Saturday, April 6, 2013

A Whiff of Pine, a Hint of Skunk and A Wave of Clouds – Poetry in the Speech Room

Last Monday I had a late meeting after work, and though I was eager to get home, I couldn’t help but stop, pull out my iPad and take a picture of the sky.

The scene ignited poetic sentiments in me and I thought it might do the same for others.  As you probably know, April is national poetry month. I decided to use the photo in a poetry project with my students. Since the majority of these kids are between the ages of five and seven, I started my project by introducing them to poetry. Some of them didn’t know the meaning of the word. A Whiff of Pine, a Hint of Skunk: a forest of poems, by Deborah Ruddell, illustrated by Joan Rankin, made a charming introduction. It captivated my students.

A Whiff of Pine, a Hint of Skunk: A Forest of Poems

It’s easy to fit poetry into speech therapy sessions. For those working on articulation, I find alliterative poems that use the student’s target sounds. And for those needing help with phonemic awareness, rhyming words, and vocabulary, poems are ideal. One activity that builds listening skills was especially popular with the kids – I read from Deborah Ruddell’s book without showing the illustration and asked the students to try to figure out what animal I was reading about. I didn’t tell them the title before I read Biography of a Beaver:

            Bucktoothed Cleaver
            Tree Retriever
            Building Conceiver
            True Believer
            Waterproof Weaver
            Hooray for the _________

I left off the last word and the kindergarten students had no problem filling in “Beaver.” We had quite a vocabulary lesson with this poem as I read each line. I showed them the illustration after they’d guessed the animal and they were very pleased they’d figured it out on their own.

Another poem I used in this activity was The Night Owl. These sometimes-squirmy-kids listened attentively to the poem, which had become a riddle for them to solve.

            Somewhere in the forest
            he is practicing his hoot,
            but you’d swear that he’s rehearsing
            on a spooky-sounding flute-
            working on his timing
            and his quavery technique,
            patiently perfecting
            the position of his beak.

Once again, they guessed the animal. They leaned in close and poured over the illustration when I turned the book so they could see.

With a poetry lesson behind them, I showed my students the picture I’d taken of the clouds. They were intrigued. I asked them what they thought it looked like, how it made them feel, what it would sound like if it made a noise and let their imaginations take off. I jotted down their answers and comments, collecting them from different speech groups throughout the day. Then I typed them up, cut them apart and the following day, had students put them together to form a poem. Speech groups participated at different times throughout the week and a couple of my middle school students threw in their advice as well. Take a look at their creative composition:

Up in the sky there’s an ocean.
The waves are breaking.
Kshhhhhh,  kshhhhhh
They make me want to swim and splash
or learn to surf.
I wish I could surf in the sky.
I would surf to South America.
The waves could take you to Arizona.
They could take you anywhere.
If you saw the cloud-waves at sunset,
they’d look like they were made of sun.
If the sky can make waves,
maybe it can make beads.
Maybe they’ll fall
and I’ll catch the beads to make a necklace
and wear the sky around my neck.
I wish I could ride a ship on the cloud-ocean.
I’d ride those waves,
I’d ride them all the way to Mexico.
Ola Amigo!
But are they cloud-waves?
Or is it one long, long,


  1. I love the idea of using poetry in speech...I haven't done it much, but this book is really cute! And this picture you snapped is SUPER cool!

    Crazy Speech World

    1. Thanks for stopping by. I'll pass along your comments to my students. They'll be so happy to know you read their poem!

    2. Hi Jenn,

      Thanks for your kind words! The comment above jumped to the wrong spot. I guess I should have put my glasses on before hitting that button!

  2. Thank you so much for using my poems from A WHIFF OF PINE, A HINT OF SKUNK with your students in such creative ways, Jeanette! And the children's sky poem was magical.

    All my best,


    1. Hi Deborah,

      Thanks for visiting. The comment above was meant for you but somehow it jumped above! My students love to know when an author sees their work - they'll be thrilled to see your comment.

  3. I learned something new today :) That is such a clever idea. I will be trying that with DD for sure! Thanks for sharing it on Kid Lit Blog Hop!

  4. I LOVE LOVE LOVE this book. Deborah's verses are so funny and charming, I can see why they would captivate your students. What a great idea to turn them into riddles for your students!

    I've hopped over from the Mother-Daughter blog hop. Glad to find you!

    1. It IS wonderful! Thank you for hopping over.

  5. I want to be a child and have you for my teacher! lol That sky is amazing and so inspiring. I can see why you would snap a photo of it and use it the way you did. Your kids did such a great job of coming up with verses. So fantastic! Thanks for linking into the Kid Lit Blog Hop. :)