February 08, 2014

Heartbeat-Poetry Mentor Text

We finished the figurative language unit that we had been working on since we got back from break, and we made a seamless transition into our poetry unit.  Every year, after we review the characteristics of poetry (using my Poetry Unit Bundle), I like to use a novel written in poems to provide some poetry inspiration for my students.  Since I used my "go to" novel, Love That Dog last year (and I have the same students this year), I had to find another novel. Luckily, after some research online, I found a fabulous poetry novel (is that even what they're called?) ...Heartbeat!  Heartbeat was written by the same author as Love That Dog, Sharon Creech.

What is Heartbeat about?
Heartbeat is about a girl named Annie who is dealing with three big issues in her life: 1. Her mother being pregnant, 2. Her grandfather having Alzheimer's, 3. Her relationship with her friend Max (and their love of running). Creech jumps back and forth between these three issues throughout the poems in the novel.  

Why do I love Heartbeat?
1. Well, the main reason I love Heartbeat is because it provided my students with excellent examples of free verse poems!  It even inspired me to try my hand at free verse (see below for a freebie). 

2. Creech does a fantastic job of including figurative language in her poems.  There are so many examples of similes, metaphors, onomatopoeia, etc.  

3. The book provides an excellent example of symbolism.  We hadn't talked about symbolism yet, so when we got to the end of the novel, it was a great time to cover that concept!  During the novel, Annie is given an assignment by her art teacher to draw the same apple every day for 100 days.  She notices the changes in her apple, and the last poem ends with a description of the last picture, which is a seed.  You'll see where the symbolism ties in in just a second...My students and I had a discussion about the cover/back cover of the novel.  There's an apple on the front and a core on the back. You realize by the end of the novel that the apple seems to represent her grandfather's decline in health, and the seed could represent new life, or her baby brother, Joey.

*We later tied in this new concept of symbolism to the poem "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost.  I told my students that it was a tougher poem for 5th grade, but some students were able to figure out that the roads mentioned in the poem represented choices/decisions in life.

How did I use Heartbeat in my classroom?
We started each class by reading about 25 pages of the novel.  Therefore, it took us eight days to read. Since it is written in poems, it didn't take very long (maybe 10-15 minutes/day). Our purpose for reading was enjoyment, so I didn't want to have my students analyze the poetry too much.  Before we read the novel, we discussed what Alzheimer's was, since it isn't expressly referred to in the novel (though it can be inferred). We also reviewed the main events from the previous day's reading and discussed symbolism. This past week, we did move on to analyzing poetry (which will be featured in my next blog post).

Click HERE for a great resource for Heartbeat (made by Scholastic).

Here is a freebie that contains a free verse poem I wrote.  I will be writing another blog post soon that covers how we analyzed poems in class, as well as my students' progress on their own poetry books!

Also, I recently joined Instagram...@middlegradesmaven!

Must-Read Monday Linky


  1. I am checking this book out right now! It sounds like a wonderful read and a great teaching tool. Sharon Creech is an amazing author. Thanks for the recommendation!

    Sara :)
    The Colorful Apple