Monday, December 8, 2014


At the last NCTE conference, I had the privilege of serving as one of the roundtable leaders for a session sponsored by the Children’s Literature Assembly called “Reading Poetry Across the Curriculum.” In preparation for my discussion, I came across some terrific mentor texts that could be used in a combination of ways in your writing workshop classroom.

The Fastest Game on Two Feet and Other Poems About How Sports Began by Alice Low is a delightful combination of history, poetry, and illustration. Many people know that basketball was first played with peach baskets hung on the wall. But did you know that some say soccer began as a kicking game with a skull found on an English battlefield? Alice Low introduces the history of popular sports with a nonfiction paragraph followed by a beautifully illustrated rhyming poem. Most students have a favorite sport and should be naturally curious about its history. Read selections from The Fastest Game on Two Feet to inspire your class to research the origin of a sport. Afterwards, they can write about it in both nonfiction form and poetry, just as the book models. Students might also enjoy creating timelines, also included in this book. This would make a good class project with each student contributing an illustrated page.

A Stick is an Excellent Thing by Marilyn Singer extols the joys of outdoor and imaginative play. Bring in a stick and ask students to brainstorm all the games it could be used for. The poem suggests using the stick as a scepter for a king or a magic wand. This book also includes poems on favorite pastimes like hopscotch, swinging, blowing bubbles, making pretend soup, hide-and-seek, and jump rope. Each poem does an amazing job of portraying the activity, making them terrific models of description.

Joy in Mudville by Bob Raczka provides a great opportunity to compare and contrast. This illustrated poem is a sequel to Ernest Thayer’s famous “Casey at the Bat” reprinted at the end of the book. After reading Joy in Mudville, your class can discuss how Raczka took a well-known story and continued it with a new character and different ending. Students can write their own story about Mudville and a sport of their choice. Or you could do it as a class writing project.

Students are interested in sports. They love playground time. Using texts that celebrate what kids enjoy doing most is a sure-fire way to provide high interest reading and inspiration for writing.

The handouts for CLA Master Class "Poetry Across the Curriculum" session at NCTE are posted online. I hope you'll check out these great resources. In addition to information about Poetry and Sports, there are poetry handouts for Science, Math, Social Studies, and Art.  


  1. Thanks, Jacqueline, for sharing more about the event and your sources. Your group had a lot of fun!

  2. Thank you, Jacqueline! This is great!