Thursday, April 1, 2021

An Emotional Menagerie: Feelings from A to Z

Happy National Poetry Month!

I always loved calling attention to Poetry Month in both the public and school libraries because there's no much potential for sharing poems and interacting with an often-overlooked form of literature. I had fun choosing lesson plans relating to poetry for different ages, and An Emotional Menagerie: Feelings from A to Z is brimming with wonderful potential lessons.

Before sharing my lesson ideas, it's important to establish the quality of this book just as a read-aloud. Even if you don't tie lessons into it, these poems are meant to be read to a classroom of students. The book is listed as being for ages 5+, but coming from a Montessori background had me envisioning reading these poems to Early Childhood students (as young as 3).

The book has an emotion assigned to each letter of the alphabet, and each emotion is described with animal qualities. These animals are amazing choices for each emotion; even as an adult reading it on my own, I was impressed with how the animal qualities truly described each emotion. A monkey is naughty, a chameleon changing its colors is uncertain, just for a teaser.

Each poem is six stanzas long, but each emotion gets its own spread, so you can hold the book up as you're reading and the children can take in the vivid illustrations. (I love that each emotion gets its own spread because there's no reading ahead to the next emotion!)

When you use this book with younger students, you can show them the picture of the animal, have them name it, and ask students to share what they know about the animal. After reading the poem aloud, you can ask the students to share what they know about the emotion, or if they've felt it. Then you can discuss how the emotion and the animal relate to each other.

I think this book would be great to use when discussing emotions with younger children. It could also be incorporated into lesson plans if you have a letter of the week since there's an emotion for every letter of the alphabet. The book could also be used as a tie-in when you're studying animals since the emotions and animals match so well.

With older elementary students, I feel like there are several ways to approach this book. You could plan lessons and storytime based on the letter, emotion, or animal. A, for example, is Anger, with a roaring lion. You could read the A poem with Lion Lessons by Jon Agee and compare and contrast the lions. Or you could read it with My No No No Day by Rebecca Patterson and talk about anger.

You could also open the floor up for discussion about emotions before you even open the book. Go through the letters and see what emotions students can name for each letter. Once they guess the emotion that is used in the book, you can then have them brainstorm what animal they think would be associated with that emotion and why. 

I also had a creative writing club with older elementary and middle school students, and I think this book provides great jumping-off points even for that age. You could ask students to think of an emotion for a certain letter and have them write a poem about it. After reading some of the examples from this book aloud, you could ask them to think of an animal, and write a poem about emotions they associate with the animal. For an extra challenge, you could ask them to choose an emotion and write a poem using only words that express that emotion, or only words that start with the same letter as that emotion!

This book is one of those gems that not only gives you a great read-aloud for the classroom or storytime, but also is full of potential lessons for a variety of ages. It's enjoyable to read and will be even more fun to share with students to help activation their imaginations while cultivating emotional awareness.

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