• Leslie

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Updated: Jun 19, 2018

On March 1, 2018, LEAF LITTER CRITTERS will welcome readers to the hidden ecosystem at our feet: the busy recyclers in the decomposer food web!

But I couldn't fit every litter critter into the book.

Let's play with Poetry--Prompt 3:


When I research a topic for a poem, I collect fun and powerful words that spark ideas and help my writing POP!

Powerful or playful words can have an interesting rhythm, or they might be action-packed verbs. Powerful words might bring readers feelings of excitement, beauty, humor, fear, sadness or happiness. A playful word might suggest a silly or meaningful rhyme (if the poet is rhyming). A powerful word might suggest details for our senses like sound, touch, aroma, movement, or might create a picture readers can see in their minds.


Let's look for powerful and playful words in the


Grass spiders are leaf litter predators who eat other animals like moths, flies, mosquitoes and ants.

Grass spiders have exoskeletons—their firm skeleton that gives them shape is an outside cover, not inside, like our skeleton of bones.

Grass spiders have eight bristly legs.

Grass spiders have two body parts, a cephalothorax and an abdomen.

Grass spiders have jaws with fangs on the end.

Grass spiders weave flat webs that are not sticky.

The web ends in a funnel, where the spiders hide.

Threads strung above the web knock down flying insects onto the flat part of the web. (can you find the knockdown threads near the dark funnel in the photo?)

A grass spider hiding in its funnel feels the vibration from a prey insect who has blundered onto the web.

Grass spiders can run very fast.

Grass spiders dash and dart out of their funnel hiding place at lightning speed to bite insects on their web.

When they bite with their fangs, they inject venom that knocks out (or stuns) their prey.

They grab their prey insect and drag it back into the dark funnel to eat in secret, without being seen.

Grass spiders do an important ecosystem job eating insect pests.

For further inspiration, visit entomologist Dr. Michael Raupp's site and scroll to watch this video of grass spiders rushing to hide

Remember, poems can be: serious...




or any feeling you choose.

Prompt idea 1:

Eight bristly legs...

Prompt idea 2:

In my dark funnel...

Prompt idea 3:

Which powerful or playful words inspire your poem?

Which story will you tell about the grass spider?

Or will you tell a story about something else?

I hope you'll share your poem in the comments!

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Updated: Apr 22, 2020

On March 1, 2018, LEAF LITTER CRITTERS will welcome readers to the hidden ecosystem at our feet: the busy recyclers in the brown food web! It’s a close-up romp with the shredders, decomposers, mixers, aerators, and slimers who improve soil texture and return nutrients and organic matter so green food web plants can grow. Hooray for recycling!

But LEAF LITTER CRITTERS couldn’t include every brown food webber—there are too many. Here’s Poem Prompt #2 so you can play with poems about a LEAF LITTER CRITTER who was (boo-hoo) left out!


Poetry Prompt 2: RHYTHM

Meet the SLUG!

We can use our rhyming skills from the first prompt and have some fun using rhythm to write a two-line poem about the slug. The slug's movement might suggest something to you about the feel of your poem.


Line 1 : A slug makes sticky ooze,

Line 2 : ________________.

In a line of poetry, some words or parts of words sound strong/er. Check out the three strong words (also called beats) in Line 1.

Try saying Line 1, and clapping for the 3 strong beats:

(clap) (clap) (clap)

a slug makes stick-y ooze

Here are some ideas you might use in Line 2 :

RESEARCH SHORTCUT: (my notes from readings and from observing slugs)

Slugs and snails are in the same group of animals, called gastropods.

Slugs don’t have hard, outer shells—they are soft-bodied.

Land slugs chew fungi, rotting leaves and other critters’ poop.

Slugs use their scraping, sawing, tooth-covered tongue to eat.

Slugs may also chew holes in garden plants.

Predators of slugs include toads and birds such as starlings and robins.

Slugs make sticky slime, which helps them slide along the ground on their muscular foot, and helps them stay moist.

Slugs move slowly. They can stretch out, and squinch up.

Slugs have four tentacles. The top two tentacles are used for seeing and smelling. The bottom two tentacles touch and taste the ground under their foot.

Slugs can pull their tentacles in and push them back out.

Slugs live in damp places in soil and leaf litter, and are most active at night.

Check out this FIELD GUIDE for a lovely variety of slugs!

Back to the PROMPT:

Line 1: A slug makes sticky ooze,

Line 2: ________________.

First you might make a list of words to rhyme with “ooze.”

How about: use, news, shoes, clues, lose, or chews? Can you think of other rhymes?

Next, try to match the three-clap rhythm in Line 1.

Or match the rhythm in Line 1 without rhyming…

Or rhyme with Line 1 but don’t match the rhythm. That can be funny!

Or make up your own poem about a slug…

Or write a rhythmic poem about something else…

Remember to follow this rule:


I would LOVE to read slug poems in the comments!

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