The Missouri Reader Vol. 42, Issue 2 | Page 16


Resourceful Research


Moreover, reading aloud to teenagers can stimulate their imagination and emotions, enrich their vocabulary and understanding of sophisticated language patterns, make difficult text understandable, and encourage a lifelong enjoyment of reading (Anderson, 2007)


Introducing the 2018 MO-STAR List

A different type of bird is featured in Hawk Mother: The Story of a Red-Tailed Hawk who Hatched Chickens b



name tags for their desks. They took notes from the descriptions about their plant and used that

information to compose a poem. The most essential, sensory words were used, thus creating a different way to utilize the vocabulary. For instance, a student chose Zea Mays (corn) as her name. The words and phrases she took note of were monoecious grass; tassels; stalks; ear; kernel; shucks; single pistillate flower. Her poem wove these words along with her memory of the visual she had of driving past cornfields with her family. Another student chose Oryza Sativa (rice) and not only used the botanical information, but also his cultural information about Indian food. A second resource for this lesson is use of local plant guides. For instance, the Missouri Botanical Garden

( offers plant identification online. These visual guides (http:/ offer plants, trees, shrubs, vines…all native to Missouri. A student could choose “Natural natives,” then click through on Callicarpa Americana (Beautyberry – a deciduous shrub) and find words and phrases such as berry-like drupes, showy fruit, loose open shrub, and spectacular fruits. Students can be the authority on that plant and even branch out to other related topics. So, Asclepias Tuberosa would not only be the Butterfly milkweed expert, but he or she might also study the Monarch butterfly attracted to the plant. By the way, these plant names can stretch over into a study of Greek and Latin roots. Callicarpa Americana means “beautiful fruit.” A word web of other calli words could include calligraphy (beautiful writing), calliope (beautiful voice), and calisthenics (beautiful strength). Any time we can crisscross the curriculum we connect learning in powerful ways for our students. They move beyond memorization and begin to conceptualize and elaborate new vocabulary and content.

We can personalize poetry by examining name origins. Behind the Name ( provides etymology (or, origin) of names. It also gives related names, namesakes, and name days. For instance, Sophia means “wisdom” in Greek. Additional information tells the history of the name ( Students can also explore namesakes such as actress Sophia Loren or a current princess of Denmark. The multicultural site provides a wide array of names. Having students explore their name history and then create a poem is a great start of the school year activity. Students may do research about a namesake – so Benjamin (“son of the south”) might discover something about Benjamin Harrison (president, 1889-1893) or Benjamin Karl (silver and bronze Olympic snowboarder). There are lots of ways to connect name origins to the curriculum. Civil War commander Robert E. Lee did live up to his name – Robert means “bright fame.” Christopher (“to bear, to carry”) Columbus carried us to the New World, Albert (“noble, bright”) Einstein was indeed a smart man, and Martha (“the lady, the mistress”) Washington was our first First Lady! Imagine how much more the students would remember about these famous people, especially when we ask them to try to encapsulate what they learned into a poem!

Finally, purchase a big reel of raffle tickets and a large container (fishbowl, box with a hole cut in the lid…anything that students can safely reach into). Leave the tickets and container in an easy to get to spot. Tell students whenever they are reading and come across a powerful or interesting word to write it on a ticket and put it in the container. This could be wide open, such as any words found in their independent reading time or it could be planned for a specific curricular connection. For instance, students were reading about Ancient Greece in their Social Studies textbooks. Some words they found were warriors, oath, dishonor, weapons, comrades, fatherland, disobeying, and honor. At the end of the week, allow students to select a handful and arrange on paper to begin to create a poem. Similar to the ocean vocabulary poems suggested earlier, the tickets can be moved around, connected by other words, and then glued down for the final poem. Each poem will be individual but related by topic. Students can compare how the words they chose guided their thinking about the topic.


Interesting results occur when the affective dimension is added to learning (Fresch, 2014). Passive learning is not only boring but disengages students. Finding new ways to connect them to the content they are learning maximizes their learning. Poetry can inspire students to be proficient users of content vocabulary. It can make the language both powerful and memorable.