By Constance Foland | May 16, 2011 at 01:09 PM EDT | No Comments
I know April is technically poetry month, but you can teach poetry anytime! I read poetry to kids throughout the year, and focus on writing poetry in a unit of study. Here's how a unit might go for little kids.
Immersion: Immerse students in ALL kinds of poetry. Rhyming, non-rhyming, free verse. Poems that tell stories, poems that use beautiful imagery, poems that use simile or metaphor or repetition. And don't forget to read your students nonfiction poetry. Read them the poetry you love best and they'll come to love it, too.
Noticings about Poetry: Create a chart entitled "What We Notice about Poetry" to elevate student awareness of the genre. Chart what students notice about the form or content or how poetry makes them feel.
Response to Poetry: Before students write poetry, it's helpful to have them respond to it. One of the ways children can respond to poetry is to visualize when they hear it. Read students a poem like April Rain Song by Langston Hughes and let them draw what they see. Students can also write an entry about how a poem makes them feel. I also love to have students chant poetry. Some of our most well known nursery rhymes can be chanted. Jump rope rhymes are favorites to chant, too. Once students can chant poems, they can go off in pairs and put the poems to music. Give them instruments and ask them to perform for their classmates. Kids also love to act poems out. Model this whole group, then let pairs perform.
Getting Ideas for poetry: Once students start to understand poetry, teach them how poets get ideas. Introduce one idea per day by modeling a sample poem. If you have student samples, use them! Kids will relate. Here are some ways poets get ideas: passions, wonderings, experiences, feelings, observations, images that stay in the mind, words that bounce around in the head, wishes, memories
I always model with "poetry paper," which is paper or a chart cut in half lengthwise, because usually poems look different on the page.
With very young or inexperienced writers, I like to teach how to create list poems first, though you might choose a different path. The reason I teach list poems is because they're easy and no-fail. After reading a few list poems, I ask students to create a list poem with me. First we decide on a topic that we can all write about. I write that on a chart. Then students call out words associated with that topic. I linger over especially visual words, or words that sound delicious and I might ask students, "How would it sound if we repeated one or two of these words?" When we come to the end of the poem, we might circle back to the beginning OR, what usually happens is one budding poet will have thought of a great ending. When this happens I make a very big deal about it and we ooh and ahh over the ending before writing it in. Then I read the poem aloud, making sure I use a dramatic voice, so it sounds like a poem. Then we read it together. Instant success. Now students are ready to go off and write their own list poems about anything they want.
I don't teach into formulaic poetry--most of it is hard for young students and doesn't come out that great when they try, so I stick to free verse.
After list poems, I might show students how I take an experience and write it so it sounds like poetry, using only the most powerful words to create an image in the reader's mind.
With wondering poems I bring in an object to wonder about. Bubbles work for this, or unusual objects from nature. We create a poem together, just like we did the list poem, stating our wonderings aloud. You can sprinkle in some really visual images, or repetitions or answers to your wonderings. Students can then write about their own wonderings.
With feeling poems you can have kids think of a time they felt a really strong emotion, then write about it. (Model it first, of course.)
Revision:Nowstudentsarewritingupastorm!Somewillcreate three or four poems a day. Teach small revisions like starting with a powerful image, or repeating words that roll off the tongue, or how to create a twist/unexpected ending, ending with a wondering, getting rid of unnecessary or clunky sounding words. Rereading for sound is always important in poetry. (Youcanreviseonthepoemsyoustartedasawholeclass.)
Editing:I don't do a whole lot of editing with poetry--spelling by using the word wall, and using simple conventions like capital "I" and making sure spacing is correct are probably enough for very young writers.
Publishing: Students will want to publish at least three or four poems. You can have kids fancy up for publication by illustrating the poems and then putting them together in little booklets with covers.
Celebration: Poetry is a great genre to share whole class. It's short and it's meant to be heard. Make it a party!