DearHotDog_COVWhen writing poetry with kids, one of the biggest complaints I hear is “I don’t know what to write about.” I can’t blame them. There are plenty of times when I look at a blank sheet of paper and I don’t know what to write about, either.

That’s one reason why Dear Hot Dog by Mordicai Gerstein is so brilliant: he writes poems about the most ordinary of things, like a hot dog, the summer sun, even the air, all the things we love but sometimes overlook.

Take, for instance, Gerstein’s poem about socks (which is still apropos in April in Michigan):

I never stop
to think about socks,
and if I get them
for a birthday present
from Aunt Adi,
I’m disappointed.
You can’t play
with socks.
But now,
with wind rattling
the icy windows,
putting on these
soft, thick, red ones
makes me happy
all day.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: poetry is meant to be read aloud. During this month of poetry (or any time of the year), read Dear Hot Dog to your students. (You’ll hit the Common Core Standard of Range of Reading, and if you focus on the poet’s choice of interesting words, you’ll teach Craft & Structure as well!)  Talk about how each poem is an ode of gratitude for an everyday object. Take inspiration from Gerstein and brainstorm with the class all the ordinary stuff we love. A few of Gerstein’s poems have to do with food. In lousy-weather months when we can’t get outside, working food into a lesson will light up your Nature Smart Students. Perhaps everyone can bring in a favorite food as inspiration, to savor as they write their own poems about the taste, texture, smell, general wonderfulness of an everyday thing they love.  Your students may find the extraordinary in the ordinary.

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