House Made Out of Roses

Poetry can be whatever we want it or need it to be.

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Poetry can be whatever we want it or need it to be. We transform things through poetry and poetry transforms us. House Made Out of Roses is a line from the poem, “Flower Girl” by Abby Wyatt in class 403. the cover illustration is by Evan Cuevas in class 408. Poetry is the most imaginative literary exploration. Reading and writing poetry provides a joyous foundation of literacy skills. Children need to play with words in order to master language and feed their developing minds. Poetry is the most playful form of writing, and it yields the most sophisticated writing skills. It helps us navigate, process and make sense of our experiences and understand the world around us, express our feelings and share our unique perspectives. The poetry toolbox contains literary devices that hammer thoughts into shape, as well as a more mysterious element, an alchemy that changes sound and meaning into magic.  Traditional didactic instruction is not the only way to educate. Creating space for freedom of thought and self-direction is important to developing intelligence, cultivating spaces of unknowing fosters creativity and discovery more than typical school instruction.  Through April and May, 2018, I visited the first graders at PS051 in Manhattan twice a week to read, write, think, share and imagine together through poetic experiments. We had positive reading and writing experiences to ignite a lifelong love of literature based in joy.  There was so much excitement in these memorable times we shared.

We defined poetry through lively comparisons by reading: “I Love the Look of Words” by Maya Angelou, “How to Eat a Poem” by Eve Merriam, “Poem” by Alvin Greenberg and, “Eating Poetry” by Mark Strand.   We looked at our names and found the hidden words inside of them. Poetry is everywhere. We hunted for poems in the classroom with an egg hunt and found the poems of Valerie Worth from her book “all the small poems” about everyday objects. We tasted carrots and touched mushrooms to engage all our senses and open the doors of understanding. We used Joanna Hewitt’s “I Am” poem to experience how repetition and statement can come together to bring us closer to ourselves and each other. The sutra, “A cloud floating in this sheet of paper” introduced aphorism that illustrated how connected everything is to each other, that we are part of a wonderous whole we can find when we look deeply at our surroundings. We explored color in Eileen Spinelli’s picture book, “If You Want to Find Golden” and Dianna Morton’s poem, “Color de Rosa”.  We discovered the importance of description, that SHOWING instead of TELLING communicates more powerfully, by studying how poems are like riddles through James W. Swanson’s, “The Turtle” and my own poem about a mirror, “Behold”.  We learned to recognize and use rhythm, rhyme and sound in language through Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” that inspired us to invent our own nonsensical creatures.   We encountered looking at the familiar in a new way by reading May Swenson’s, “Cardinal Ideograms” and E. E. Cummings’, “who are you little i” where we saw letters and numerals as shapes instead of symbols and created new ideas with these fresh eyes.  Treasure this book, it contains some of the fruit from our philosophical conversations about the poetry we read and ideas we experimented with.  Thank you, PS051, principal Ryan Bourke and first grade teachers: Ms. Francisque, Ms. Murynec, Ms. Moas & Ms. Simone for inviting Teachers & Writers into your school. We read, wrote and shared poetry, here’s the proof.  Enjoy!

Special thanks to ING Financial Services for making this program possible!

Featured Poem

Crystals Shining
by Roza (1st grade)

I am crystals shining
I wonder where I come from
I hear jewels raining on my head
I see sunshine in the sky
I want the clouds to rain
I am crystals shining

I pretend I’m digging for crystals shining
I feel like fries
I touch myself
I worry about my friend
I cry crystals

I am crystals shining
I understand myself
I say, YAY when I’m surprised
I try my best
I hope my friends be nice
I am crystals shining

Jane LeCroy works as a poetry teacher in New York City schools through Teachers & Writers, and also teaches at a home school collective, and as an adjunct  professor at Eugene Lang College. She is a singer/poet who records, performs regularly and tours with her main project, the avant-garde TRANSMITTING. You can find out more about her and her work at