A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt, Guests-Ken Slesarik and His 1st-Grade Poets

Ants may rule the hill, but they don’t rule here! Art by Landon (Click to Enlarge)
Ants may rule the hill, but they don’t rule here! Art by Landon (Click to Enlarge)

Hello, Great Readers of our series! Just In case you haven’t visited before, let me tell you a little about A Great Nephew and A Great Aunt. My great nephew, Landon (a sixth-grader) and I (his great aunt) collaborate. I write a poem which he illustrates. We started this collaboration in the fall of 2014 and have had so much fun with it that we decided to invite others along. Landon and I will continue to have a new episode on the second Friday of each month. The other Fridays are filling up quickly with guests.

I have created a page on my website to view all the episodes of A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt. Click HERE to visit the page and enjoy past episodes.

Every guest episode is delightful. But today’s episode is extra special due to the number of collaborators. Prepare to be wowed!

It’s my pleasure to share a creative collaboration from . . .

Ken Slesarik and His 1st-Grade Poets

From Ken: My after-school poetry club called “Poetry Rocks!” at Esperanza Elementary school in Phoenix, Arizona was inspired by children’s author Janet Wong‘s enthusiasm for promoting the genre and is designed to introduce core aspects of poetry to children in grades 1st through 6th while teaching them self-confidence.

Our Process in this collaboration was to read and discuss Laura Purdie Salas’ book “Water Can Be” with my 1st-grade group so we would have a model in which to frame our poem. We wrote it together after brainstorming ideas about a typical 1st-grade child and I would suggest an idea or rhyme and try to give just enough support and guidance to complete our poem. Some of the words are slang, but I think I have the common spellings. The artwork was a challenge at first because some of the kids would rush, but I’m very pleased with the final results. Each of my twelve 1st-grade students came up with a line and the corresponding artwork page so it truly was a collaboration. We hope you enjoy our efforts.

The Collaborative Poem
Poetry Rocks: 1st-Grade PoetsSlide1

The Art
Poetry Rocks: 1st-Grade Artists
Final Art
scaredy cat
spoiled bratcandy muncher

numbers cruncher

book reader

picky eater

dirt playerpoem sayerstory tellerflower smellercrazy wilddelightful child

And here’s all the artwork together.
artwork in grouping

A Glimpse Into the Collaboration Phases

The group was inspired by Water Can Be by Laura Purdie Salas.


Handwritten Poem

hand written poem

Artwork Planning

beginning art process

Enjoy these photos of Ken and the collaborators.Slide1

group serious



Many, many thanks to Ken and his 1st graders for being a part of the series. This collaboration makes my heart sing!

kenMeet Ken: Ken Slesarik is a special education teacher and children’s poet from Phoenix, Arizona. His “Heroes and Poets” assembly program has been well received by teachers, students, parents and administrators. When not teaching or visiting schools, Ken writes poetry for children with poems published in The Poetry Friday Anthology K-5 Edition, The Poetry Friday Anthology For Middle School, The Poetry Friday Anthology For Science, The Poetry Friday Anthology For Celebrations and Dear Tomato: An International Crop of Food and Agriculture Poems, two upcoming anthologies as well as an animal collection called Creatures, Critters, Beasts and Varmints. Ken’s mission is to empower students through the medium of poetry and he is a poetry advocate to children and teachers alike. For more information, please visit http://kenslesarik.com

Thanks to Robyn Hood Black for hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup at Life on the Deckle Edge. If you’d like to know more about Poetry Friday, click HERE for an explanation by Renee LaTulippe.poetry friday button


83 thoughts on “A Great Nephew and a Great Aunt, Guests-Ken Slesarik and His 1st-Grade Poets

  1. So fun to meet Ken! His enthusiasm for kids and poetry is obvious all over this page. The artwork shines. The poetry inspires. Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I completely can. It contains many of her moods. I read one of your critique ninja posts on 12 x 12. I thought you were spot on. Truly fabulous. I appreciate that Julie Hedlund has added the ninjas. Thank you for being one.


  2. These are marvelous, Penny and Ken. My first loves as a teacher were first graders, and now my granddaughter is a first grader. Their art just makes me smile every time. The collaboration is lovely. A favorite quote from Milne for you: “Now I am six, and clever as clever. I think I’ll be six forever and ever.” Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Just Terrific!! All the students did such a wonderful job. Bravo to teacher Ken. What a great way to teach kids to love poetry.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Renee! For several of the kids this is their main area to shine each day and I try to remember that and hope that they will remember me years from now.


    1. Thank you Janet! The group from last year remembers you and I just put two of your books that you signed for me in gift buckets as an incentive for our state testing next month.


  4. Wow — the energy of the classroom is reaching through the screen and grabbing me right now. What an amazing post, Ken and Penny. I am in love with these illustrations and poem. I’m going to share this post with some of the schools I work with.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. LOVE this, Penny! And you can really see how they were inspired by Laura’s poetry from the book. The art is so bright, and lively too–wonderful! Thanks for sharing & thank you to Mr. Slesarik & the poetry rockers. You ROCK!! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. (Hooting & clapping wildly…) CONGRATS to these young poets and artists and fearless leader, Ken! What a terrific, joy-filled poem and collection of illustrations they’ve produced. I’m in the midst of a similar kind of project with my daughter’s third graders, also ignited by Janet Wong (who directly and indirectly helps turns countless kids into “Poem Sayers.”) Thanks for sharing, Penny!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Turning countless kids into “Poem Sayers”: LOVE thinking of my work that way! Thank you, Robyn–can’t wait to see what comes of the project that you and your daughter’s third graders are doing together!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. What an inspiring post! I love your first graders’ poem and their artwork. We read and enjoy poems all year long in my class, but are heading into a focused poetry unit in a week or so. My mind is already buzzing thinking about how I could incorporate some of your wonderful ideas and Laura’s book! Thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Aww thanks Jane! I really enjoy facilitating the poetry club. I can be super tired at the end of the day but I sort of come alive when my groups get together.


  8. I love that the kids go so totally into this! Way to go, Ken. And by the way, when I first read it, I thought it said “Poem slayer” – which is actually kind of true, since they completely SLAYED this project!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Wowee. Wowee, wow, wow. I sometimes do We Can Be… poems with a large group, but those are always first drafts done in just a few minutes, and we don’t do the rhyme. I have been wanting to try a rhymed version with a class–and you’ve shown exactly how much fun it can be! I love the sassiness of this. It’s not all sanitized like a Hallmark card–instead, it’s an “I own it” declaration of a few elements of the wild and fabulous life of a 1st grader. The rhythm. The humor. The ART! Holy moley. I am tickled and honored, and I absolutely adore it. Way to go Ken and all you crazy wild 1st graders!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Laura, I’ve read about your Can Be poems with groups on your blog. I have an idea of my own to use with a group if I get asked to do a workshop. So far, my visits have been with large groups…but I’ve tucked away my idea based on your Can Be books for someday 😀
      Thanks, for coming by.


    2. At first there was some resistance to the “Scaredy cat” and “Spoiled brat” lines.When I explained that we can all be a scaredy cat or spoiled in the moment but that is not who we are it made all the difference in keeping those lines and owning it as you say. It was a great experience Laura and thanks for writing the book!


  10. What a super fun group and an AWESOME illustrated poem. I love first graders and I think they are delicious! They taste like gum and dirt and French fries and Barbie dolls and footballs. Yum!

    Love and licks,

    Liked by 2 people

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