Earthshake Reader Activities

Classroom or Library Activities

Illustration by Cathie Felstead

Illustration by Cathie Felstead

Beginning with words from “Instructions for the Earth’s Dishwasher,” create a list of common words that have a geographical meaning, such as cape, channel, spring, knob, key, pool, crest, range, mouth, trench, plain, rapid, bank, sound, hollow, etc.

Write a conversation between a geographical feature and yourself. Using the pattern from “Continental Promises,” write a letter from one geographical feature to another, such as from the waves to the beach or from the mountain to the valley.

After reading “Dizzy Wind,” let the children chose a geographical feature such as a geyser or waterfall and create a concrete poem in its shape.

“Dizzy Wind” could also be used in relation to weather if you make a group newspaper.

“Alaskan Stream” and “A Hill Named Kao-ling” can be used as spring boards for creating original haiku about geographical features.

Discuss the metaphor of the title of the poem, “Earthshake,” the repeated use of the word pounding, and the word “delicious.”

Use “Obituary for a Clam” to create an obituary for a different geographical feature.

“Earth Charged in Meteor’s Fiery Death” can be used as a pattern for a newspaper article or poem.

“Pumice Stone Seeks Work” can be used to pattern want ads for a newspaper.

Use the “Yellowstone Whale” to create pourquoi stories.

Create a group geographical cookbook after reading the “Recipe for Granite.”

Group children so that each group works on only one of the ideas above to create a class geographical newspaper. Newspaper features could include a headline story, weather, obituaries, recipes, etc.

Social Studies/History/Geography

After reading “Michigan Sahara,” brainstorm what would fall out of your pocket if you were in a biome such as a rainforest, on a surfboard in the ocean, etc. (Fourth graders could do the mountains, piedmont, and coastal plain).

After reading “Glacial Pace,” locate the major glaciers of the world on a map.


Observe road maps and topographical maps so that children can understand where the illustrations and dedication pages came from.

Ask children to bring in rocks for observation. Weigh and measure them. Note likenesses and differences.

Research the rocks that occur naturally around your locality.

What are the properties of geodes? Find some properties in the poem “Plain Old Rock” and research others.

After reading “Living with Lava,” make a volcano with baking soda and vinegar.

After reading “Crumble,” gather some rock samples and do hardness testing, using Moh’s Hardness Scale as a guide.

Art/Enrichment Express

Create fantastic creatures with rocks.

Using “Wyoming Layer Cake” as a guide, fill a baby food jar with layers of colored sand.

I wrote my own activities to accompany Earthshake. Here they are:

Writing Activities (third grade and  up)

1. Many of the poems in Earthshake are “borrowed” forms. One is a recipe, one is an ad for a job, one is a letter.

What are more possibilities for borrowed forms? Some ideas:

text message, email, travel brochure, TV ad, phone call

Have your students write a poem with a “borrowed” form. It should be about a subject of their choosing. It might make poetry writing simpler for some students. If the form is set, that’s one thing they don’t have to “invent.”

2. Some of the poems in Earthshake are personification poems. They give “life” to something that’s not alive. Things like continents and a glacier are treated as though they are people.

Have your students think about personifying a nonliving thing. How would a hydrogen atom in the sun feel? How does an asteroid talk? What did Pluto do when scientists declared it was no longer a planet?

Brainstorm some ideas and have your students write a personification poem about a subject of their choosing. Read them out loud. Poetry is meant to be read out loud!

Science Activity (third grade and up)

Lots of kids have rock collections. Try something different. Have your students start a class sand collection. Sand is everywhere and it comes in many colors, not just brown.

Ask students to take a small plastic bag with them when they go to the beach or when they’re taking a walk with their family or when they travel. You never know when you’ll see sand! Have them bring in their bags of collected sand.

If your school has a microscope, have the students examine the sand grains under the microscope. Sand is made of many things including bits of shells, fossils, glass, minerals and clay.

If possible, display the sand in clear glass bottles. I’ve used small bottles from Pier 1 or World Market. But there might be other sources. Kids can also bring in bottles and jars that would have wound up in the recycling bin at home.

Label the bottles with the date and the location and the child who collected the sand. The glass bottles will show off all the colors and textures.

The International Sand Collectors Society has a great set of sand photos. Check it out!

Art Activity (third grade and up)

People around the world make sand paintings. Your students can make a sand paintingwith the sand they have collected. Have them sketch a design or a scene in pencil on poster board or card stock. Dilute some Elmer’s glue in water and have students brush the glue mixture on one small section at a time. And be careful not to mix sand samples!