Poetry for Elementary School Pick: Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems

Firefly_July_Janeczko, Paul B, and Melissa Sweet. Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems. , 2014. Print.

Plot: Noted poet and anthologist Paul Janeczko presents 36 poems organized by season. The collection includes both famous and lesser known poets. Opening in Spring, and moving through the seasons, simple yet elegant verse explores the physical world’s seasonal cues- Rain beats down / roots stretch up / They’ll meet / in a flower- as well as the quiet personal moments that remind us of a particular season- a young girl is pictured, having pulled her bicycle to the side of the road so she can sit and look out over the water at an island shaped just like an elephant: The Island / Wrinkled stone/ like and elephant’s skin / on which young birches are treading. The book closes with the imagery of moonlight streaming in the window and stars formed into the shape of the words THE END.

Topics: Children’s Poetry, Seasons

Awards: Cybils AwardsParent’s Choice Awards

Review: These are not ‘poems for kids’, but rather real poems, for people.  Sure, there are poems about cats and birds, fireflies and stars, but also tight little packages of real life: the subway, morning dew, urban alleyways, and bad moods. The page for winter opens with Cynthia Pederson’s poem about an old truck that has seen better days, evoking the inevitable sense of loss and the reality of reduced mobility that comes with the cold months. But it’s not all meaningful melancholy- there’s much to celebrate here, as the title suggests. The book is marketed as a PreK – 3rd grade book, but I think it would appeal all the way up to 5th grade, and even beyond.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile: n/a, ATOS Book Level: 4.5, AR Interest Level: Lower Grades (PK-3)

Qualitative Reading Analysis: This collection of 36 short poems (none over 10 lines) spread over large-format pages with full color bleed has a rating of medium text complexity. The font is consistent and conventional with the exception of the section titles which are incorporated into the artwork, some of which are difficult to recognize, yet serve as an amusing side activity to poetry reading. Organizing by seasons is something every child can relate to, but the poems are not overtly seasonal which elevates the quality of the arrangement and creates an instructive challenge for young readers. A table of contents makes it easy to find a favorite poem or jump to a specific season. The artwork is central to the appeal of the book, its mixed media collages unpredictable and full of interesting textures. The youngest children will enjoy it as a feast of colorful, friendly imagery, content to connect only occasionally with a poem’s message, while others will crave the interpretive assistance of an adult to take in the full meaning of the poet’s words. The oldest children are likely to appreciate the artistry of both word and image.

Content/Subject Area & Standards: 

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.K.7
With prompting and support, describe the relationship between illustrations and the story in which they appear (e.g., what moment in a story an illustration depicts).

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.K.10
Actively engage in group reading activities with purpose and understanding.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.4
Identify words and phrases in stories or poems that suggest feelings or appeal to the senses.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.2.4
Describe how words and phrases (e.g., regular beats, alliteration, rhymes, repeated lines) supply rhythm and meaning in a story, poem, or song.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.3.4
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.4.2
Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.5.2
Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.

Curriculum Suggestions:

For younger students: have a selection of songs and poems and have students choose which songs best match the mood or topic of the poem.

For older students: have students work together in poetry circles to examine the form, content, language, and meaning of poetry, beginning with Firefly July and progressing to more complex poetry.

Stage a poetry Slam (From Education World)

Links to Supporting Content:

Eight Ideas to Celebrate National Poetry Month

Online Resources related to National Poetry Month

Poetry Outloud Teaching Resources

Tags: Book Review, K5, K5-ELA, Poetry, Seasons, School Libraries, INFO237

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2 thoughts on “Poetry for Elementary School Pick: Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems

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