#EveryDayinMay NatGeo Book of Animal Poetry

Due to a series of fortunate events, I was able to place an order with Follett for a stash of new fiction books to share with the readers on my 5th grade campus next year. We have many old and uninteresting books right now in our fiction collection, so I was super hyped to grab some books that these students can get excited about!

Maybe 25% of what I ordered fell into the nonfiction category, with the majority of those being graphic novels. The purpose of this order was to really amp up the way kids feel about reading. I hope they love the books I chose as much as I think they will!

One of my nonfiction prizes is the National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs that Squeak, Soar, and Roar! Not only am I positive our readers will love this book -- it's filled from cover to cover with stunning animal photography -- I'm also excited that it will get poetry into the hands of more students!
Photo Credit

Each photograph is paired with a poem from a great contemporary or classic poet. This book is just win-win, on repeat! I am eager to share it with teachers and students, and then watch as it never touches it's home in the library.

Because I'm always searching for poems to share with students, and ways to help them feel safe to try their own poetry, I thought I'd grab a poem from this book and use it as a mentor text to write my own poem - similar to how I share poetry in class.

Choosing a poem from this beautiful collection was not easy, but I thoroughly enjoyed perusing the pages as I searched for my "just right" (just write??) poem. I considered Graham Denton's What's a Caterpillar? poem, because I love how a question and response poem might sound in the hands of a child trying it out for the first time. In the end, however, I settled on Buffalo Dusk by Carl Sandburg, which instantly made me long to be back in the wilderness and also made me think of those empty halls and homes once the Senior class moves on.

Buffalo Dusk

The buffaloes are gone.
And those who saw the buffaloes are gone.
Those who saw the buffaloes by the thousands and how they
     Pawed the prairie sod into dust with their hoofs,
     Their great heads down pawing on in a great pageant
     Of dusk,
Those who saw the buffaloes are gone.
And the buffaloes are gone.

-Carl Sandburg
Youth Stampede

The graduates are gone.
And those who love the graduates are weeping.
Those who taught the graduates each day and how they
     Danced a new dream into life with their hands and hearts,
     Their wide eyes open dreaming big, bright, bold lives
      Of brilliance,
Those who love the graduates pause and smile.
And the graduates are gone.

-Kelly Mogk © 2014

So after a couple rereadings of Buffalo Dusk and about ten minutes to play with my own words, that is the result. Were I working with young writers, I'd think aloud through the process and brainstorm ideas, and eventually move further and further away from this patterned writing and closer to the heart of my own voice. But it's a good exercise to begin with when you aren't sure how to get kids writing, I think.

What do you think? Do you have favorite poems to use in the classroom? For more poetry, be sure to hop on over to Random Noodling, where this week's #PoetryFriday bloghop is being hosted!


  1. Kelly, I like the way you think. And your result, "Youth Stampede," is so much more hopeful than the Sandburg poem!

  2. I love the parallel poetry idea, have never used it in quite that way, & now I want to be sure to use it next year when I get a chance. Your poem is poignant, Kelly, such a wonderful goodbye that I think your colleagues will love too. What poems do I use? It's different with varied lessons, but I've collected a few poems about shoes because I want students to realize how a 'small' thing can be very big, in a poem or prose too. One good one is Pablo's Shoes, by Gary Soto.I hope you'll share more lessons!

  3. LOVE your poem and the whole exercise! I want to try that myself and then see how it works with kids!

    JPL's book is always the first off the shelf on Poetry Friday in my 5th grade classroom!

  4. I just checked that book out from the library Thursday, and haven't had a chance to look at it yet. How extra tantalizing.

    I love "Buffalo Dusk" and "Youth Stampede," and that their feels are so different for having such similar structures--makes a great example.