A Sample Lesson From Nancie Atwell's Book: Naming the World
PRESENTING THE POEM:
Watermelon BY NORA BRADFORD
SETTING THE SCENE:Nora, a seventh grader, took William Carlos Williams seriously. As a poet she looked for ideas in things. Here, she found one in the first watermelon feast of the season on her family’s back deck.
SOME FEATURES TO NOTICE:
●The specific, observed details that evoke a sensory response and create the mood of summer
●Strong, sensory nouns, adjectives, and verbs: delightful redness
●Nora’s use of color words: reddest, green
●How she invents a form and sticks with it, apart from a purposeful shift in the last stanza
Activity:Say it with me again: “The Red Wheelbarrow” . . .
For Nora, so much depends on a red slice of watermelon, its green rind, and a dog with mighty jaws. Notice how so much depends on you, in your world of sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell? Go home and look, listen, taste, feel, and sniff. Take notes on your perceptions. As poets, find where your life can be written into a poem.
I watch Mom cut five slices,
then take the largest and reddest.
When I sink my teeth into solid juice,
the melon squirts its fireworks.[metaphor]
I swallow a seed—
that’s one I won’t spit
into the bowl
beyond the deck railing.
When I finish the delightful redness
I throw the green rind to Hobo,
who waits his turn.
He grabs the crust in his mighty jaws [metaphor]
and runs away
with its sweetness.
RESPONSE STANCE:Please go back into this sensory poem and mark the language you can:
perceive—words and phrases you can see, feel, taste. Would you also mark the diction—the deliberate choices of language—that you like and want to talk about?
Begin your own poem now and improve on it tonight at home.