Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School

National Poetry Month: The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School Poet-a-Palooza (Act II)








Did you miss ACT I? See it here!


SCENE 1: Poems from Mrs. Skelly’s and Mrs. Luke-Byk’s Fourth-Grade Students
SCENE 2: Four Show-Stopping Poetry Videos:
CURTAIN CALL: All the PFAMS Poets Take Another Bow

Intermission: Lobby Chat

In case you arrived late and missed Act I of the PFAMS Poet-a-Palooza, we are celebrating the release of The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong.

I forgot to mention that I have two poems in this anthology, too, which officially marks my first appearance in an anthology! That is pretty dang exciting for me. Next week, I’ll be sharing my PFAMS poem “Opening Night.” I shot it in a real theatre and everything, so I hope you’ll stop by.

And I just realized that the PFAMS colors — purple and gold — are the school colors for my hometown Salem Generals! How fortuitous that I should re-find Mrs. Skelly just for this post.

Curtain up!

 SCENE 1: Poems from Mrs. Skelly’s and Mrs. Luke-Byk’s Fourth-Grade Students

In Act I of the PFAMS Poet-a-Palooza, fourth-grade teacher Mary Skelly gave us a peek into her ELA classes and how she is using The Poetry Friday Anthology books with her students.

Today, the students would like to share some of their poems with us. Look at those happy poetry faces!

Mary Skelly's 4th grade class
Students from Mrs. Skelly’s and Mrs. Luke-Byk’s fourth grade classes pose with their PFA poems

For this particular exercise, Mary followed the Take 5 activities for Jacqueline Jules’s poem “Running Back” and then had students write their own free verse poems about the sports or activities of their choice.

Free Verse - Mrs. Skelly 1

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by Joey

He’s holding a .22 shotgun,
up in the tree wearing green camouflage.
He can see a 12 pointer.
He picks up the gun and lines it up.
The feeling is so great that the
deer is down on the ground.
Now your family has something to

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by Tyler

When I’m on the dance pad
I get nervous
I don’t know if my
will beat me.
I’m on Basic level, my opponent
is on beginner. The colors
on the screen are bright,
when the arrows match to the top of the screen,
I stomp on the arrow.
The song ends.
We look at the scrores,
I lost, but still had fun,
when I was dancing.


One of the most exciting things about Mary’s experience with PFA/PFAMS is that, although the reading levels in her class run from mid first grade to ninth grade, every single student — including the non-readers — was engaged in the lesson and produced a poem to share.

Free Verse Mrs. Skelly 3

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by Matty

Flips down the balance beam.
Jumping, running, getting ready,
wearing my suit, blue and white
running down the tumble track.
You do a flip
You land it.
feels like a tingle through your body
What I do when I’m afraid
I just think how good I feel,
when I am finished.
People cheer
at the end there is a trophy.

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by Logan

Walking on the field
with my helmet and my favorite bat,
and my uniform covered in black,
I’m the first to bat.
I feel the adrenaline rush.
I hit the ball,
it goes out of the park,
Running around the bases
I run right past the people.
Diving toward bases.
I finally reach home.
Slide toward the base.
Home run!
Everyone cheered
“We win!”


These kids are excited about poetry now! They’re reading, discussing, writing, sharing, and just having fun with language. And look, they even wrote “Inspired by Jacqueline Jules” at the bottom of each poem. Aw!

Free Verse Mrs. Skelly 4



SCENE 2: Four Show-Stopping Poetry Videos

We already saw five amazing poets in Act I, but that just didn’t seem like enough, did it? So joining in on the Poet-a-Palooza part of the post are four more PFAMS poets ready to give you the old razzle dazzle. Take it away, poets!


…teaches on the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts in their MFA Writing for Children program. She has published four books of poetry for children: On the Stairs, Have You Ever Done That?, Yellow Elephant: A Bright Bestiary (a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book), and Imaginary Menagerie: A Book of Curious Creatures. She is the winner of a Pushcart Prize and has been included twice in the annual Best American Poetry series for her poetry for adults, and was granted a fellowship by the Washington State Arts Commission/Artist Trust. Composer Dag Gabrielson commissioned her pocket-opera libretto, which was performed by members of the New York City Opera for their 2011 Vox Series. Recent poems for children have appeared in several anthologies.

Visit Julie at her blog The Drift Record.


Saturday morning means I buy pan dulce
with Tio Chepe and my cousin Lucesita
whose name means “Little Light”–
that’s what I call her, and she laughs
and pinches me and calls me “Peace”
because my name is Paz.

In the panaderia even the pastries
have names that mean other things:
Little Horns, Little Shells, Sandals,
Bowties, Braids, and Coco Cookies,
Little Corn, Little Pigs–
everything in Spanish sounds like a song:
Cuernitos, Conchitas, Huaraches, Corbatas,
Trenzas, Cocadas, Elotitos, Cochinitos.

Saturday mornings, Saturday mornings,
that’s what I sing because I love pan dulce
and sometimes English can be a song, too.
Tio Chepe, Tio Chepe, Uncle Joey, Uncle Joey,
buy me, please, an Ojo de Buey,
the Eye of a Bull on a Saturday morning!

Tio Chepe picks out a bagful–
this one, that one, that one, this one,
while I sing, and Little Light flirts
with the boy behind the counter
whose name is Jesus.



…is a former elementary teacher and children’s poet from Middlebury, Vermont who is sometimes introduced as a 4th-grader stuck in a grown-up’s body. Ted, whose last name is pronounced “shy,” started writing funny poems seriously about 20 years ago. His poems are published in two dozen anthologies in the U.S. and in England, and in four recent collections called I Froze My Mother, I Tickled My TeachersI Threw My Brother Out, and the newest, for slightly younger readers, Now I Know My ZBCs: 59 School Poems for Young Gigglers. Ted spends about 100 days a year visiting schools around the world. He shares his poems and helps young writers find their voices, having the kind of fun with poems he never had as a kid. He tries to write a poem every day, and when he’s not writing or visiting schools, he loves to eat cereal with lots of milk, and ride his bike–just like any kid his age.

If you haven’t ventured yet to Ted’s website, you’re in for a tickle when you do. Ted and his “cousins” will entertain you for hours if you just remember that his target audience is 5-9 year olds. It’s all at www.poetryguy.com.


I know I’m going somewhere,
and I can hardly wait.
Somewhere’s not the sort of place
where someone should be late.

I’m leaving soon for somewhere.
I’ll ride my bike, I guess.
It all depends where somewhere is–
if it is far, or less.

I’m sure I’m going somewhere.
I’m finally on my way.
I hope I find that it’s the kind
of place I’d like to stay.

I wish I had directions
to show me how to go.
If you’ve been somewhere recently
please call and let me know.

Why, we could go together there,
around each bump and bend.
Somewhere seems much closer
when you go there with a friend.


Leslie Bulion


…teams a life-long love of poetry and her science background in her gruesomely funny, award-winning poetry collections including At the Sea Floor Cafe: Odd Ocean Critter Poems, Hey There, Stink Bug!and the upcoming Random Body Parts: Gross Anatomy Riddles in Verse. Her other books include the middle-grade novels The Universe of Fair, Uncharted Waters, and The Trouble With Rules, and her picture book Fatuma’s New Cloth. A former school social worker with a graduate degree in oceanography, Leslie has written and edited books in the education market and has written nationally for parents and educators. She gives writing workshops and presentations to students, educators, and writers throughout the U.S.

Learn more about Leslie at www.LeslieBulion.com.


This vulture
on chickeny feet
and doesn’t tweet
or cluck
or peep
or cheep.
It hisses and grunts
and hunts
on the fly
on thermals of air
with its head scaly red
and wrinkly
and bare.
Its keen nose
knows aromas
from way up there
of detectable
to share,
so things
(or deader)
had better




…has been writing and performing poetry and fiction for over 20 years. He has become a fixture in the poetry and education community, performing and teaching in over 140 cities in 26 countries. He is the founder and director of the Nova Lizard project, a seminal performance troupe in Cleveland, Ohio and chief facilitator of the teen writing and performance program at Cleveland’s Playhouse Square Foundation. Eight time captain and coach of the Cleveland Slam team that represented the city at the National Poetry Slam competition, Michael has also served as a consultant and board member to Poetry Slam, Inc., the governing body of Poetry Slams across the country.

Michael’s poetry collections include Stingray-New and Collected Poems (nominated for a Pushcart Prize), Neon, and Well Defined: Vocabulary in Rhyme, a collection of humorous poems defining S.A.T vocabulary words. He has co-authored three professional books, including the forthcoming High-Impact Writing Clinics: Classroom-Ready Lessons for Building Content Literacy Through Poetry, Grades 4-8 (Corwin Literacy), with Sara Holbrook with whom he lives in Ohio.

Learn more about Michael at his website at www.MichaelSalinger.com.


If I were a gear
I’d have teeth but not a toothbrush
I could mesh with other gears
I would turn in ratio
Depending on the size of my neighbor
If they were bigger
I’d be quicker
If they were smaller
I’d spin slower
I’d turn in the opposite direction
Of my partner near
But together as two gears
We’d get the job done
Whether used in a watch
A transmission or a winch
Remember to keep
Your fingers clear
Or else you just might
Get pinched.


Standing ovation! Thank you, poets, for contributing to Act II of the PFAMS poet-a-palooza and sharing your wonderful work with us!

The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School


One more time, here are the seventy-one poets who contributed to PFAMS. Please visit them and spread the word!

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Allan Wolf
Amy Ludwig VanDerwater 
Ann Whitford Paul
April Halprin Wayland
Avis Harley
Betsy Franco
Calef Brown
Carmen T. Bernier-Grand
Carole-Ann Hoyte
Carole Gerber
Charles Ghigna
Charles Waters
Cynthia Cotten
David L. Harrison
Debbie Levy
Deborah Chandra
Deborah Ruddell
Eileen Spinelli
Gail Carson Levine
George Ella Lyon
Georgia Heard
Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Heidi Mordhorst

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Heidi Bee Roemer
Holly Thompson
Irene Latham 
Jack Prelutsky
Janet Wong
Jane Yolen
Jacqueline Jules
Jeannine Atkins
Jen Bryant
Joan Bransfield Graham
Joseph Bruchac
Joy Acey
Joyce Sidman
J. Patrick Lewis
Julie Larios
Juanita Havill
Kate Coombs
Ken Slesarik
Kristy Dempsey
Laura Purdie Salas
Lee Wardlaw
Leslie Bulion
Lesléa Newman
Linda Kulp

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Lorie Ann Grover
Margarita Engle
Marilyn Nelson
Marilyn Singer
Mary Lee Hahn
Mary Quattlebaum
Michael J. Rosen
Michael Salinger
Monica Gunning
Naomi Shihab Nye
Nikki Grimes
Patricia Hubbell
Renée M. LaTulippe
Robert Weinstock
Robyn Hood Black
Sara Holbrook
Sonya Sones
Stephanie Calmenson
Stephanie Hemphill
Steven Withrow
Ted Scheu
Terry Webb Harshman
Virginia Euwer Wolff
X. J. Kennedy

Many, many thanks

to Mary Skelly and Tina Luke-Byk for sharing their students’ poems and helping promote poetry in the classroom

and to Julie Larios, Ted Scheu, Leslie Bulion, and Michael Salinger, and all the PFAMS poets for sharing your talents. Take a bow!


I will sleep late,
walk my dog,
ride my bike,
read for fun,
play some tunes,
text my friends,
meet at the mall…
hey, wait,
maybe I’ll do
nothing at all

–Stephanie Calmenson

The lovely diva Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge is lifting the curtain on Poetry Friday today. Go throw some roses at her!

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See more poems in my poetry video library.

All poems copyright 2013 by their respective authors.