Last summer, I took part in the Book Love Foundation Summer Book Club (HIGHLY recommend), and one of the books we studied and explored was Dictionary for a Better World by Irene Latham and Charles Walters. These two poets wrote and assembled an incredible collection of poems, short narratives, and quotes, all of which speak to important ideas, actions and frames of mind that remind students of the power they have to make a difference in the world.
I was so inspired by this read, both the content and the variation in the writing. Latham and Walters began their collection with an abecedarian. I decided to begin my school year with a poem to my students, too. It was a time of tremendous uncertainty (the district decided relatively last minute to switch gears and start all students online without a date for returning), and I wanted to begin the year with an invitation, with hope, and with vulnerability. I wanted to start the year by taking a risk: writing something new, in a form new to me. As I look to National Poetry Month, as I look to our final eight weeks together, I want to end in the same way. I began the year with an abecedarian; I think I will end the year with the reverse (a zeewhyexarian?). So, I reflect on where we began, and my brainstorm begins, notebook at hand.
WORDS FOR A FANTASTIC FIFTH GRADE YEAR
After Irene Latham and Charles Waters
After five months at home, we
Begin again, begin anew, in a way we
Couldn’t have fathomed this time last year.
Different than we imagined, yes, and yet
Everything will be okay—more than okay.
Fifth grade has arrived. Fabulous, fiery fifth-graders, you have arrived.
Get ready: we are going to make this a year to remember, one for the
History books. And not just because of this global pandemic;
It’s one for the books because we will make it so in our day-to-day lives.
Just imagine what we can do, create, become if we add up all the moments in all the days ahead. The
Key to a magnificent fifth grade year is to be open even—especially—in this hard time, to
Learn together, from one another, about one another, about ourselves,
Making sense of the world as we
Navigate it like the explorers we’ll follow around the globe, into space, into the oceans’ depths; as we
Observe the patterns in numbers, in nature, in the night sky; as we
Puzzle through riddles: linguistic, mathematical, scientific, historical; as we
Question everything; as we
Read memoirs and mysteries, maps and music lyrics; as we
Study our history through the eyes of many; as we
Take risks, explore beyond what we’d thought possible
Until this year, this experience, this very moment. We’ll give
Voice to our questions, our passions, our stories,
Writing word after word to fill page after page,
X-ing out our doubts and fears, instead saying
Yes to the what-ifs with a
Zest for this life, this fifth grade year, and its infinite possibilities.