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The Gordon School

Two lessons from a true lover of words

Kyle Lukoff talks poetry with six-year-olds and with sixth graders

Author Kyle Lukoff began his visit to Gordon with some poetry.
 

Introducing himself to Kindergarten and Young Kindergarten, he rattled off a Shel Silverstein poem and several lines of The Jabberwocky.
 

Then, he delivered a poetry lesson that covered a remarkable amount of technique while keeping his squirmy audience engaged.
 

His picture book Awake, Asleep made for the perfect starting point.
 

The book-length poem is exclusively one syllable words - “a yawn, a peep, a stretch” - except the title words, “awake” and “asleep."
 

Those words are wrapped up in an unorthodox rhyme scheme that walks the reader through a young person’s day, from awake to asleep.
 

Students connected with the book immediately, and immediately rattled off a long list of one syllable words they loved.
 

With gentle guidance from Lukoff - a former elementary school librarian - they sorted their words and picked their favorites.
 

After a few minutes, they had coaxed a few simple words into their own Gordon student version of the Awake, Asleep poem.
 

Later in the morning, Lukoff brought the same challenge to sixth graders.
 

They were able to handle more formal poetic technique, and Lukoff hit them hard.
 

He opened with a parlour trick: what is the poetic term that describes the syllable emphasis pattern your name follows?
 

BOden, EZra, AdriANa, SaMANtha: are these iambs? trochees? dactyls? anapests? 
 

Like the audience at a magic show, every student raised their hand, hoping to hear their familiar names transformed into one of these fancy terms.
 

He read them his book Explosion at the Poem Factory, a whimsical story that packed in epithalamium, simile, haiku, onomatopoeia, couplet, acrostic and scores of other words about words.
 

Then, as he had with the five-year-olds, he read them Asleep, Awake, and invited them to brainstorm their own one syllable words.
 

As they suggested words, he sorted them according to his own rhyming system.
 

Students paired up and wrote their own homages of the Asleep, Awake poem, then shared them aloud.
 

Each poem told the story of a Gordon Middle Schooler’s day.
 

Appropriately enough, most of them began with a bell, and ended with a night.

 

In between? Some were silly.
 

Some were sad.
 

Some were action packed.
 

Some were surreal.
 

…and each one was completely different from the others.

 

Kyle Lukoff is this year’s Karla Harry Visiting Author, and his visit takes place during the GCA Book Fair, a schoolwide celebration of reading and writing. These two workshops were just the first of a dozen sessions he will be doing with students and faculty throughout the school.

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