By Angela Awald
Poetry tea time, also known as poetry-in-pajamas at our house, has become my secret weapon in celebrating each of my children’s unique interests. In a family of our size, it’s easy to see how individual children could get swallowed up into the whole of six. No longer individuals but just part of the group, the crew, the kids. But one intention I’ve always set forth and challenged myself to uphold, is to honor and celebrate each and every one of my children. Often.
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Poetry tea time has become an opportunity for me to do just that. By selecting a theme that reflects an interest of one of my children, I am able to highlight his or her gifts and talents for all of the family to celebrate. In the process, other children sometimes learn to see their sibling in a new light. To see that they have more in common than they thought. Even if their interests are not identical, they learn to respect the interest and the sibling more because of the shared experience found in poetry tea time.
Most recently, we enjoyed poetry tea time of the insect variety. My seven-year-old loves everything science! And I was experiencing some major mama-guilt because science is the one thing that seems to slide right off the plate on a regular basis.
Instead of harboring my guilt (but remaining realistic that there really wasn’t much time in the coming week to dig into any science experiments) I got creative with my time. Eight insect themed poetry books were reserved at the library, a quick Pinterest search conducted, and a few extra items found their way onto the grocery list. Poetry tea time: insect edition was planned and ready to go!
The Featured Poem
by Emily Dickinson
A fuzzy fellow, without feet,
Yet doth exceeding run!
Of velvet, is his Countenance,
And his Complexion, dun!
Sometime, he dwelleth in the grass!
Sometime, upon a bough,
From which he doth descend in plush
Upon the Passer-by!
All this in summer.
But when winds alarm the Forest Folk,
He taketh Damask Residence—
And struts in sewing silk!
Then, finer than a Lady,
Emerges in the spring!
A Feather on each shoulder!
You'd scarce recognize him!
By Men, yclept Caterpillar!
By me! But who am I,
To tell the pretty secret
Of the Butterfly!
Insectlopedia by Douglas Florian
Beast Feast by Douglas Florian
Seeds, Bees, Butterflies, and More! Poem for Two Voices by Carole Gerber
When It Comes to Bugs by Aileen Fisher
The Little Buggers by Patrick Lewis
Bug Off! Creepy, Crawly Poems by Jane Yolen
Poetry for Young People by Emily Dickinson, edited by Frances Schoonmaker Bolin
Plates and napkins with butterflies
All of which I found at the Dollar Store!!
The Nature Study, Art, Writing Project
This project turned out in unexpected ways. I purposely left it open-ended, by inviting the kids to look through the field guides for some buggy inspiration. They were invited to draw their insect with oil pastels and then paint the background green with watercolors. While they did this, I chatted with each of them about the insect they chose and jotted down some of the words and phrases they created.
When each child was ready, he would dictate a poem to me, while I wrote it beside the insect drawing. My eleven-year-old did this process independently and most creatively! Instead of choosing caterpillars and or spiders, she chose “the stomach bug,” among other “bugs” we’ve endured at our house. And of course, as will happen, this lead to a discussion about creative ways to say “barf” and a whole series of poems related to the topic.
The whole conversation was welcomed because in the space of poetry tea time, all creativity is encouraged! And who knew there was so much to be found with insects!