George, K. O. (2002). Swimming upstream: Middle school poems. New York: Clarion Books.
Quite frankly, I never liked poetry at all; I hated reading it and I especially hated writing it. Even as a student who excelled in English and literature classes, I completely despised poetry. When I made it to college I realized that, because of my Language Arts emphasis in Education, I would have to take a poetry class or two. Nothing could have bummed me more. However, I left two poetry classes truly appreciating it as an art and as text---now I can’t get enough poetry! As a teacher now, I try to find creative ways of incorporating poetry into my lessons without my students really knowing what I’m doing (many of them were like me and dislike poetry). When I found Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems by Kristine O’Connell George, I was so ecstatic. The middle schooler in me and middle school teacher I am could not wait to finish the anthology as it has so many true, real life experiences of what my students go through each day in sixth, seventh, and eighth grade.
Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems is a collection of fairly short poems all written for the middle school student. The topics include being late for class, lockers, friends, gossip, and even waking up. Each poem has been written in a way that connects with the middle schooler. Although the book takes place from a seventh grade perspective, it works well for any student who attends middle school. George’s book is considered to be a specialized poetry book because all the poems are written by her, all are focused on middle school issues, and naturally, are for the said age group. The meaning of Swimming Upstream is fairly obvious (the life of a middle school student), although each individual poem has its own meaning.
Big questions to ask students after reading Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems: How do you relate to the book or specific poem? Can you identify with any situation in the book? Have ever experienced a situation mentioned in the book? How does your typical day compare to the day described in the book?To incorporate Kristine O’Connell George’s Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems is so easy, especially as an English teacher in the middle school setting. What I would like to do (other than reading these poems or using them as examples of ones students can write) is to have students compare and contrast their daily routine with that of the book’s overall daily routine. Specific instances in the day are mentioned such as walking to class, waking up for school, getting a locker, etc., and I would have students fill in the day chronologically as in the anthology and then compare it to their day. This assignment is a great way to begin the school year and it gives student a way to make a real-life connection.