Friday, July 30, 2010

Poetry Friday: Terrific Picture Books

I think I've already mentioned my affinity for chillin' at the bookstore. It's one of my favorite places to just hang out when I get "alone time." Sometimes I'll blog or surf or work on lesson plans or just wander around browsing (making sure to have my cell phone camera handy, naturally).

Earlier this year I stumbled upon two picture books that intrigued me. Both were illustrated versions of poems by Langston Hughes: The Negro Speaks of Rivers, illustrated by E.B. Lewis, and My People, featuring the photographs of Charles R. Smith, Jr.

I was drawn to these books because Hughes is one of my favorite poets, "Dreams" was one of the first poems I ever memorized. I think I was in second grade. Also, I really love sharing these kinds of books with students--books that bring poems to life through pictures and images--because I think it helps them learn how poems can paint a picture in their minds.

Actually, I ended up not sharing these books with my students, but we did read and discuss the poems together. Then I asked them to do what Lewis and Smith did--bring the poems to life. I had long been trying to figure out how to incorporate technology into our poetry studies. This turned out to be a perfect opportunity to try something new. In what was kind of an experiment, we used iMovie, which would allow them to find pictures from the web and add text and music to create a kind of multimedia version of one of these poems.

For only our second time using iMovie, the movies turned out pretty good. In retrospect, I think I wish I had shown them the books first. Initially my thinking was that I wanted to see what they'd do without any "influence." However, it probably would have been a good idea to give them some guidance and I think the books would have done just the trick. For example, the students who chose "My People," ended up with movies filled with images of famous people, which kind of misses the mark, in my mind. But alas, it was a learning experience for all of us. And I don't suppose there's anything wrong with that.

Here's a fifth grader's multimedia interpretation of "The Negro Speaks of Rivers:"

Poetry Friday is being hosted by Irene Latham at Live Love Explore today. Be sure to check it out.


  1. I love the way you used this beautiful book.

  2. Oh, you're so creative. I love this book and agree with Jeannine that it's a great way to use it.

  3. What a brilliant idea! I am going to pass along to teacher-friends who are looking for ways to incorporate technology in a creative way... of course, what better than poetry?? And yes, Mr. Hughes.. Mother to Son is one of my favorite poems ever.

  4. Thanks for the praise. I'll definitely be using this technique again and hopefully improve upon my teaching next time. I'm also hoping to come up with new ways to integrate technology with my poetry teaching, so I'll be sharing those, too.