Standardized testing season is upon us, so my library schedule with classes in the upper grades has been a bit off-kilter lately.

In fact, between our CRCT testing schedule and a special visit Monday from Georgia State Schools Superintendent John Barge to celebrate our school’s National Blue Ribbon Award, only one of our four 3rd grade homerooms was able to join me for a lesson this week.

(Click the link above for more info about the Superintendent’s visit and a special surprise honor for one of our teachers, Beth Upchurch!)

Mrs. Beaman’s 3rd grade was the only class in their grade unaffected by this week’s schedule changes, so I planned a special poetry activity just for them inspired by Judith Viorst’s book If I Were in Charge of the World and Other Worries: Poems for Children and Their Parents:

image from http://www.indiebound.org

I had never read or even heard of this book before my friend and CCSD library colleague Shannon Thompson at Howard B. Stroud Elementary recommended it to me, but he was kind enough to share his library’s copy with me the other day. And as soon as I flipped through it, I knew I had to use it for some poetry lessons. (I also knew I needed to add it to my list of books to order for our library!)

One poem that immediately struck me was called “Fifteen, or Maybe Sixteen Things to Worry About.”

The speaker of this poem is a kid whose varied worries include things that are embarrassing (like losing your pants when you jump off a diving board) as well as more serious worries (like your parents getting a divorce). I think everyone can relate to at least one of the worries in the poem, and I also thought that a worry-themed poem might be a good stress-reliever for the kids after three long days of testing.

As if you couldn't tell, I'm kind of addicted to Padlet lately! It made it very easy for me to display standards, the cover of the book, a link to the poem's text, and another link for the Google Presentation where we typed our poem.
As if you couldn’t tell, I’m kind of addicted to Padlet lately! For this lesson, Padlet made it super easy for me to display the standard and essential question, the cover of the book, an embedded link to the poem’s text, and another embedded link to the Google Presentation where we typed our poem. (Click the image to visit!)

We started the lesson by reading the poem together and clarifying some tough vocabulary (some kids didn’t know that “script” meant cursive or that liver is something people eat), and then the students had the chance to share their favorite lines and the connections they made. As I had predicted, the kids could really relate to this poem!

Next, we talked about what we would need to do to write our own version. Since worries are things that might happen, we included words like “maybe,” “could,” “would,” “might,” or–the kids’ favorite–“what if…” We also discussed how Viorst included some worries that were humorous and others that were serious.

Every student was encouraged, but not required, to share a line, and all but three of my quieter students were eager to contribute. (If I do this activity again, I might offer students the options of writing or typing their responses if they don’t want to share out loud.)

As the kids dictated their lines to me, I typed their responses into a Google Presentation slide (which made everything easy to format and, later, easy to save and print as an image file).

Here’s the poem Mrs. Beaman’s class wrote:

We barely had enough room for all our ideas, so maybe I should have added my worry–that I might have to make the font teeny-tiny to fit everything!

I loved this activity, and I think the kids really loved it, too.

The biggest surprise for me? Not a single student mentioned standardized testing, or this week’s horrific events in Boston, or the tragic fire that destroyed one of our local churches.

While I wondered if this poem could give students an outlet for expressing fears about these scary things they can’t control, I think what it actually gave them was something they may have needed even more: a chance to simply have fun and be kids.

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