The Principal's Journal

Weekly reflections from Union School

Your Teacher


Principal’s National Poetry Month Challenge:    Write a poem for or about a favorite teacher.  Read Jane Yolen’s poem below-as inspiration.  With Teacher Appreciation Week (and The Lauren Avezzie Fun Run) right around the corner in early May-now is the perfect time to write a poem about a favorite teacher at Union School.  (And hey-it’s kind of nice that there are so many cool words that rhyme with Mr. Avezzie!) 

My Teacher

Jane Yolen

My teacher’s tall,
My teacher’s small,
My teacher’s white,
Black, tan.
My teacher is a woman,
My teacher is a man.

My teacher’s thin,
My teacher’s fat,
My teacher’s in-between.
My teacher’s always very nice.
Sometimes my teacher’s mean.

My teacher has a quiet voice,
My teacher’s voice is loud
And you can hear her speaking out
Above the wildest crowd.

My teacher is a riot.
My teacher never smiles.
My teacher lives right near the school.
My teacher travels miles.

My teacher’s younger than my mom.
My teacher’s very old.
My teacher’s hands are nice and warm.
My teacher’s hands are cold.

But when I’m feeling lonely, scared,
Or having a bad day
I take my teacher’s hand and then
Those feelings go away.

©2009 Jane Yolen. All rights reserved.

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Union School Stories


Reading narrative poetry is a fun way to learn about history.  Not all narrative poems are historical; some are completely fictional.  The purpose of a narrative poem is to simply tell a story. Whether the story is about Paul Revere (Listen my children and you shall hear. . ) or Santa Clause (T’was the night before Christmas and all through the house. . ) a narrative poem tells a story in a memorable way.  Today’s Principal’s poetry challenge serves two purposes:  1.  Experiment with a different form of poetry-the narrative poem.  2.  Share a Union School story for our 2nd anthology!  We are fast approaching the deadline (April 30) and we still need your stories. Consider writing your story in rhyme (or not), with rhythm, and repetition, and choice words that tell the story of that one time when something important, interesting, funny, scary, cool, naughty, or thrilling happened at Union School.   Do your best work. . and your narrative poem may be published in our next anthology.   Attach your narrative poem to a photograph or drawing that illustrates your story.  See any familiar faces in the photograph below? I imagine Union School’s class of 1940 had plenty of stories to share.  You may even try writing a narrative poem about a familiar face below!


April is persistent


Vacation may be over, but it’s still April.   And April means poetry.  Here’s a poem about personification-with examples.  And for Monday’s Principal Poetry Month Challenge-write a poem using personification.  Because April is persistent, and therefore National Poetry Month is sticking around until May says, “Enough is enough! I’ve had it with poetry.  I need a balanced diet-give me some prose.”   (You probably never knew that May had such attitude and no manners.  Don’t let her flowers fool you.)

How to Make a Poem that Flies
Brod Bagert

If you want to put some life in a poem,
a little extra heart,
you might find that personification
is a pretty good place to start.

Make things act like they’re alive!
It’s a poetry delight.
Watch how I use it now to say—
“It was a stormy night.”

The clouds began to growl! 

 The wind began to cry!

The moon got scared and disappeared,

 she didn’t say goodbye.

So in your poems, or in your prose,
or in your conversation
look for little clever ways
to insert a personification.

It’ll get to be a habit,
one of those everyday things,
one of the ways a poet learns
to give a poem its wings.

Then if your poem can find someone
to read its words out loud,
those wings will fill with air and soar
above the highest cloud.

© 2010 Brod Bagert. All rights reserved.

Earth Day Poetry


Last week, our amazing student council inspired the Union School community with their creativity and innovations.  Check out this PowerPoint made by Student Council advisors, Wendy Bourget and Ben Stern-highlighting the poetry, the games and toys made from recycled “trash,” Earth Day songs, and even a picture book.   I will try to post more pictures later this week-including photos of fourth graders in their fashionable  ”garbage garb.”  You will never look at a cereal box the same way again!

Earth Day Assembly Student Council

And here’s the Principal’s National Poetry Month Challenge for the week:

It’s time to change the world. Write a poem to inspire the reader to protect our earth. Even small changes can make a difference.  Here’s a poem I wrote today:

Paper or Plastic?

A new island is forming

Twice the size of Texas

Bite sized pieces of destruction

Unfathomable poison

Swept away, swirling

These dangerous villains

Silently stalking

Seabirds and fishes

Marine mammals

Sea creatures

Washed up on beaches

An invisible dust bowl:

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

And as I pay for my groceries you ask,

“Will that be paper or plastic?” 

As if my decision will make a difference.

If you want to read more about The Great Pacific Garbage Patch check out these sites:





Poetry Doesn’t Take a Vacation


Poetry doesn’t take a vacation

You may find words traveling in couplets or stanzas

arranging themselves on billboards and menus.

Words whirling and swirling  around you on airplanes

with passports and tickets, and great expectations.

No rest stops for haiku, no breaks, no free time.

No retirement for rhythm, no week-ends for rhyme.

Poetry doesn’t take a vacation.

Poetry is always, forever, full time.

Have a wonderful vacation and may you find a place for poetry where ever you go and whatever you do this coming week.   


diverse books










Inspiration is everywhere


Where do you find your inspiration for writing?  Try looking back on your day.  Here are some of my day’s highlights:

  • I read Kindergarten students’ writing and conferred with them about their How to books. Thanks to Landon-I now know how to pet a dog.  (I could “steal” his idea and write a poem about how to pet a dog.)

  • I saw Third grade partners helping each other figure out real world problems related to volume and capacity!  Wow-I didn’t learn those concepts until  high school.  (I could write a poem about a fish tank that overflowed because somebody didn’t know the capacity of the tank!)

  • I watched Fourth graders using Chromebooks to research and write chapter books about the Revolutionary War.  Yes-chapter books.  Long chapter books!  I have never written a chapter book, have you?  (Hmm-I could write a poem in chapters.)

  • I watched artists at work, creating their own Campbell Soup Can prints-inspired by Andy Warhol.  As one student explained, “We get to choose something based upon our own childhood.   So mine is   karate Soup.”   I have always wanted to try Karate Soup.  (I could write a poem about Karate  Soup.)

 Inspiration is everywhere and every day and everyone.  Hey-even a stick is an excellent topic (see below!).

The Principal’s National Poetry Challenge for the Week of April 7:  Find inspiration where you least expect it!  Write a list of 20 topics for your poetry.  

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Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not. . .


Why should 21st Century students memorize poems?  What’s the value when students can easily find poems on the Internet-poetry is a click away.   I believe there is value in memorizing poetry.  Here are 3 reasons in no particular order:

  1. To impress your friends

  2. To learn new and interesting vocabulary words

  3. To develop a deeper understanding of the meaning of the poem

Memorizing a poem takes repeated readings and a bit of effort. Repeated reading of any text, is also known as “close reading.”  Each time you read the poem, you may understand it in a new way, unlocking the theme or message, stanza by stanza.   And through the years of your life, your understanding of the poem you memorize, may grow and change.

The Principal’s National Poetry Month Challenge for April 5 and 6-because this is a big one:  Find a poem that is worth your time and effort to memorize. Memorize the poem and recite it to your friends, teachers, and parents.    Your poem is a special gift; you may give it away, and still keep it.   The words will always be close to your heart.


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Inspired by art



Many poets are inspired  by paintings and photographs.  I love this image even though it makes me sad.  I wonder what the girl is thinking and how she’s feeling.  I wonder what happened to her pet.  What is her name?  What is her dog’s name?  I wonder if she can feel his presence on the stairs next to her.

National Poetry Month Principal’s Challenge for April 4, is this:

Find a painting or photograph that makes you wonder.

Write a poem filled with wonderings.

You don’t need to have the answers,  just cover the page with your wonderful questions.

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Acrostic Agony


National Poetry Month Challenge for April 3:

I have never read an acrostic poem I liked.  They leave me cold, unmoved, uninspired, bored, and sometimes even annoyed.  I know this is a bias on my part, and I am trying to be open-minded about acrostic poems.  Therefore-the challenge for April 3, is to write an acrostic poem that actually speaks to the heart.  (Personally-I don’t think it’s possible.  But go ahead-prove me wrong!)  Check out this weary acrostic poem I found online:

silly acrostic poem

Here’s an acrostic poem about how I feel about acrostic poems:

A waste of time

Can you imagine Robert Frost writing one?

Roads less traveled, turning

On their heals chasing letters down the wrong lanes

Senseless word choice  

Thoughtless phrases no rhyme or reason

I know Carl Sandburg and the fog:

Cat feet, and silent haunches, not an F, O, G in sight. 

But go ahead. . .prove me wrong!

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Don’t Judge a Poem by its Length


National Poetry Month Challenge for April 2:

Write a short poem (fewer than 15 words).  Do not rhyme.  Do not worry about capitalization or punctuation. Send an important message to the world-about your feelings or a strong opinion.  Here’s an example.  (You may even want to memorize this poem and recite it the next time someone raises his or her voice!)


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