Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Swan Song

Readers Guide by Catherine Pendergrass

 Lewis, J. Patrick, Swan Song. Illustrated by Christopher Wormell. Manka to: Creative Editions, 2003. ISBN: 1-56846-175-5

Recommended for ages 5 and up

            Lewis provides a chronological explanation for the elimination of over twenty species in poetic form. Poems vary in form, pattern, and shape. However, the all work together to deliver the same message: we have lost so much already. These poems are accompanied by a timeline at that bottom. This timeline provides a sequence of events that were occurring at the same time the species was eliminated. The timeline makes readers aware of the impact of humans on the animal world.

Review excerpts:
            School Library Journal:
            Some are simple tributes to their subjects, and occasional wordplay or wry humor lightens the mood. Lewis favors rhyming alternate lines, often lapsing into repetitious rhythm, though he sometimes makes a welcome break into varied poetic forms. Wormell's woodcuts provide realistic portraits.

            Publishers Weekly
            Paying homage to extinct animals, Wormell's (An Alphabet of Animals ) extraordinary wood engravings for this handsomely designed, oversize volume may exceed the expectations of even his most ardent admirers.

Awards for the Book:
            ASPCA Henry Bergh Children's Book Awards

Questions to ask before reading the book:
·         What do you know about extinction?
o   Ask students this question so that you can explore what they know or need to know before you read them poems for the book.
·         What happens to animals when they are over hunted?
o   This would be a leading question if students have limited knowledge of extinction.
·         What is your favorite animal besides your pet and what role does that animal play in his or her ecosystem?
o   This question will require students to think about the animals they see each day and begin their thinking about what is lost when an animal is removed from an ecosystem
·         Think of an animal or a pet. What does the world look like from that animal's point of view?
o    Having students draw this could be impactful. This question requires students to think use creativity and to think outside of their world. It might also generate more empathy for animals in students who are less inclined to be empathetic.

Suggestions for reading poems aloud:
·         Select one poem and assign lines to students. Have each read their line out loud. Getting students involved in an oral reading increases student buy in to learning opportunites.
·         Display Wormell's drawings and/or actual photographs of the species addressed in the poem to insure that listeners understand the authenticity of the topic of the poem and book.
·         Be sure to utilize the provided timeline. Create a visual of the human impact by displaying human actions at the same time period of animal extinction.
o    If your class is studying a specific time period in history, be sure to pick the appropriate animal and discuss how the actions of humans impacted that animals extinction.

Follow up activities:
·         Have students complete internet or library research about one of the species and present it to the class in the form of a poster, pamphlet or original poem.
·         Have students research current endangered species and what can or is being done to protect or further endanger those species. Final products of this research should be in a form that can be publicized at the school or on the web, such as a poster, bulletin board, VoiceThread or posting on the school's or teacher's website.
·         Have students write a short story in which one of the extinct animals is the main character. In the story, make sure students discuss the animal's habitat and what happened to it.

Related Web sites/ blogs
To focus on animal extinction:
·         An endangered species slide show on the US Fish and Wildlife Service Kids Page titled "Endangered Means There is Still Time."
·         This website provides information about extinct species, including lists of recently extinct species and threatened species.
·         Links to recent blog posts about extinction or helping endangered species are provided as well as wildlife tracking reports form conservations sites.
·         Though this is an activist group that asks for donations, the website provides information on current endangered species and links to several blog posts.

Lesson plans and materials for teachers on endangered species:
·         The content of National Geographic's "Xpeditions Archive" lesson plans varies by grade level. The website provides a wide range of science lessons from a Kindergarten through second grade lesson titled "Fish Aren't Afraid of the Dark" to a high school lesson titled "The Human Role in Dog Evolution." Lesson plans are linked to National Science Education Standards.
·         This website provided pintables of coloring pages for younger animals learning about endangered species or extinction.
·         This lesson requires students to explore some of the reasons that animals become extinct and identify some of the things people can do to prevent endangered animals from becoming extinct.
·         This lesson plan asks students to use background knowledge and write a letter to an animal in poetic form.

Related books:
Jolivet, Joelle. Zoo-Ology. New York: Roaring Brook Press, 2003. ISBN: 978-0-7613-2780-6
Elliot, David. In the Wild. Illustrated by Holly Meade. Candlewick Press, 2010. ISBN: 978-0-7636-4497-0
Sidman, Joyce. Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night. Illustrated by Rick Allen. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2010. ISBN: 978-0-547-52922-6
Wormell, Christopher. An Alphabet of Animals. New York: Running Press Kids, 2006. ISBN: 978-0762427299,

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