Author Archives: madunn

Poetry and Pop.2

Firework, Part 2

August 5

Firework is a song that uses a lot of comparisons to explain feelings. “Like a plastic bag/drifting through the wind.” “Like a house of cards/One blow from caving in.” Comparisons can make writing much more powerful than simple statements. How boring this song would have been if she had said, “Do you ever feel sad and insignificant? Like your world isn’t stable?”

Poets and Songwriters Love Comparisons

OPTION A. Grab a piece of paper. Write down 2-3 emotions, next to each emotion write or draw an image to go with it. An example from “Firework” might be “Sad. Plastic bag drifting.” An example from your imagination might be “Happy. A vase of sunflowers.”

OPTION B. If you’re the kind of person who likes to have suggestions, download this Metaphor and Simile Think Sheet.

Poets Don’t Always Say things Directly. Read A Blessing, by James Wright. At the very end of the poem, what do you think he is feeling? And what is he comparing himself to (hint: what could break into blossom)?

Write a Poem about Your Feelings

As mentioned, Perry uses a LOT of comparisons in “Firework”. Poets tend to prefer to use fewer comparisons. Pick one of your comparisons and use it to write a poem about a feeling.

Poets usually break their lines before they get to the end of the page. You can learn more about line breaks and white space through this video.

Option A. Write a poem about a feeling. Use a comparison to help your reader understand what the feeling is like. Use some strong action verbs to talk about what you do when you feel that way. Remember to think about where you want to break your lines.

Option B. If you need some ideas try one of these Poem Prompts. And here are great “doing words” you might want to use in your poem.

Poetry and Pop, Part 1

July 26, Sound in Firework

We just finished a poetry workshop with Charlottesville Parks and Recreation’s Adaptive Rec Day Camp. The workshop was so much fun I thought I’d share our activities here.

Our workshops always starts with a pop song, chosen by participants in current and past workshops. We look at devices lyricists use to make their writing powerful. Then we read a poem that uses similar techniques. Finally, participants write poems of their own.

The different options provided with these activities are intended to make them accessible to children and youth of all ages, all interests, and all abilities. Materials are included to assist writers with developmental differences.

For the first two posts, I will share activities based on “Firework”, by Kate Perry. Next, I will share activities based on a song our Adaptive Rec campers chose.

Repeating Sounds

Kate Perry  often uses near (or slant rhyme) instead of full rhyme. The “in” in “wind” is repeated in “again.” The words almost rhyme, but they are not “full rhymes” because they don’t have the same final letter.

Listen to “Firework” by Kate Perry, reading the lyrics as you go.

Notice how she repeats the short “i” as in wind and the long “i” as in “light.”  Listen for other repeated sounds, too, as well as repeated words and phrases. Repetition makes poetry and lyrics sound good.

Poets also use near rhyme. Read and listen to rhyme in “Snail” by Langston Hughes, What full and near rhymes pair with “go?”

If you would like to know more about repeating vowel and consonant sounds in song lyrics and poetry, read about assonance, consonance, and alliteration.

Some Poems Are Written to a Person or Thing

“Firework” and “Snail” are both examples of a kind of writing called an “apostrophe,” or an address to someone or something. “Do you ever feel….?” Kate Perry asks someone. We aren’t sure who it is — maybe the listener. When Langston Hughes says “Dreaming you go…” we know from the title and first line that he’s talking to a snail.

Write a Poem to an Animal

Write a poem to an animal. Think about where it is (the snail is on a rose) and what it does (the snail crawls along the rose, drinking dew). Here’s a “Talking to an Animal Think Sheet” if you’d like some help getting ideas for your poem.

Now the fun part. These “Poem Prompts” are options for you to use as you turn your ideas into poetry. The first is a very open-ended prompt. The next two provide more structure. For this poem, we ask you to focus on near rhyme and other forms of repeated sounds.

We’ve provided a Word Bank, in case you need it. The words are color-coded by sounds, so if you pick words that are the same color, you will have repeated sounds in your poem. If writing things by hand is a challenge, these words can be printed onto standard mailing labels, such as Avery 8160, so you can peel them off and paste them down to write your poem.

There are also numerous website to help you find rhymes and near rhyme. Rhymedesk is a family friendly website. Rhymezone is an uncensored website, but it offers options for poets looking only for near rhyme. You can find more options by entering “rhyming dictionary” in your search engine.

A Note to Helpers

Some poets may need support writing their poems, but of course we all want to allow the poets to express themselves. Our Notes to Helpers offer suggestions for providing support only to the extent it is needed.

Cool and Cooling During COVID-19

July 22

Temperatures this week are in the upper 90s. Around here the pools, lakes, and spray parks are closed, but even if they are opening where you are, with new cases of COVID on the rise, you may be looking for ways to play it cool at home. Here are a few outdoor activities for hot weather.

  • Put it on Ice. These way cool activities did not come with a warning that prolonged direct contact with ice on the skin can cause tissue damage. Well, it can. Please read this first and provide tools and supervision!
  • Water Balloon Mayhem. “What? Balloons,” you may be saying. “Do you know the harm they can do to the environment?” Yes. Here are three options for eco-friendly balloons that may work better than conventional ones anyway.
  • Spray it On. The spray parks may be closed, but that can’t stop the good times. Please combine fun and environmental stewardship. Play near a garden in need of watering. Set a time limit on activities involving running water and maybe add a valve to the nozzle of your hose.
    • Grab a squirt gun or any squirt toy for some games that won’t dampen your spirits.
    • Playing in the hose is classic kid fun. You can change it up a little by making it a game of tag or water limbo .
    • Okay, this may be for people with too much time and PVC piping on their hands but I couldn’t resist the PVC spray park. Could this be made with enough flexibility that the kids could develop design skills by changing things up some? Maybe some valves and movable parts?

Shadow Shows

July 19

You don’t need anything more than hands and a light source to create a magnificent theatrical production. Don’t believe it? Watch this video.

Now that you’ve got the idea, see what you can do.

Get started with some easy hand puppets that are not any less amazing for their simplicity.

Below are two videos that are more complex, including a panther, which you can use to make your own Pink Panther video.

This is just a beginning. Enter “hand shadow puppets” in your search engine, for more shows and tutorials. With no money and a cast of one, you can put on a fantastic show.

Drive Through Enrichment

Just Passing Through.

Virginia is opening up, but the number of new infections keeps increasing. If you’d rather stay in your car, you can still enjoy some fun summer activities.

Virginia Safari Park has always been a drive through experience. Although there are opportunities to get out of the car, they are by no means essential to having a great experience at a park where the animals roam outside your vehicle. You can buy a bucket of feed to offer the creatures through your window, but don’t come in a brand new car! You WILL get feed all over everything. Bring hand-wipes and plenty of coins for the nearest car vacuum. During the pandemic, tickets must be purchased online.

An Abbreviated African-American History tour in Alexandria may leave you eager to come back when more is open, but according to The Washington Post, there are some stops of the current tour that “are moving sites to be seen and history to be discovered, even if you’re just looking at explanatory markers outside the public library where a sit-in took place in 1939. What the driving tour and the guide do well is recount another side of the city’s story, which has so often been centered on names like Lee and Carlyle.” –Washington Post, July 9.

There’s virtually no limit to the number of scenic drives in Virginia. Enjoy the coast, the mountains, or historic battlegrounds and countryside. Or if you want to try something more random, type “Random Location” in your app store to find apps that will route you to a random location. On your app you can designate how far you are willing to drive.

Bicycling in and Around Charlottesville

July 5-15

This post covers a longer than usual span, because Mary Anna will be on vacation after Independence Day.

Charlottesville Parks and Recreation recently launched a free rental bike-rental program, and Charlottesville Community Bikes offers free and affordable refurbished bikes, so this seems like a great time to post some ideas for bicycling.

Of course, you can’t ride a bike if you don’t know how. Because one of my children had significant gross motor and motor planning challenges, his physical therapist recommended a no training wheels method of learning to ride. We ended up using this method with both children because it was so easy. I’ve posted two videos showing this approach. Although it is not mentioned here, we found trying this on a surface with a very slight incline allowed them to coast further without peddles, using that time to focus on just learning to steer.

There’s a lot more to riding a bike than just knowing how. Everyone, no matter how long they’ve been riding, could use an occasional review of bicycle safety.

Now you just need a place to ride. Virginia Bike Trails offers statewide suggestions, including several in the Charlottesville/Albemarle area.

But what if bicycling isn’t so much about going some place as it is about doing stuff? Here are some interesting things kids can do on bike’s without going far from home. Some of these activities might stand just a little tweaking for social distancing.

4th of July During Covid-19

July 1-July 4

A Virtual Pot Luck! Share a meal with friends and family, even when you can’t be together. Pick a few families you want to celebrate with by way of phone or video platform. Before the fourth, each family can share one simple recipe so that everyone can enjoy one another’s contributions together. Since each family will have to prepare all the dishes in this virtual pot luck, keep it simple.

Social Distance Picnics. Or follow CDC guidelines and these ideas, if you are feeling ready to join a small group for an outdoors picnic.

Awesome 4th of July Sidewalk Art. Create a spectacular Independence Day Sidewalk Art Exhibition. Put on a chalk art fireworks show. Shoot yourself out of a cannon. Fly away on an eagle. With art, you can do anything.

Have a 4th of July parade on your street. Dress in red, white, and blue. Fill the holes of swim noodles with streamers and other decorations. You can march with them like a drum major’s baton, plus they have the added benefit of being useful to measure out social distance. (They’re short a few inches of 6 feet, so give’em a little allowance), Keeping that social distance, include some decorated bikes and trikes in your parade. Come up with your own ideas, serious or fun, for a social distance parade down your street. And don’t forget the dog!

The Museum of the American Revolution’s Virtual Tour not only offers tours of their galleries, but also links you to other sites of special historic significance as we celebrate Independence Day and explore our ever evolving understanding of equality.

There will be a virtual celebration at Monticello on Saturday, from 11:00 – 11:45.

Charlottesville/Albemarle Fireworks will be held in the county this year, and will be visible in the direction of Monticello and Carter’s Mountains. Viewers are asked to watch from their cars.

ESCAPE ROOMS DURING SOCIAL DISTANCING

Escape in Place. June 27-30

Ready to escape? Aren’t we all? You can escape in place by creating your own Escape Room. It can be as simple or complicated as you want. If you have never been to an Escape Room, it could be helpful to view a few videos of live Escape Rooms to get the general idea. The video below is a bit long, so you may want to scroll through.

Virtual Escape Rooms


Here is a simple, but creative homemade Escape Room to give you some ideas. Unlike some DIY Escape Rooms, it is not themed.


Locks aren’t the only material used in Escape Rooms, but they are heavily relied on.This mom delighted her kids with fancy new locks, which might not always work for families on budgets. Consider putting the word out to friends that you would like to borrow locks, or look on eBay. Puzzles are also essential. Puzzles and plans are available at several sites, including Lock Paper Scissors and Big Escape Rooms. Using a pre-made plan is recommended as a good way to get started on creating home Escape Rooms.


When you are are ready to jump into design, you can get guidance from escape-kit. Engaging your children in designing Escape Rooms for each other, or virtual Escape Rooms for friends, will not only be enormous fun, but also a great way to develop creative and critical thinking skills. Not to mentioned the content knowledge that can be worked into the creation of your room.


When the time is right for you to visit live Escape Rooms, there are two facilities in the Charlottesville. Check their sites for information on COVID-19 opening plans.

https://www.cvilleescaperoom.com/ Unlocked History Escape Room

Drama Activities for Children During Social Distancing

A Play’s the Thing. June 24-27.

Add some drama to your life. We’ve found a few resources you can use to create a play or puppet show in your house.

You’ll need a script.You can find free scripts for kids thought.com and a2z homeschooling. Drama Notebook offers 50 scripts; there is a $10.00 subscription fee.

Maybe you want to write your own script. Pen and Pad has guidelines for adults working with children on writing simple plays.

So, how do you put on a play and social distance? One possibility would be to create and film a puppet show. That way all the characters can be played by people living under the same roof. Film your puppet show and share it on your favorite platform. Below are some links with ideas for creating puppets and puppet theaters.

Maybe you’d rather act the play out yourself. You still can.

One way would be to do outdoors theater, keeping your characters 6 feet apart. Masks have been traditionally worn in drama throughout the world. Try some of these theater masks, but be sure to add two layers of fabric following CDC guidelines.

Or have a blast with technology. You can put on a play with friends with the most amazing scenery imaginable by sharing the backgrounds that come with the platform or loading your own. In your search engine, enter “zoom free virtual backgrounds” or simply the type of scene you want, such as “spaceship” or “medieval castle”.

Want to dig further into theater? Virtual theater classes are being offered throughout the country. Locally, Live Arts is offering classes. Enter “virtual theater classes” in your search engine for more ideas.

Family Staycations, Part Three

June 13-16 Virtual Tours and Activities In and Around Charlottesville

To give a little glimpse of what you can look forward, here are some COVID-19 posts from local attractions. To make this a true vacation, you’ll want:

A Gift Shop.

  • Buy some blank post cards and draw a picture of the sites you visited. Send them to a friend.
  • Make some small models of objects you saw on your visit.
  • Create some books. Gift shops typically have not only books about the site you visited, but also non-fiction and fiction related to the site.
  • Get some fabric markers and make tee-shirts, hats, and tote-bags with images from your visit.

A Snack Bar

Be sure to include a few selections related to the site you are visiting. For example, maybe serve some watercress or other Maori foods.

A Hands-on Learning Section

Some of these sites already have an activity section, but here are a few more:

  • Create a costume room. Look at some old clothes, clothes, and accessories in your closets and WITH PERMISSION :), the closets of people bigger than you. Can you transform some of these into period clothes or clothes from another part of the world?
  • Set out some materials to try out crafts or music related to the site.
  • Put out some construction materials, such as Lego’s, Plus Tubes, and Lincoln Logs to make models of the place you visit.

Now Enjoy Your Tour.

These are a few local attractions I found with online offerings. I’m sure to have missed some great ones. Message us on Facebook or write to mail@enrichmentalliance.org if you have additions.

Enjoy your staycation. Send us a card!