Laura Purdie Salas

writing the world for kids

Laura Purdie Salas

Poetry Friday – A Daughter Can Be…

September 18, 2014

Happy Poetry Friday! I don’t often write poems or verses for specific people. Well, I do, occasionally, but I don’t give it to them–I’m too self-conscious to do that. I’ve written poems for/about both my daughters but don’t think I’ve ever shared them. However, inspired by Renee LaTulippe’s lovely take on my Can Be… books last week, I decided to write a Can Be… poem for our younger daughter, Maddie, who left Wednesday for six months in Scotland. Six. Months. I also wrote her a letter sharing what specific memories I was thinking of as I wrote each line. Although many of the memories, like the way she wore her first communion dress when we went out to fancy dinners for years after her first communion, and the dress kept getting shorter and shorter on her, are, by now, family legend. Anyway, I gave her this laminated photo/poem to take with her.

This was so much fun–thank you, Renee, for inspiring me to actually share a poem written for someone I love. It doesn’t flow as smoothly as a Can Be… book would have to, but the memories it captures make up for that in this case.

Maddie Can Be...

Photo of Maddie by Dack Nehring Text by Laura Purdie Salas All rights reserved

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater (I love FOREST HAS A SONG!) has a really heartfelt poem on her blog, where she is hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup at The Poem Farm today. Enjoy:>)




Beads [15 words or less]

September 18, 2014

Photo: Laura Purdie Salas

Wake up your poetry brains with 15 Words or Less (guidelines here)!


Here’s a pic from a chandelier in our hotel on our recent drum corps trip to NY. This image makes me think of:

1) Bubbles in the sea
2) a super-fancy necklace (hey, anybody remember the Empress Carlotta (sp?) episode of the Dick Van Dyke show?)
3) fish eggs

And here’s my first draft:

Mermaid Tears

I miss you so much

My tears rise and grow legs

to pace the empty shore

–Laura Purdie Salas, all rights reserved

Now it’s your turn! Have fun and stick to 15 WORDS OR LESS!  (Title doesn’t count toward word count:>) 



Flowerful Flood (a What’s Inside poem)

September 17, 2014

Hi, teachers! Here’s the answering quatrain to yesterday’s What’s Inside couplet!



Petals like velvet, the color of blood,

that fill up the breeze with a soft sweet perfume

will flow down the hill in a flowerful flood

as sunshine uncurls, unfurls each bloom



A Note from the Poet:

My favorite words in a poem are almost always the unexpected ones. In this poem, I think I used two of them: “blood” and “flowerful.” I needed “blood” for the rhyme, but I also liked the idea of using blood as a beautiful color, not as something bad or violent. And I liked “flowerful,” because 1) making up words is fun, and 2) it reminds me of the word “powerful,” and it makes me see a huge flood of flowers!




What’s Inside This Bud?

September 16, 2014

Hi, teachers! Here’s another couplet from my What’s Inside? Poems to Explore the Park project. Stay tuned tomorrow for the answering quatrain:>)



What’s inside of a tightly closed bud,

this tip of this stick sticking out of the mud?





A Note from the Poet:


I love assonance, which is repeated vowel sounds. Do you hear all the /i/ sounds in the second line? Repeating “stick”—as both a noun and a verb—was also fun.



Poetry Friday – What’s Inside This Egg? by Laura Purdie Salas

September 11, 2014

Happy Poetry Friday! Today I’m sharing a What’s Inside question couplet and its quatrain answer. This is a bit out of a forthcoming poetry collection I’m putting together for teachers.

Egg Like a Gem


What’s inside of this shell, blue and sleek?
This egg like a gem in a color unique?


A Note from the Poet:

The thing that makes a robin’s egg stand out is the gorgeous color of it, so I really wanted to emphasize that in this opening couplet.


And the answering quatrain:


Flightless and Sightless


At just the right moment, the robin’s egg hatches—
A struggling baby, clumsy and weak
It’s flightless and sightless, with feathers in patches,
And begs for a worm with its wide, waiting beak

–Laura Purdie Salas, all rights reserved




A Note from the Poet:

Interior rhymes rock! Sometimes I have two words that I want to be rhymes in a poem, but I can’t make the lines hit the right beats. They just sound awkward. So then I might use the words in the same line, like “flightless and sightless.”

Here I am reading these two bits. And the wonderful Renée LaTulippe has the Poetry Friday Roundup–enjoy! Oh! Renée is sharing her own writing about her sons, who start preschool Monday, AND SHE USED A LEAF CAN BE… AND WATER CAN BE… AS HER INSPIRATION! This is so lovely–what a wonderful Poetry Friday surprise!

Niagara Falls [15 words or less]

September 11, 2014

Niagara Falls

Photo: Laura Purdie Salas

Wake up your poetry brains with 15 Words or Less (guidelines here)!


Here’s a pic from our amazing overnight Niagara Falls stop that Randy and I made on our way home from drum corps championships in Rochester, NY. (I shared more pics on my Facebook Page and also on my Water board in Pinterest.)

Follow Laura’s board Water, Water, All Around on Pinterest.

This image makes me think of:

1) Tub toys (that’s the Canadian version there of the American Maid of the Mist boat–the Maid boats hold 600 people each–just to give you an idea of the scope)
2) a nature disaster movie–specifically, Anaconda, for some reason
3) someone going over in a barrel in a search for a pot of gold

And here’s my first draft:

Sometimes a Leprechaun Deserves Hazard Pay

white oak wooden vessel
plunges me and my gold
toward the cold
Niagara rainbow

–Laura Purdie Salas, all rights reserved

Now it’s your turn! Have fun and stick to 15 WORDS OR LESS!  (Title doesn’t count toward word count:>) 


Changing to Moth (a What’s Inside poem)

September 10, 2014

Hi, teachers! Here’s the answering quatrain to yesterday’s What’s Inside couplet!


Changing to Moth


Caterpillar started out, spring green and bright,

It’s changing to moth, it’s arriving quite soon

With pale wings to flutter through silvery night

And flash in the path of the cool distant moon






A Note from the Poet:

I thought about the cocoon being for a butterfly. But I had “moon” on my list of rhyming words that I might use, and butterflies don’t do anything at night—and they create a chrysalis, not a cocoon. But night is when moths are active, so—ta-da!—I changed my butterfly to a moth.


What’s Inside This Paper Balloon?

September 9, 2014

Hi, teachers! I’m working on a new project, to be unveiled soon, and I’m going to be sharing bits of it here over the next couple of weeks. Here’s a couplet question. Stay tuned tomorrow for the answering quatrain:>)


What’s inside of this tiny cocoon?

This soft, silky, fuzzy, white, paper balloon?





A Note from the Poet:

I liked comparing the cocoon to a balloon not just for the rhyme (though that is certainly helpful!), but also because both a cocoon and a balloon are so temporary. They only last a little while, and then they’re gone.

A Can Be… Nonfiction Project for Schools

September 7, 2014

What did I do this summer? I spent three weeks with K-5 summer school students in a local school district. It was the most intense visiting author program I’ve ever done. Three weeks, four sites, 1700 students. Whew! It was hard work and incredibly rewarding. I shared this process in my Salas Snippets e-letter for educators last month (you can subscribe here), but then I decided to share it here on my blog, too. Maybe this would be a nonfiction project you’d like to undertake with your own students in this new school year?

Having students use A LEAF CAN BE… and WATER CAN BE… as mentor texts for their own Can Be… books felt amazing. Here’s a video about the whole process–check out the students’ awesome work!

And here’s a short article a local paper did about the program.
Maybe you’re interested in creating Can Be… books with your students? If so, here are a few resources:

* the teaching guide, which suggests a Can Be… book and includes a few binding ideas and one template page

* a template page for primary grades


Sample Can Be… page for primary classes

* a sample page for primary students

a template page for upper elementary students

* a sample page for upper elementary students

And here are some basic steps, though you can, of course, adjust these to fit your specific group of kids!

1. Students each pick a broad TOPIC to explore. Good choices would be an animal (though if it’s an animal they don’t know well, more research will be involved), a basic nature object (a stick, the sun, a bug), or a manmade but VERY general object like paper, or a box.

2. Then students ASK questions about their object. You can read them some questions to get them started. They should jot down questions or you could keep a running list posted in your room. Here are some examples:

  • What does it do that helps us?
  • What does it do that is not so great?
  • What does it do in the morning? Afternoon? Evening?
  • What does it do in the summer? Fall? Winter? Spring?
  • Where does it go?
  • What does it eat?
3. Then they READ and LOOK to find answers to the questions they choose. Not every kid will answer every question. Not all the questions apply to different objects. You will decide how much to focus on using the library to research their topics or using simple observation.


4. Each student WRITES down their list of answers as they find them. For instance, say a kid chose a kitten. His answer list might look like this:


A kitten sleeps a lot.
A kitten drinks milk.
A kitten purrs.
A kitten wakes me up in the morning.
A kitten cries.


5. Show kids how to MAKE -ER SENTENCES. This involves:
  • finding the action word, the verb (sleeps)
  • inserting “can be a” after the topic word (kitten)
  • turning the action word into an -er word (sleeper)
  • adding other words to give detail if you like (long sleeper? heavy sleeper? snoring sleeper?
  • rearranging the words to make the sentence work (A kitten can be a heavy sleeper.)

Learning how to make the -er sentences was a blast for kids. I brought lots of colored sheets of paper with words written on them for examples. Then I used volunteers to come form the sentence. So five kids would stand in front, each holding a piece of paper with a word on it–A, kitten, sleeps, a, lot.


Then I would ask, “OK, what do we need in every sentence for our Can Be… book?” They would holler “can be a!” So I’d get three more volunteers to hold those papers and they’d skooch in after “A kitten.”

Then I’d say, “Where’s our action word?” And once they figured it out, I’d have the “sleeps” volunteer hold up his paper high and spin around a time or two.

Ready to build some -er sentences!

“How are we going to change our action word?” When I called on a student who said “add -er,” that person became my -er volunteer. They’d take the -er paper and find the action word and connect the two papers (sometimes the -er paper needs to cover the end of the action word–for instance, to cover the silent e at the end of “wake”).

Then we’d rearrange the words to make a sentence that follows the can be… format, and some volunteers would be sent back to their seats with a thank you and a cheer if their words didn’t make it into the final sentence. Other words might need to be added.

Ready for volunteers

It was really interactive having the kids moving around, holding their papers, and transforming their sentences. They loved bossing the words around– being in charge of them!

By the time we did four or five samples (including taking a sentence or two from a volunteer’s list of simple sentences), everybody was pretty clear on how to do this.

How long you want their CAN BE… books to be is totally up to you. Maybe it’s a classroom book and everyone does one page. Maybe each student creates her own. For primary grades, you might have to help more with the -er sentence forms, though I was surprised at how many kids that young still got it. Other primary teachers decided not to use the actual -er form and just focused on naming different roles of common objects. There was a lot of variety in these books, as you can see in the video, so it’s a really adaptable project.

The kids created amazing Can Be… books!

I hope to do this project at more schools, and I’d actually like to put together a project booklet giving these details to teachers anywhere who are interested in doing Can Be… books at their schools. If you end up making Can Be… books with students, I’d love any tips or pictures you’d care to share. Thanks!

Check out the Nonfiction Monday Roundup–it’s on a public Facebook Page this week (viewable whether you have a Facebook account or not):