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Using Poem Movies to Hook Kids on Multiple Content Areas

by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong
 | Apr 30, 2015
Sharing a single poem movie is one-minute activity that allows you to engage reluctant learners in an entertaining way. You can show a single poem movie—a brief clip with video or images featuring the poem read aloud—for a language arts “snack,” or show several science-themed poem movies during a five-minute break to provide an integrated lesson in science and language arts.

The following is our annotated list of some of our favorite poem movies, which we feature in our Poetry Friday Anthology series (Pomelo Books). It is a supplement to our article “Nourishing the Mind All Day Long,” which appeared in the May/June Children’s Literature issue of Reading Today.

For Younger Students:

“Old Water” by April Halprin Wayland
from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science (Kindergarten, Week 16: The Water Cycle)
Water: a billion years old?! This fun video will get kids hooked on science.

“Kindergarten Kid” by Stephanie Calmenson
from The Poetry Friday Anthology (Kindergarten, Week 2: More School)
Poet Stephanie Calmenson reads four poems here. The first poem, “Kindergarten Kid,” invites you to talk to children about features of your classroom and the different subject areas they will be covering during the year.

For Intermediate Students:

“Which Ones Will Float” by Eric Ode
from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science (Third Grade, Week 1: Scientific Practices)
Students are seen doing “sink or float” observations in a classroom, testing a variety of items including cans of diet Coke and regular Coke. Perhaps the most valuable part of this movie (and poem) is that it raises the question: What if we disagree about data?

“Centipede” by Michael J. Rosen
from The Poetry Friday Anthology (Fourth Grade, Week 36: Looking Forward)
Poet Michael J. Rosen reads three poems in this video. In the first poem, “Centipede,” a long line of children, crouching in centipede segments, form a fun visual backdrop. Your students will enjoy moving like a centipede in a reenactment of this video.

“Scientific Inquiry” by Susan Blackaby
from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science (Fifth Grade, Week 1: Scientific Practices)
Paper puppets of Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, and Neil deGrasse Tyson are the stars of this clever stop-motion animated short that explains the scientific inquiry terms hypothesis, observations, data, and results.

“Thirsty Measures” by Heidi Bee Roemer
from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science (Fifth Grade, Week 26: Kitchen Science)
This poem movie uses visuals to show a cup of juice, a pint of lemonade, a quart of chocolate milk, and a gallon of iced tea. And what happens when you drink all of that? Students will enjoy the toilet-flush ending and won’t even realize that they’ve just had a science and math lesson.

For Older Students:

“Names” by Julie Larios
from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School (Sixth Grade, Week 10: Food)
This poem movie is a great way to get students talking about their names and provides a writing prompt with a simple diversity theme. The setting of this video is a panaderia where the speaker talks about Mexican pastries and muses over the meanings of names.

“Gear” by Michael Salinger
from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School (Seventh Grade, Week 24: Science & Technology)
Performance poet Michael Salinger channels Bill Nye and explains the function and properties of gears (complete with bike grease on his face).

“According to Bread” by Lesléa Newman
from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School (Eighth Grade, Week 32: Metaphor & Simile)
Students learn not only metaphors and similes, but also idioms (“I’m in a jam”; “butter me up”).

Sylvia Vardell is a professor at Texas Woman’s University. She has published extensively and maintains the Poetry for Children blog. Janet Wong, an ILA member since 2012, is the author of 30 children’s books. Vardell and Wong are the creative forces behind The Poetry Friday Anthology series (Pomelo Books).

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