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The Study of Poetry and Literature for Children & Young Adults

Poetry Break #5: A Poem by an International Poet

Introduction: I love this poem, I almost used it as my poem to combine with a nonfiction book. I was going to use a bread cookbook.
The audio/visual play on words is what I enjoy most about it. The "webbend fingers" image is wonderful. I can see hands, fingers webbed from the sticky dough.

Learning to
Make Brown Bread
By Jan McAllum
New Zealand
First, let a sniff of fresh air, daisies,
grass stray across the bench. Roll up your sleeves
and plunge your arm in Granny's crock.
Become a builder with a mound of wholemeal
some salt, warm water, yeast,
and spread a honey sash through your crumbly
walls. Now sing as you burrow deep, sing
as you push your webbend fingers
at the dough. And hum as you fold, turn, and knead
again. Some people talk
to their bread. I watch while mine shapes
a story. Look for shine like dolphin's
skin, then wait. Listen to your bread's
leaping promises. When it springs
in a fat slab of sun, tuck the load firmly in your narrow
tin to bake. You must tell me when your bread
is golden brown. I hope a breeze bustles
at my back as I hurry on my bike to your kitchen.
We can eat the hot crust together.
Poetry Expression: This poem is for third grade and up. Have the children close their eyes (and keep them closed) until you are done reading.  Bring in a loaf (or more) of fresh baked bread, it must be warm, still in the pan. Place it near an open window or heater to allow the aroma to circulate.
Read the poem once. Have them open their eyes, slice the bread, (you may need parental assistance) and pass out a warm slice to each child. Butter is messy and unnessary.
While they eat read the poem again.
Now the fun part, make sure you have coordinated with either the Home Economics room or Food Services. Have one parent per group of three students. Preparation is key here. The next step is the children will make bread. For chaos control, ingredients should be premeasured and grouped, cooking stations set up for each group.
If very young make a nonyeast bread such as bananna or pumpkin.
If older make one that they can knead, they can clean the kitchen and put away the ingredients while the bread rises.
Back to class or lunch while the loaves bake then to the kitchen for an afternoon snack. One loaf per group.
For the last activity, have the groups read the poem on their own and write their perceptions of what they think of the poem now that they have baked bread compared to before they had the experience.

Brenner, Barbara. 2000. Voices: Poetry and Art from Around the World. Washington, DC: National Geographic Society. ISBN 0792270711


Click on the following link to proceed to the poetry book review.

Module 5: Poetry Book Review