By Constance Foland | May 17, 2011 at 05:42 PM EDT | No Comments
Here's one of my favorite poetry lessons. Kids love it and even the most reluctant or struggling writer can write a poem following this minilesson.
When I model this I usually divide a chart paper into quadrants. One quadrant is labeled, What it Looks Like, the second is What it Feels Like, the third is It is Like...and the fourth is labeled Wondering.
Tell students that poets like to observe the world and write about what they see in unusual or striking ways. Show them an interesting object and model how you can describe it like a poet would. I usually use a seashell, but you can use any interesting object from nature, like a beautiful rock, or a pine cone, etc. Use something that everybody can see easily.
Start describing the way the object looks, then chart your noticings. Then pass the shell. Invite students to provide words that tell how the object looks and how it feels. Chart those. Then ask for comparisons. You can use the word simile (or not). I like to say to students, "What else could this shell be? Pretend it's bigger...pretend it's smaller." Then write in their similes. Usually my students are more creative with their similes than I am! A shell becomes a sled for a doll, an elephant's ear, a surfboard. Finally, go to the last box and ask the students to wonder about the shell. Then to imagine asking the shell a question. Go for deep wonderings!
Now, your four box poem is started. Transfer the collected words/phrases to poetry paper, so now it looks like a poem. Read it dramatically. Instant success! Kids usually ooh and ahh over their poem.
Next, give kids a turn to create their own poems. Distribute objects (one to a student) and ask students to do exactly as you did as a group. Look at the object carefully--what do you see? describe how it feels...compare it to something...wonder about the object. Fill up the four quadrants as much as possible, then create your poem from your words.
As you confer, coach students to look at their objects in the light. Touch all sides of the object. Leave the reader wondering with your wondering.
This process may take two sessions with very young writers, only a day with those more experienced.
Don't stop there! Teach students to revise by using repeating words, or using sound words that match the object. Students can also rearrange the order of words, play with line breaks and take out unnecessary words.
With very inexperienced writers, you don't need the quadrants--and they may be cumbersome. But do teach into the ideas for the quadrants--describing how the object looks, etc.