A Sample Lesson From Nancie Atwell's Book: Naming the World




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.


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.

—Nora Bradford

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.