Last week, our 2nd grade classes finished a three-week study of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. We began by reading a beautiful picture book biography of his life called Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People:

image from

This book provides a kid-friendly introduction to Neruda’s life, his activism in politics and civil rights, and his love of books, words, and the world around him. As we read the book, I recorded students’ observations and opinions of the story on a Padlet wall so that we could come back to them later:

Screenshot from Padlet - click to visit!
Screenshot from Padlet – click to visit!

One observation our second graders made was that Neruda was fascinated by everyday objects in the world around him, which you can see quite clearly in this gorgeous illustration from the book:

image from Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People, borrowed from
(click to read more about the book there!)

The next week, we talked more about this idea and read snippets from a variety of poems from Neruda’s book Odes to Common Things:

image from

You can read the snippets I shared and find links to the full-text poems on our Pablo Neruda Padlet wall–just scroll down to the bottom to find the odes!

As we read, we paid attention to the ways Pablo Neruda described ordinary things in special and exciting ways:

  • When you cut a tomato, you “murder it”
  • A whole tuna in the market is “a torpedo from the ocean depths”
  • Raw potatoes for French fries look “like the morning swan’s snowy feathers”
  • Watermelon is “fruit from the thirst-tree” and “the green whale of the summer”
  • Bicycles are insects, apples are “dawn’s rosy cheek”
  • Hand-knitted wool socks are “soft as rabbits”
  • “Nothing hangs together quite like a cat…”

Then, students chose their own common things from a table I had set up with a variety of household objects–kitchen utensils, jewelry, rocks and sticks, decorative items, souvenirs from vacations, and other objects I found around my house.

We spent the rest of this second week brainstorming extraordinary ways we could describe the objects we had chosen and recording our ideas on a graphic organizer, answering questions about what our objects looked, sounded, and felt like; what they loved; what they would say if they could speak; and why they were special.

The third and final week of our was spent publishing our poems. I passed out the students’ graphic organizers and the objects they had used for their inspiration, and we turned the notes on our graphic organizers into first-person sentences from the objects’ perspectives.

Students wrote their poems first, then decorated and illustrated them and left them with me to hang up outside the library (my project for this week!). Here’s a sampling of our 2nd grade odes (click any image to view it larger):

More fantastic poetry will be posted later this week!