by Brett Vogelsinger
Welcome back teachers, poets, writers, and students to our first post of the 2019 National Poetry Month season! Subscribe now via email so you can catch every post and add new selections to your repertoire of poems to share with students. On this site, you will also find engaging methods, questions, and media to provoke powerful thinking in your classroom.
Naomi Shihab Nye is a familiar name to many teachers who share poetry in their classrooms. Her poems are accessible and profound. They balance provocative, relevant commentary on our world with a sense of joy and possibility that children need to hear in their reading at school.
Her poem "Famous" is one of her best-known poems, but the title is slyly misleading. Instead of celebrating fame in the red-carpet sense of the word, it turns an eye on commonplace things "like a pulley . . . or a buttonhole . . . because it never forgot what it could do."
After reading the poem with students, discuss this question: "What is she doing here with the title and the concept of fame?" Then, in their notebooks, invite students to create an imaginary"deleted scene" from this poem that fits the spirit of the original. They might begin with her refrain "The _______ is famous to the ________" to shine a light on a different sort of fame. The opening lines of the last two stanzas also work well for this prompt: "I want to be famous to _______" or "I want to be famous in the way ________." My students wrote about the "fame" of jeeps, staples, touchscreens, pen caps, and tree trunks in their notebooks, to name a few.
When you visit the link to today's poem, be sure to watch the film adaptation of Nye's poem at the bottom fo the page. The creative pairing of video imagery with lines from the poem could spark a discussion all of its own. In a later post, we will look at another video from the Poetry Foundation's Poem Movie collection.
Brett Vogelsinger is a ninth-grade English teacher at Holicong Middle School in Bucks County, PA. He has been starting class with a poem each day for the past six years and is the creator of the Go Poems blog to share poetry reading and writing ideas with teachers around the world. Find him on Twitter @theVogelman.