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Blackbird & Company

Just What Words are Worth…

Taking NotesRainy days were bittersweet when I was in elementary school. While the playground was sorely missed, watching the rain run like a waterfall down the side of our classroom that was mostly made of glass was great. And then there were rainy day games to brighten the atmosphere. I remember one teacher in particular who introduced us to the best game of all, Dictionary. She would choose a word that none of us had ever heard and then have us write our made-up definition for the word on a slip of paper. We dropped the definitions into a basket, then she randomly read them out loud and we voted for our favorite. When she read the real definition, she planted, seed by seed, an appreciation for words that has not left me these many years later.

A few years ago, while teaching poetry on a rainy day, I remembered that teacher and that classroom with the glass wall, and with a dictionary in hand, began my lesson. We were reading a poem by William Wordsworth, I began by having my students think of the poet’s last name as a really great compound word, wordsworth. I went on to share my rainy day memory and began exploring vocabulary to be used in our poems in a modified game of Dictionary. When I gave them the first word to tackle, their definitions were great, close to the real thing, but not precise. Then I read them the first definition of the word they had tried to define, “infuse” from the dictionary, “to fill; pervade.” Next I read the second definition, “to release flavor or healing properties while being soaked,” and infused tea in a glass mug. The students liked this so much that we experimented with infusing darkness with light, closing blinds and watching light stream in, lighting candles. That day, every poem contained the word infuse.

Blackbird & Company literature guides incorporate a weekly section devoted to connecting readers to words by developing the skill of looking up vocabulary from reading in the dictionary and using it in an original sentence to reinforce meaning. Teaching your students to develop their vocabulary by using a dictionary or thesaurus and actually using words in a new context will help them:

  • Determine meaning and other features of unknown words
  • Determine word origin
  • Improve reading comprehension
  • Identify word derivations in reading
  • Improve written and oral communication

Learning new vocabulary words is an undervalued skill, often considered a tedious process. What if we begin to teach our students that exploring words is an adventure? Taking the “boring” out of something ultimately involves changing the attitude about the task. While reading is the best way to develop a broad vocabulary, learning to use a dictionary, the kind that you hold in your hands, is the skill that over time will allow students to discover just what words are worth.


Coming In April... Intro to Poetry

We're thrilled to announce the approaching release of our new Intro to Poetry guide! Look for it on our website in April.

Reading and writing poetry expands the boundaries of the imagination and intellect. Students who engage in writing poetry will develop confidence in their voice, strengthen their ability to communicate new ideas, and convey observations of their world. Crafting poetry has the potential to translate ideas where prose may at times seem daunting. Reading and writing poetry unlocks the power to inspire imagination with immediacy, intensity. Moving from reading and recognizing poetic ideas, to engaging in personal expression through writing, develops an awareness of the world at large. When students are encouraged to engage in the process of writing poetry, they will discover that some things can only be said through a great poem.

Incorporating both analytic and creative exercises to spark the poet inside of your student, our Intro to Poetry guide will:

  • Introduce students to the poet’s kit of tools
  • Provide creative opportunities to practice poetic expression
  • Reveal connections between poetry and prose
  • Develop the poet’s unique voice
  • Explore the diverse potential of language


“Do not say a little in many words but a great deal in a few.”


april is national poetry month!

 Celebrate by making poetry accessible and relevant to your students with one of these gems by award winning authors Sharon Creech and Jacqueline Woodson. Our guides provide exercises that have your students exploring the power of poetry while also giving them opportunities to write their own.

Love That Dog
Level 1 (Grades 1-3)

I don't want to
because boys
don't write poetry.
Girls do.

Meet Jack, who tells his story with a little help from some paper, a pencil, his teacher, and a dog named Sky.

Love That Dog

Level 3 (Grades 5-7)

Lonnie Collins Motion is eleven, and his life is about to change. Ms. Marcus, is showing him ways to put his jumbled feelings on paper. Suddenly, Lonnie has a whole new way to tell the world about his life.


more on poetry

Visit Scholastic for more poetry inspiration and fun information about national poetry month. teacher.scholastic.com/poetry  

See us in Santa Maria, CA!

For those of you attending the Central Coast Home Educators Conference on April 4th, come visit us in the resource center. We'll also be speaking on how to transform your language arts program with literature. Hope to see you there!

Blackbird & Company Educational Press

11613 Washington Place, Los Angeles, CA 90066 | Visit our website blackbirdandco.com

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