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Song of the Water Boatman

Song of the Water Boatman

Author: Joyce Sidman
Illustrator: Beckie Prange
ISBN: 0618135472
Summary: Science facts combine with vivid poems about pond life through the seasons.

Literature Based Unit Study Written by Cindy Bronner with poetry lessons by Ami Brainerd

Language Arts

Poetry Lessons

I tried and tried to break this down by literary devices, elements of poetry, etc. instead of by poem, but I just kept going back to wanting to write a study for a few poems separately.  So, here you are:

Listen for Me
Poetry is all about language.  We are often pleased when we hear the same sounds, words, or phrases being used over and over again.  Look for repetition in the first poem of the book, "Listen for Me."  Read it together twice (aloud).  Give your student a copy of the printed poem.  Ask him to determine which word is being repeated in the first stanza.  Let him highlight all the "nights" in one color.  Then, let him pick another word that is repeated in the second stanza (thaws); highlight it in a different color.  Continue with each stanza (using a different color to highlight the repeated words.  The first and last stanzas should be highlighted in the same colors.  Why does the poet choose to use many of the same words in the first and last stanzas?  Why is the last line different?   It's possible that this poem is to be like a lullaby.  "I'll sing you to sleep" is more effective as a fresh last line than it would be if it were a repeated line from the first stanza. 

You don't want to kill the poems by studying every little word and rhyme; however, if your students have been exposed to the joy of poetry (tea-time readings, before bed readings, etc.), you can probably dive a little deeper and not be afraid of killing any poems.   I do want to caution you, though, to be sensitive to your students and note when they are ready to move on to the next poem.  Please present each poem as a gift to be enjoyed...not as a lesson that MUST be done (and dreaded).

So, if your students are still eager for more, note all the wonderful (but simple) describing words (adjectives) in the poem.   What words describe night?  Pond?  Reeds?  Love?  Can your student think of more adjectives to describe night?   Maybe he can and he will be inspired to try his own poem similar to the first stanza. 

________  (verb) for me on a ___________ night
on a ___________ night
on a ___________ night
_________ (verb) for me on a ___________ night
for in the night, I ____________


Spring Splashdown
Try to read the next poem "Spring Splashdown" on a different day.  Does your student immediately notice the repetition?  (If not, it's okay!)  Gently point it out if she hasn't noticed.  What effect does the repetition in this poem have (it's hardly like a lulling lullaby)?  The poet uses the repetition to show the constant movement of the ducklings.  How fun!   Encourage your older student to think of something that is constantly in motion.  Can she write a poem about that subject using a similar style? 

Ask your student if she notices anything special about this poem.  That's right!  The words leaping go down the page!  Isn't that creative!  Poets are allowed to break conventional grammar and do things however they want (as long as they have a reason!).  Maybe instead of a constantly-in-motion poem, she'd like to try playing with the lines of a poem.  You can give her the first few lines of this poem.   Can she manipulate any of the words (can a peek or a hop LOOK like a peep or a hop?).  We do have a special name for poems that take shape.  A concrete poem refers to the placement of words on the page so that a picture is formed containing the image of the poem itself.  If your student is interested in concrete poetry, try checking out Meow Ruff: A Story in Concrete Poetry (also by Joyce Sidman). 

Diving Beetle's Food Sharing Rules
What is your student's initial reaction to this poem?  Is she left with questions?  Would she like to meet face to face with a diving beetle?  (Of course, an older student will probably realize that they could smash one in a second!).  If she were an insect, would she like to meet up with a diving beetle? 

The effectiveness of this poem is largely due to the fact that it is written in first person.  Is your student familiar with first person point of view?  Basically, the beetle talking to you himself using first person pronouns (I, me).   We have lots of repetition again, too!  I ME MINE MINE MINE! 

If your student would like to try writing a poem, encourage her to choose an animal and write the poem as if she were the animal.  She can choose a pond animal or an animal from another habitat (maybe her favorite animal).  What would her animal say if it could talk to the world in a poem?

Fly, Dragonfly!
This poem is special.  It's a series of three Haikus all wrapped into one.  Your older student has probably written a Haiku before.  If you aren't familiar with the formula for a Haiku, here it is:
a Japanese lyric verse form having three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables; traditionally, haiku invokes an aspect of nature or the seasons.   Break this formula down for your student on a piece of paper and check Fly, Dragonfly.  How does each "stanza" match up to the description of a haiku?   Encourage your student to try writing a haiku.

In the Depths of the Summer Pond
Yet another example of repetition.  What a great use for repetition (the food chain!).  Does your student know any songs that work like this poem ("There's a log in the hole in the bottom of the sea")?    This would be another fun writing project.  Make a list for a food chain in a different habitat (such as rainforest or arctic tundra) or think of another way to arrange a list that could repeat, and make a poem of it!

A Small Green Riddle
Can your student determine the answer?   Can she write "A Small __________ (blue, purple, red, or even green) Riddle" poem?


The book has a glossary in the back that has many scientific terms and their descriptions. Here are a few additional words that we discussed as we were reading.

Peeper (Do you have peepers in the ponds where you live?)

















Applied Math: Counting and Patterns
There are lots of things to count in this book. Older children could identify the patterns in the poems and show these with shapes and/or colors glued to paper.

Art: Printmaking
The illustrations are woodblock printed and hand-colored with watercolor.

In order to print, the artist makes a master plate usually out of one of the following materials:  linoleum, styrofoam, metal, cardboard, stone, or wood (other materials can be used, too).  The artist cuts, etches, draws, or carves an image on the plate.  Then the artist applies ink and paper is pressed onto the plate.  Finally, the print is pulled from the plate.   There are four different types of printing. The type Prange used is called relief printing.  Relief printing is from a raised surface.  If you have a rubber stamp, you can show one to your student and let him feel the raised surface.  When you dip the stamp into ink and make a print, you have made a relief print.  You can also discuss how the completed rubber stamp print is a mirror image of the original plate.   The artist draws on the surface of the plate she wishes to use, then uses tools to cut away the areas that will not print.  A brayer (a roller) spreads ink on the finished plate. 

Try your hand at printmaking. Rather than carving wood, which is time-consuming and requires sharp tools, use cardboard, foam board or styrofoam meat trays. Try the type of printmaking Beckie Prange used, relief printing, which removes the areas the artist does not want to be inked. Remember, you will be working with the reverse of the image (mirror image) you will get on the paper. Use a pencil or nail to draw the outline and remove the excess with either the pencil or maybe a plastic knife. Use a brayer to ink a cookie sheet  and press the print block onto the ink. Place a piece of paper on the block and rub with the back of a spoon. Remove and let ink dry. Empty spaces can be filled in with watercolors, markers or colored pencils.

Some printmaking artists that your older student may wish to research include: Holbein the Younger, Fred Hagen, Vincent Van Gogh, and James Whistler.  He may also want to research Japanese printmakers.

Learn more about printmaking by visiting the following websites:

Science/Social Studies:  Conservation and Wood Ducks
Wood ducks nearly became extinct due to excessive hunting and loss of habitat. Hunting regulations and protection of remaining habitat allowed the bird population to recover in the 1920’s, and the birds’ acceptance of artificial nesting boxes has allowed the population to recover. You may  want to discuss your own family's beliefs/thoughts about hunting with your older student.

This lesson would be a good time to discuss God's creation and how He has entrusted us to take care of it, to be good stewards.  At most of our state parks, we have Conservation Officers who work hard to make sure that people are following the rules and regulations. Conservation Officers deal with the hunting and fishing public year round.  They make sure people have the proper licensing; help find lost hunters, hikers, and fishermen; and assist with forest fires, flood relief efforts, and other natural disasters.  You may want to research one of your own state parks and find out what the rules are (or discuss the hunting/fishing laws in your state). 

This flyer covers the highlights of the birds plight, their habitat, and information on building nesting boxes.
Information about wood ducks
Coloring pages and puzzles about wood ducks
Wood Duck Report Form


Science: Hibernation
When an animal hibernates, it passes the winter in a sleeping or resting state.  Spring Peepers hibernate under logs and loose bark.  My students were intrigued that the peepers are near freezing and come right back to activity once they warm up. We discussed the idea that they weren’t dead, just hibernating  (sort of comatose). My 6-year-old shared a science experiment that she and her dad did. They were in the garage and had the freezer door open when a fly went inside the freezer. My husband told her that it was okay, it would just go to sleep and wake up when it was warm again. They left it in there for about a week, took it out to thaw and it warmed up and flew off (gross!).

Science: Amphibians
The poem "Spring Peepers" is about frogs.  If you've ever had a chance to hear their song, they indeed do peep!    In the Animal Kingdom, frogs fall into the class Amphibia, known to us as amphibians.  What are the special characteristics of amphibians?

*cold-blooded, their body temperature depends on the temperature of their environment

*they are vertebrates (have backbones)
*lay eggs in the water
*spend part of their lives under water (breathing with gills as tadpoles)
*in most species, lungs and legs develop later (see life cycle of frog lesson below)

Three groups of amphibians exist.  You may want to spend more time researching a certain group.
1. (urodeles) newts and salamanders
2. (anurans) frogs and toads
3. (gymnophiones) caecilians -- worm like creatures

Science: Life Cycle of the Frog

Frog's have the most interesting life cycle!
1. Egg--They begin as little eggs with tiny black dots in them.
2. Tadpole--The black dot gets bigger until it is big enough to break out of the egg.

3. Tadpole with legs--  Two legs grow near its tail; two legs grow near the front
4. Froglet-- its tail gets shorter until it is almost gone.
5. Frog-- it is an adult frog and females can lay eggs. 

It would be a great experience for your student if you could get some frog eggs or tadpoles and allow him to eyewitness the life of a frog. 

Frog Print-out
Spring Peeper Print-out
Frogs at Enchanted Learning

Resources to add-in
Usborne Beginners Tadpoles and Frogs
From Tadpole to Frog
by Wendy Pfeffer

Science: Reptiles

The poem "Into the Mud" is about a turtle.  As noted above, frogs are amphibians, but turtles aren't.  They fit into the Animal Kingdom class Reptilia (reptiles).  Here are the characteristics of reptiles:

*cold-blooded, their temperature depends on the temperature of their environment
*have scales or modified scales
*usually lay eggs
*they breathe with lungs
*they are vertebrates (have a backbone)
*examples-- turtles, lizards, snakes, dinosaurs, alligators, and crocodiles


Your student may choose to make a Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting reptiles/amphibians-- Prepared Venn Diagram

Label the Amphibians/Reptiles Sheet from Enchanted Learning

Science: Pond Observation
Visit a local pond. Sit quietly for a time. What do you see? What do you hear? Can you draw some of the things you see at the pond?  Encourage your student to write her own poem after observing and journaling at the pond.

Visit a local nature center, if possible and look at pond water with a magnifying glass. You will be amazed at the variety of creatures that live in the pond. Can you identify any of them?

You may want to check-out the animal report forms and copywork pages on Homeschool Share's Animal Forms page. 

Social Studies/Character Development: Sharing
Discuss the Diving Beetle and his rules of “sharing.”  Discuss the rules of sharing in your own household.  What is the importance of sharing?  What things must be shared?  What things don't have to be shared?  Can your student think of a time when someone shared with her? 

Bible: Faith
Discuss faith.  Faith is a strong belief in someone or something, a relationship built on trust.
The paragraph about wood ducks that accompanies “Spring Splashdown” illustrates an incredible example of total faith. The one-day-old ducklings leap from their nest in the cavity of a tree into the water or onto the ground below. They have no experience or knowledge of what awaits them, but their mother calls them and they follow.   This incident parallels Jesus' calling of the disciples in the gospels.  They didn't know what awaiting them, but Jesus called and they followed. 


This link give instructions for building a small outdoor pond
Set up a Pond Habitat in an Aquarium
Similar Information
Create a Desert Pond

Use these coloring pages to complete a minit book on Pond Life
Page 1 (includes Red-bellied Turtle, Giant Pond Snail, Pumpkinseed, American Toad)
Page 2 (includes Blue Gill, Common Snail, Brook Trout, Water Hyacinth)
Page 3 (includes Monarch Butterfly, Lotus Lily, Green Tree Frog, Yellow Jacket)
Page 4 (includes Pond Slider, Tiger Salamander, Bullfrog, Northern Water Snake)

More Great Printouts!
Common Pond Plants and Invertebrates Word Search
Common Pond Plants Word Search
Common Pond Creatures Word Search
Spot the Differences Painted Turtle
Wood Duck Maze
Pond Creatures Unscramble
Frog Maze
Frog Dot-to-Dot

Help the Frogs Catch Dinner (simple math)

Library List
What’s In The Pond
, Anne Hunter
Around the Pond, Ann Cooper
Eliza and the Dragonfly, Susie Caldwell Rinehart
Turtle Splash, Countdown at the Pond, Cathryn Falwell
Play with Me, Mary Hall Ets
The Mailbox April/May 2002
Usborne Beginners Tadpoles and Frogs
From Tadpole to Frog
by Wendy Pfeffer