THANKU: Reading and Writing Gratitude Poems


What are you thankful for?

With Thanksgiving on the horizon, this question reverberates through classrooms around the country. What better way to cultivate a spirit of thankfulness than to have students read and write gratitude poems?


Thankful Reading

I was filled with gratitude myself when I discovered the book THANKU: Poems of Gratitude, published by Millbrook Press, edited by Miranda Paul, and illustrated by Marlena Myles. In this children’s poetry anthology, a diverse group of poets expresses their feelings of thankfulness for things you’d expect, like family and friends, and things unexpected, like scars and dimples. The poets also explore unique perspectives on gratitude. For example, Naomi Shihab Nye takes on the perspective of Earth and thanks the sky. Charles Waters thanks a waterfall for providing a rainbow. DianaMurray writes from the voice of an old sweatshirt filled with joy at the chance to be worn again.  In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, try reading a poem a day from THANKU with your students. They’ll delight in all the different ways to express gratitude.


Thankful Writing

As a teacher, I was particularly thankful for the variety of poetic forms provided in THANKU. From concrete to two-voice to tanka, each poem showcases a different form or literary device. These forms and devices are explained in the book’s back matter.  The poems provide wonderful mentor texts for students’ writing.

One poem from THANKU that I find especially conducive to student imitation is a Liz Garton Scanlon’s “All This.” “All This” is composed in the form of an Etheree.  An Etheree is a ten-line unrhymed poem. Line one is one syllable long. Line two is two syllables. Each line continues to grow by one syllable until line ten is ten syllables long. Liz Garton Scanlon graciously gave me permission to reprint her poem here. Thank you, Liz!

Gratitude in the Details

What I love about the Etheree form is that it provides a structure for students to grow more detailed and specific as their poem grows, just as Liz Garton Scanlon moves from the single word “snow” to “curled-up cats”, to “the world’s dark and cold.”

To help students move from a general list of items for which they are thankful to specific, tangible details, I’ve developed this GRATITUDE ETHEREE PLANNER. After brainstorming on the planner, students can use this ETHEREE TEMPLATE to compose their poems.  

I hope writing Etheree poems leaves your students purring Thank you, thank you, thank you too!

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