Making Thinking Visible

Making Thinking Visible
Making Thinking Visible

Arts Integration

Arts Integration
Arts Integration

3 + Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month

  1. match or surpass (a person or achievement), typically by imitation.

    "lesser men trying to emulate his greatness"
    synonyms:imitatecopyreproducemimicmirrorechofollow, model oneself on, take as a model, take as an example; 

"When we teach our students how to become writers, we want them to first read, then analyze, and finally emulate."

I can't remember who said this. I was sitting in our state's literacy conference listening to four of my teaching heroes speak: Pernille Ripp, Stephanie Harvey, Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle. As is often the case with me when I swim in a sea of ideas, I remember the ideas, but can't remember whose ocean I was in at the time. 


What a fabulous word, though. If I could offer any earth shattering tips for writing poetry with students, this word would be at the center of all my efforts. If you want to break out of the "write a write a diamonte poem" rut, check out the 3 lesson ideas below.  Let me add that we read and discuss each poem in our reader's workshop block, before  I use them as writing models for my students. That's imperative!  

I love using Carl Sandburg's poem "Telephone Wire" for teaching personification. After we've unpacked our thinking about it, we start to notice how he has structured the poem. I give each student a key. I've collected stray keys for years and keep them on a huge ring in my desk.                                                                       We brainstorm. What features does my key have? Is that hole an eye? Are the jagged edges teeth? Does my key open doors or diaries? Does it lock things? What does it keep secret? What would my key say if it could talk. 

We fill our white board with tons of ideas about the purpose of our keys. Then, we each choose one of those ideas, and brainstorm vocabulary that would be associated with that particular idea. For example, I might choose "diary." Some of the words I associate with diary might be: Glittery, lock, lined pages, secrets, crushes, best friend fights, mad at my mother. Then, I begin to write a poem for my students, making sure that I talk about the structure of Sandburg's poem as I try to craft my own. 

Check out the some of my students' efforts! 

When I teach metaphor, I love to share Langston Hughes' "Mother to Son." We talk about how a staircase can be a metaphor for life. We explore the meaning behind the images. Fourth and fifth grade students can "get" this poem. It also gives us a glimpse at how writers use dialect in their writing. Again, we take note of the structure Hughes uses.                                                                      We brainstorm again. If we were going to offer advice to someone, who would we offer it to and what would that advice be? We create a list of ideas on the white board. One side is who we might write our poems to, and the other side is the advice we would offer. The kids LOVE this lesson. Check out their poems below!

Poetry can be found in the mundane happenings of life. One of my favorite poetry lessons uses "This is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams. After we discuss it and explore the poem's structure, we think of all the things we'd rather say in a note to someone than in person. Kids come up with the coolest ideas. Check out their list:
  1. Why I didn't clean my room.
  2. That I broke my dad's hammer.
  3. I broke the window with my baseball, accidentally.
  4. I cut Barbie's hair off (my sister was really mad).
  5. I found my mom's chocolate stash.
  6. I tangled my dad's fishing pole in the tree.
  7. I broke my mom's vase.
  8. I ate the frosting off of one side of the birthday cake.
  9. I didn't brush my teeth.
Their guilty confessions are hysterical and a window into their childhoods. I don't have any student examples from this lesson, but you can check out the poem I wrote with them as a model!

I could write and write about using poetry in my classroom (in fact, I have). It truly is one of my life-long passions. Poetry teaches us what it means to be human, and it helps us recognize and empathize with other people's humanity. Try reading an 800 year old haiku by Issa, Basho, or Buson. To me, the thrill is realizing that their realities were not unlike mine today. And that connects us...that connects us all.

This week, our We Teach So Hard podcast episode is all about ideas for National Poetry Month. Stop by an give us a listen. Just click on the picture to access!

We've gathered a wealth of poetry ideas for your classroom. Visit below!