Free Range Readers

Nurturing Self Reliant Readers and Writers in K-6 classrooms

August 18, 2017
by mnosal

#Poetry Friday: Healing Maya Angelou

Poetry Friday!

Thanks to A Journey Through the Pages for hosting this week’s roundup. Check out a fantastic post there!

Words matter. Actions speak louder than words, sometimes. The events of the past week, month, six months require us to take stock of our lives and to think about ways that we can be our better selves. The responsibility to lead an examined life — a woke life — feels even bigger when our work is with children.

This week’s poem is from Maya Angelou. I was trying to find poems that I will share with children in the coming weeks, and always appreciate Maya Angelou’s beautiful and profound poetry. I’m sharing part of the poem below. Listen to Maya Angelou read her poem here and find the complete poem here:

Human Family

I note the obvious differences
in the human family.
Some of us are serious,
some thrive on comedy.

Some declare their lives are lived
as true profundity,
and others claim they really live
the real reality.

The variety of our skin tones
can confuse, bemuse, delight,
brown and pink and beige and purple,
tan and blue and white.

I’ve sailed upon the seven seas
and stopped in every land,
I’ve seen the wonders of the world
not yet one common man…..

I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.


May the force of love be with you in these troubling times.



August 11, 2017
by mnosal

Poetry Friday: Changed

It’s Poetry Friday …. Inspire someone…..share a poem!

Thanks to Margaret over at Reflections on the Teche for hosting this week.

It’s that time of summer when thoughts turn back to the classroom and I am missing having my own classroom to plan and prepare. I’ve been organizing my books and notebooks and reading through old favorites. Feeling nostalgic.

Someone reminded me this week of one of my favorite poems by Naomi Shihab Nye, and I thought it would be a good one to share for Poetry Friday:


by Naomi Shihab Nye

They said something mean about me

and didn’t notice it was mean.

So my heart wandered into the rainy night without them

and found a canopy

to hide under.

My eyes started seeing through things.

Like gauze.

Old self through new self.

My flexible body

went backwards

and forwards

in time.

It’s hard to describe but true;

I grew another head

with better ideas

inside my old head.


I like the message and think this is a good poem to help us think about choosing our words carefully …..choosing KIND whenever possible.

I realized that I shared another text by Naomi Shihab Nye earlier this week. Nye is one of my favorite writers, especially to share with students. I found an interview with Nye from one of my favorite podcasts, On Being with Krista Tippett. It’s a wonderful, inspiring conversation with the poet and you can find it here.

Happy Poetry Friday!

August 4, 2017
by mnosal

Poetry Friday: Under This Sky

Poetry Friday!

Poetry Friday this week is hosted by Donna at Mainely Write

So many people shared Emma Lazarus’s iconic poem this week, The New Colossus. It was a reminder of the power of poetry, of words put together on a page with intention and passion. I was reminded of a favorite anthology of mine, This Same Sky: A Collection of Poems From Around The World, by Naomi Shihab Nye.

If you are looking for inspiration today, check out this podcast with Nye from On Being with Krista Tippett, Your Life is a Poem.

The poem I want to share this week comes from the anthology by poet Zia Hyder, and is a reminder of our likenesses and differences in this great, big world:



There’s an enormous comfort knowing

we all live under this same sky,

whether in New York or Dhaka,

we see the same sun and same moon.


When it is night in New York,

the sun shines in Dhaka,

but that doesn’t matter.

Flowers that blossom here in spring

are unknown in meadows of distant Bengal —

that too doesn’t matter.

There’s no rainy season here —

the peasant in Bengal welcomes the new crop

with homemade sweets

while here, winter brings mountains of snow.


No one here knows Grandmother’s hand-sewn quilt —

even that doesn’t matter.

There’s an enormous comfort knowing

we all live under this same sky….. (read the rest of the poem in the anthology)


Have a poetic weekend!

August 27, 2015
by mnosal

“Poetry Friday” Everyday!

A recent post by Tara Smith over at Two Writing Teachers inspired me to reflect on my out routines and rituals around making poetry an every day part of my instruction, rather than contained in a unit of study to be taught at a specific time of year. Thanks, Tara, for a great post!

Sylvia has the round-up this week over at Poetry for Children. This week, my poem for

It's Friday, what poem are you reading?

It’s Friday, what poem are you reading?

is a poem I wrote a few years ago after attending a summer writing institute at Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Ralph Fletcher gave a terrific keynote and took participants through a few writing exercises that I have since used a lot with my students.


The Good Old Days


Sometimes I remember

The good old days


Riding to Jones Beach in our big, black Chrysler

With my four brothers and sisters


Each of us standing

Shoulder to shoulder across the capacious back seat


I run across the white -hot sand

Twirling in my plaid skirted swimsuit


Dad gives us all

a “ready-set-GO!” and we

Race to the water


I still can’t imagine

Anything better than that.

by Maureen Nosal (inspired by Ralph Fletcher)

Ralph had read his own poem, The Good Old Days, and encouraged us to use his first and last two lines and write our own memory in between. It was a fun, thoughtful, and successful endeavor for most, and I thought about how fun it would be to write this poem with my 5th graders.

This year, I had a student who lost his big brother in an unspeakably tragic incident. He was having a hard time and did not want to talk about it with anyone. When we started working on our own Good Old Days poems, he suddenly wanted to write about a memory of happy times with his brother. He wrote a beautiful poem and the act of working on it gave me an opportunity to talk with him a little about the healing power of writing. He gave me a beautiful smile and asked if he could publish his poem. It was a most fulfilling writing conference, as you can imagine.

You can find this short writing exercise in Ralph’s book Mentor Author, Mentor Texts, at Heinemann.

So, how does poetry fit into my school year? I start on Day One with a poem that we will work on for the week. My students keep a poetry folder and get a poem every Monday that we will take time to read and unpack each morning at the end of Morning Meeting (my Shared Reading time). Students work with the poem, reading, rereading, and annotating all week during morning work and for homework. I follow a structure from Georgia Heard’s terrific book, Poetry Lessons to Meet the Common Core Standards to implement a 5 day weekly routine. If you do not have this book, you need it! It is a practical and, despite its clunky title, inspirational. I have found countless ways to work with poems. From Goodreads:

Favorite poet and author Georgia Heard shares step-by-step poetry lessons that guide students to identify figurative language, hear rhyme, rhythm, and other poetic conventions, and explore imagery and theme—and then determine how these elements deepen their understanding of the poem. Students gain a thorough knowledge of poetic elements, which helps them meet Common Core State Standards in literature and language. Includes model poems, response activities, and performance tasks! For use with Grades K-5. (less)

Georgia Heard

Georgia Heard

If you are familiar with Georgia Heard’s work from Awakening the Heart, you are sure to be delighted with this resource. I like to use both books. I think of Awakening the Heart as more of a writing resource, and Poetry Lessons to Meet the Common Core Standards as more of a close reading resource.

We often illustrate poems, or favorite parts of poems, and sometimes these illustrations live in our folders, or sometimes they live on our classroom walls.

By Bobbi Katz

5th graders respond to poem with illustration

Poetry brings us together as a community of readers, writers, and thinkers. While I’ve enjoyed working out ways to use poetry for daily reading these past few years, I haven’t done as much with writing poetry on a regular basis. This year, I am going to find small ways to tuck in a poetry writing routine. I learned a lot last year with my predominately English language learners about the payoff with poetry writing for language development. I will be posting more about this topic and my experiences as I work it into instruction this year.

Here are a few of my favorite poetry books:

one part of my poetry bookshelf

one part of my poetry bookshelf

Poetry bookshelf

Poetry bookshelf

August 14, 2015
by mnosal

Poetry Friday Delight


Thanks this week to My Juicy Little Universe for hosting Poetry Friday. I have chosen a poem about writing by one of my very favorite writers, Naomi Shihab Nye. I was browsing through some of my collected poems, and this is the poem that spoke to me for this week. I am thinking ahead to school and the writing that I want to do with my students, and this poem inspires me to write. Maybe it will do the same for you! Have a great weekend!  😉


The Time

Naomi Shihab Nye

Summer is the time to write. I tell myself this

in winter especially. Summer comes,

I want to tumble with the river

over rocks and mossy dams.


A fish drifting upside down.

Slow accordions sweeten the breeze.


The Sanitary Mattress Factory says,

“Sleep is Life.”

Why do I think of forty ways to spend an afternoon?


Yesterday someone said, “It gets late so early.”

I wrote it down. I was going to do something with it.

Maybe it is a title and this life is the poem.



August 7, 2015
by mnosal

Poetry Friday in August already!


I have been enjoying the summer so much, and have especially enjoyed taking time to read a lot of books that sort of rushed through when I first got them, and then put on the shelf. One such book that I am very fond of is Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems by Paul Janeczko. If you are looking for a lovely, well-curated collection of poems for the year, you will not be disappointed. Janeczko is brilliant, and Melissa Sweet’s illustrations are colorful and enchanting. I collect poetry anthologies, and this is my new favorite 🙂

Great collection of poems!!

Great collection of poems!!

I was in the mood for Emily Dickinson this week, and so the poem I am sharing is from the “Summer” section of  the book:

The Moon was but a Chin of Gold by Emily Dickinson
The Moon was but a Chin of Gold
A Night or two ago —
And now she turns Her perfect Face
Upon the World below –Her Forehead is of Amplest Blonde —
Her Cheek — a Beryl hewn —
Her Eye unto the Summer Dew
The likest I have known –Her Lips of Amber never part —
But what must be the smile
Upon Her Friend she could confer
Were such Her Silver Will —

And what a privilege to be
But the remotest Star —
For Certainty She take Her Way
Beside Your Palace Door —

read the rest here and you can also see her manuscript in these archives!

July 31, 2015
by mnosal

Poetry Friday – goodbye July!




My poem to share this week is an old favorite poem for mid-summer from a wonderful book of poems by James Stevenson:


















James Stevenson

Sweet Corn Poems,204,203,200_.jpg

October 30, 2014
by mnosal

Poetry Friday




For this week’s Poetry Friday, I chose this poem by one of my favorite poets. If you have a few moments to poke around the poetry foundation resources, read her bio. She is one of my writer heroes. Enjoy the poem, and Happy Friday!

October- Midst, by Eve Merriam

The mornings careless, sun-sprawled, radical with light,

Roller-coaster air: plunging to bottomless bright

Then giddying climb to shattering sky-sight


Trees carnival with color, the circus wind through all,

And I the acrobat along the slack wire crawl

The net of job below daily to fall


January 3, 2014
by mnosal

Poetry Friday!

Poetry Friday Roundup

This seems to be a fitting poem for today, and is a favorite of mine anytime of the year!

By Billy Collins

Today we woke up to a revolution of snow,
its white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished,
not a single mouse to punctuate the blankness,
and beyond these windows
the government buildings smothered,
schools and libraries buried, the post office lost
under the noiseless drift,
the paths of trains softly blocked,
the world fallen under this falling.
In a while, I will put on some boots
and step out like someone walking in water,
and the dog will porpoise through the drifts,
and I will shake a laden branch
sending a cold shower down on us both.
But for now I am a willing prisoner in this house,
a sympathizer with the anarchic cause of snow.
I will make a pot of tea
and listen to the plastic radio on the counter,
as glad as anyone to hear the news
that the Kiddie Corner School is closed,
the Ding-Dong School, closed.
the All Aboard Children’s School, closed,
the Hi-Ho Nursery School, closed,
along with—some will be delighted to hear—
the Toadstool School, the Little School,
Little Sparrows Nursery School,
Little Stars Pre-School, Peas-and-Carrots Day School
the Tom Thumb Child Center, all closed,
and—clap your hands—the Peanuts Play School.
click on the title to read the rest of this wonderful poem! Thank you, Billy Collins!
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