) lyrics may vary

Deep blue sea, baby, deep blue sea (3x)
It was Willy what got drownded in the deep blue sea

Wrap him up in a silken shroud (3x)
It was Willy what got drownded in the deep blue sea

Dig his grave with a silver spade (3x)
It was Willy what got drownded in the deep blue sea

Lower him down with a golden chain (3x)
It was Willy what got drownded in the deep blue sea

Then I tell them that musician Jim Bell changed the words but followed the format of this song. He writes: “When my daughter was 6 ½, she said as we were driving to school one day, “Daddy, they won’t have a war before I’m 21, will they?”  Before I could respond, she added, “Or at least they don’t shoot little girls before they’re 7, do they?”   Not long after this I was singing her to sleep and found myself taking an old tune to form a song of reassurance that we adults can sing to the children of the world.”

Deep Blue Sea
new words by Jim Bell
Deep blue sea, baby, deep blue sea (3 x)
Now there’s peace in all the lands & o’er the deep blue sea

Sleep my child, you are safe and sound (3 x) for
Now there’s peace in all the lands & o’er the deep blue sea

Just yesterday war clouds hung so low (3 x)
But now there’s peace in all the lands & o’er the deep blue sea

Love of life finally turned the tide (3 x)
And now there’s peace in all the lands & o’er the deep blue sea
words © 1982 John Bell

Next, I show them lyrics I've written to this melody:

Take my hand, baby, walk with me (3 x)
Sing a song and I’ll harmonize (3x)
Once a seed, baby, now a tree (3 x)
Reach across towards the other side (3 x)
Hold me close and I'll hold you, we'll watch the bright sun rise.
words © 2018 April Halprin Wayland

And finally, leaving the traditional lyrics up at the front of the class as a mentor text, I give them time to write their own words using the pattern of this song.

Try it yourself--with this song or with one of your favorites and see where it takes you, where it takes you!

Thanks for hosting Poetry Friday at Friendly Fairy Tales, Brenda!

posted with hope by April Halprin Wayland, with help from Timmy the tin boy on his goose (Timmy is acting out today and refuses sit up straight...)


Linda B said...

Lovely post, April. I will note the picture books, some of which I know & already love, like When I Was Young in The Mountains. I used it too with students. Thanks for the song, new to me! Wishing I could take your class!

Irene Latham said...

Dear April, I love thinking of you singing with these students... thank you thank you thank you. xo

Carol Varsalona said...

Your songwriting strategy activity is a wonderful engaged and tool to add to my
Poetry toolbox. Thanks so much for your bountiful post.

JoAnn Early Macken said...

Jim Bell's story is heartbreaking, but his response was perfect. I love how your version pulls people together. It makes the sense of hope universal & reminds us to stick together. Thank you for your positive message!

Buffy Silverman said...

Love the reassuring response that Jim Bell gave his daughter--perfect for kiddos and us grownups! I've written new words to old rhymes, but not to songs. Great idea to try. Thanks, April.

Michelle Kogan said...

I have to agree with all said before me, love the idea of singing to your students and having them sing. I teach an adult Picture Book Illustration class and am constantly reading stories to my students. And thanks for all these positive thoughts flowing from your lines.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thank you, Linda ~ wishing you and I were in the same state!

Irene ~ I thought of you and your cello when I saw this last night <3...pass it on:

Carol ~ It's evolved over the years. I always get a little nervous when I begin to sing it. And each class responds differently.

JoAnn ~ I love his response to his daughter's fears. His words allay my own fears a little, too. Thanks for you do to save our world <3

Buffy ~ It's interesting writing words to can cheat by stretching or compacting the meter and rhythm, depending on the tune.

Michelle ~ I don't think you live in Southern CA, or I'd take your class! This summer I taught a one-day class on picture books with a fabulous nonfiction picture book author (Alexis O'Neill) and a terrific illustrator/author (Barney Saltzberg). It was lots of fun. It would be fun to teach a class with you some day! And thanks for your positive comments coming back to me <3

GatheringBooks said...

What a comforting post, really. I have to introduce my 16 year old girl to Pete Seeger.

Kay said...

I love this lesson--and wish I could be in your class. I will come back to the post and try writing my own response. Jim Bell's is just perfect and so hope-filled., though his daughter's question was heartbreaking.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Myra ~ a late response to your comment... Yes yes! Introduced her to paint. His whole life is a mentor text in activism.

Kay ~ yes, Jim Bell's daughter's response is SO heartbreaking. And so we march on.

April Halprin Wayland said...

Myra! I meant introduce your daughter to PETE!