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BLAST Elementary
A River of Words

A River of Words

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams
Written by Jen Bryant
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

This picture book biography of William Carlos Williams traces childhood events that lead him to become a doctor and a poet.


Open-Ended Questions

These questions can be used during an interactive read aloud to engage student interest.

  • Find Willie Williams in the illustration. What is he doing? (page 8)
  • Is it OK to imitate other writers? (page 9)
  • What do you notice about the poems on this page? Why is the same poem written over and over? (page 22)

    After reading the story, spend time writing a class poem in the style of William Carlos Williams. Then, encourage students to write their own poem in their journals.


Vocabulary Words

  • Wander
  • Imitate


Classroom Scrapbook

Melissa Sweet’s illustrations are a lot like the pages of a scrapbook. Discuss with the students the different things they see throughout the book (letters, drawings, pages from books, etc.). Then make a class scrapbook! Each student can have a page to create their own collage. Explain to the students that their collage will tell a story about their life. Encourage them to include a favorite piece of writing they’ve done. They could also use pictures from home, their own drawings, clippings from newspapers or magazines, and anything else they can think of. Once everyone has finished, give the students a chance to present their page to the class and share their "life story." Talk to the students about how all of their pages can tell a story about the class as a whole. The scrapbook can be added to the class library so that all the students can have a chance to take a close look at it.

River of Words Wall

William Carlos Williams’ poetry was unique because it focused on describing common, everyday objects and people. He strived to “see the thing itself...with great intensity and perception.” To help students write their own poetry in W.C. Williams’ descriptive style, the class can make their own "River of Words." Blue paper can be used to make a river on a bulletin board or around the room. Make note cards available so that students can write down great descriptive words or words whose sounds they like. The words can be hung in the river so that students can use them as a starting point, or anywhere in their poetry.


Journal Questions

  • William Carlos Williams wrote his poetry about normal, everyday objects and people. He developed his own style in which he used short lines and little or no punctuation. As a class, we will write a poem in the style of William Carlos Williams.

Then try writing your own poem in that style. Look around the room or out the window for inspiration!


Extending Books

Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry: How to Write a Poem

Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry: How to Write a Poem
Written & Illustrated by Jack Prelutsky

The author gives you the inside scoop on writing poetry and shows you how you can turn your own experiences and stories about your family, your pets, and your friends into poems.


Poetry by Heart: A Child's Book of Poems to Remember

Poetry by Heart: A Child's Book of Poems to Remember
Compiled by Liz Attenborough

A collection of poems that lend themselves to memorization by such poets as W.H. Auden, Roald Dahl, William Shakespeare, Robert Frost, Lewis Carroll, Emily Dickinson, Seamus Heaney, Edward Lear, Langston Hughes, and W.B. Yeats.


William Carlos Williams: Poetry for Young People

William Carlos Williams: Poetry for Young People
Edited by Christopher MacGowan
Illustrated by Robert Crockett

A collection of thirty poems with illustrations and brief introductory remarks.