poets en plein air

The 6s writing nature poems in tree branches and among daffodils:





Can’t help but think of another plein air poet’s famous ode:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed–and gazed–but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

- “Daffodils” by William Wordsworth

Making of a Poem: “Myriad Absolutes”

Today, the 6s created prose-poems out of absolutes.

First, we each started by thinking up some interesting noun phrases:

the pretty bookshelf
the great outdoors
the stuffy room
the delicious slushie
her round cube
an enormous hippo
the incredibly stupid inspector
the pudgy little cuttlefish
the giant parrot
the clever fox
the fluffy llama
the amazing spiderman

Then, we tried to “zoom in” on each noun phrase to find another:

the pretty bookshelf -> books
the great outdoors -> howler monkeys
the stuffy room -> gorgeously painted door
the delicious slushie -> ice
her round cube -> smooth corners
an enormous hippo -> large teeth
the incredibly stupid inspector -> his incredibly stupid mustache
the pudgy little cuttlefish -> slimy tentacles
the giant parrot -> wings
the clever fox -> white-tipped ears
the fluffy llama -> almond-like eyes
the amazing spiderman -> sticky webs

Then, we each expanded the “zoomed in” noun-phrase by attaching an -ing or -ed verb or verb phrase:

books sitting on the shelf
howler monkeys screeching
gorgeously painted door being gawked at
ice melting
smooth corners rolling on their faces
large teeth crushing the flowers
his incredibly stupid mustache getting caught on a hook
slimy tentacles squishing around
wings flailing
white-tipped ears listening to the silence
almond-like eyes staring at the other llamas
sticky webs failing to stick

We then attached a verb phrase to complete our initial sentences and attached our absolute phrases with commas, creating the following sentences – each of which stands along as an incredibly scene-setting statement:

The pretty bookshelf, books sitting on the shelf, ate cheese.
- Alex

The great outdoors, howler monkeys screeching, grew cold.
- Maxie

The stuffy room, gorgeously painted door being gawked at, got stuffier.
- Ben

The delicious slushie, ice melting, disintegrated.
- Chas

Her round cube, smooth corners rolling on their faces, imploded outward.
- Evan

An enormous hippo, large teeth crushing the flowers, snoozes in the afternoon sun.
- Ted

The incredibly stupid inspector, his incredibly stupid mustache getting caught on a hook, blindly flails around.
- Emma B

The pudgy little cuttlefish, slimy tentacles squishing around, takes a nap.
- Ellie

The giant parrot, wings flailing, stumbles down the stairs.
- Emma D.

The clever fox, white-tipped ears listening to the silence, slinks away.
- Kate

The fluffy llama, almond-like eyes staring at the other llamas, gets a fur-cut.
- Izzy

The amazing spiderman, sticky webs failing to stick, got fast food.
- Tristan

Making of a Poem: “Bob Runs” by the 6s

We began by thinking of the simplest sentence we could. What does a sentence need? A subject and a verb. What’s the smallest number of words a sentence needs, then? Two. And so:

Bob runs

Then we each thought of an ing-verb:


And expanded them into a phrase:

sprinting to the edge of the world

slitting the envelope

squishing the mushrooms

sliding down the waterslide

singing with a choir

falling off Mount Everest

sleeping through the day

growing flowers that graze the field

galloping down the hill

smashing ants

slobbering over the half-eaten hamburger

eating a half-eaten apple

Then we attached it all to our wee little sentence using commas, and a poem was born:

“Bob Runs”
by the 6s

sprinting to the edge of the world,
slitting the envelope,
squishing the mushrooms,
sliding down the waterslide,
singing with a choir,
falling off Mount Everest,
sleeping through the day,
growing glowers that graze the field,
galloping down the hill,
smashing ants,
slobbering over the half-eaten hamburger,
eating a half-eaten apple,
Bob runs.

Strange New Words

Middle Schoolers were assigned to track down some of the strangest, more bizarre words they could find – and share them with other classes. Here is the resulting “weird wordhoard”:

Jelp – A window that contains an air-conditioning unit
Quotify – To make up a random quote to support an argument
Boxscape – the volume of a box
Shalious – the feeling caused by a task that one does obligation rather than enjoyment
Hawkloon – a fuzzy plant commonly found in the southern hemisphere
Tustro – a Turkish curtain or drape. “The tustro blocked out the hot August sun, making the room black.” – R.F. Shrimshere, Istanbul Diaries
Rowlow – many different things put together. (Also the origin for Rolos, the candy, which were originally intended to be filled with many different centers – peppermint, coconut, mint – before become uniformly caramel.) “When I went to the banquet, the food was a rowlow of colors.” – Shirley Hackenberg
Saladboar – Brazilian term for a vegetable-and-fruit eating wild boar. Also slang for vegetarian dish.
Tuzzup – An Anglo-Caribbean hairstyle in which in the hair is pulled over the scalp and tied into a knot to protect the forehead from the sun.
Broppel – An ear infection contracted through a cartilage piercing.
iBlink – “Smart contact lenses” rumored to be in development.
Fogial – A dinosaur fossil that is more than 100 million years old.
Tubble – to shake the fat of one’s belly
Tribop – The drum-and-cymbal noise after a joke. “At the comedy club, we heard a tribop, but nobody laughed.” – laughreviews.blogspot.com
Hexteria – The fear of hexagons
Tuze – Medical term for conjoined triplets
Peplexa – Any three-dimensional puzzle, such as a Rubik’s Cube.
Spusious – Habitually laughing at the wrong time
Upwort – A rising feeling
Zestpond – A baby born at an altitude of 200 or more feet.
Locobot – Slang term for anything crazy
Zooclout – The thundercloud that Zeus and Athena use for transportation. “And then grey-eyed Athena and Zeus, who wield the aegis, / Were carried across the Aeolian sea on their zooclout” The Odyssey, Book 25
Swooflia – A state of being overly excited
Swoy – A group or crowd of young children
Sundag – The body’s reaction to supernatural heat
Steeplump – The job of killing horses for meat. “In the village, families would have to ask the steeplump for meat.”
Mune – The opposite of immune
Pojodox – The Caribbean equivalent of Chicken Pox, this disease causes yellow-green reashes on the ankles, wrists, neck, knees, and elbows.
Replitz – When your eyeball enlarges at a rapid pace.
Keenbug – The act of drawing on your skin with permanent marker.
Chucknology – Informal slang for studying a thrown object.
Chillse – Funeral procession for your father’s doctor
Droont – A think soup made with Koala meat in New Zealand.

Here’s a video of the 7s learning some of new vocabulary from the 8s:

And the 6s contemplating, among other things, the iBlinc and the Tuzzup:

(Oh, and in case you didn’t notice how quotified this locobot list of rowlow words is – April Fools!)

Studying Syllables with the 6s

To kick off April and our interscholastic celebration of National Poetry Month – along with our own poetry study and work-shopping – the 6s helped their reading buddies on their spring-themed haiku and the concept of syllabification.

The 1s were a bit reluctant to share their poetry and drawings – many folded them up or placed them face down on the floor when asked to read them in a circle. To bolster their confidence and support their understanding, the 6s helped them to count syllables, find words, and arrange lines. By the end of class, many of the same students who were abashed at the beginning were downright antsy to share their work.

Pictures below of our poet-mentors in action:


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Literary Match-Up: Elizabeth and Eleanor

Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy dance the endless dance of pride and prejudice. Love keeps them dancing but to really understand each other they must over come the obstacles of caste, and the prejudice that comes with it. Eleanor Roosevelt started as a young timid girl who was confined to the narrow cage that Society caught her in. As she got older she realized she could make her own decisions and do what she wanted with her life.


In her essay Eleanor and Elizabeth, Julia compares the character of Elizabeth Bennett in Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice with the real life of Eleanor Roosevelt, looking at the differences in the two women’s backgrounds and how each achieved independence from the expectations of her age.

Julia counters the current Darcy-ism among Austen lovers by reminding us that it is Elizabeth B.’s independence as a young woman that most defines her character. Important thoughts, too, on how Eleanor Roosevelt defied the nation’s prejudices about what it meant to be “the Good Wife” – a topic her friend Hannah takes up in her comparison between Austen’s Elizabeth B. and Lucille Ball’s famously stressed-out housewife, Lucy.

Literary Match-Up: I Love ‘Lizabeth

She wants independence. She wants adventure. She wants to be more than your typical housewife.


In her essay Lucy Ricardo and Elizabeth Bennet, Hannah puts together an imaginative comparison of two classic comic characters: Lucille Ball’s wacky housewife from the sitcom I Love Lucy and Jane Austen’s independent-minded Elizabeth Bennett.

Along the way, she makes some wonderful points about the boundaries that each woman pushes in her time period and the consequences and limits of this boundary-pushing. As Hannah notes, Austen novels and I Love Lucy episodes both end in everything returning to the “normal” state of things: Elizabeth marries, Lucy returns to her housewife work after her misadventures.

Hannah gives us some wonderful “readings” of crucial episodes of the sitcom. Most people approach television as a very passive form of entertainment, but Hannah has honed her critical watching skills and delivered some ace interpretations of what this sitcom has to say about being a housewife in the 1950s.

Literary Match-Up: Representing Women in the Ancient World

Presfield makes the women in the story something more, and while they are not out there in the front lines fighting for their homeland, they are sitting back being strong when their sons and husbands die, ensuring that Sparta will continue living life as it always has.

USMC-071116-M-6423H-001the iliad

Tom loves books about soldiers – Band of Brothers by Stephen Ambrose, No Easy Day by Mark Owen – and especially the world of Greco-Roman warfare (you can follow his Exploratory project on ancient warfare on his blog). So while I wasn’t surprised when he decided to compare Gates of Fire, an epic novel about Spartan warriors, with The Iliad, the ur-poem of all military tales, I was happily taken aback when he told me his topic: how each writer represents women in the oppressive world of ancient Greece.

After three months of work, Tom has crafted a deftly argued, insightful essay that analyzes how both writers represent their female characters, criticizing Homer for his two-dimensional (and sometimes insulting) portraits in The Iliad and noticing how Pressfield finds ways in his novel to give perspective and power to people who are second-class citizens. Tom ends on a crucial, contemporary note by pointing out how the same oppressive conditions women lived under in Ancient Greece are still present in certain parts of the world today.

If there was any doubt that Tom is a fearless literary warrior, it was put to rest when he accepted the ultimate challenge from fellow Literary Match-Up writers Hannah and Julia: he’s tackling Pride and Prejudice over spring break.