The students will be spending two weeks or ten teaching days getting familiar with some terms, components and formats for poetry writing. After you have defined what a poem is and how it looks different from pose, the students can now begin their own poetry writing. All of the writing will have paths for the student to follow. They will have room to remain creative, but a direction can reduce the chances of their getting frustrated or feeling inadequate from the very start. As an introductory lesson, Kenneth Koch in his
Wishes, Lies, and Dreams
suggests providing an incentive for the student to begin writing. For instance, have the students close their eyes as you bang two objects together. Ask them what kind of animal noise, size, shape or color the sound made. Various noises and sounds or rules may be employed according to the student’s maturity and interest level. A rule such as beginning and ending each line of poetry with, ‘That sounds like a (animal) in a (color) (object)’, can help the student feel secure, especially in his first writings. Koch also suggests that poems written on a particular subject should be read to the students at the same time they are writing their poems since this can be a real incentive for generating creativity from the students. The children will see the variety of ideas that students their own age have created and will be less inhibited to write off the top of their heads. (Examples can be found in Koch’s books.)
In addition to following rules the students will be learning the components contained within poems and then learn these components themselves. For instance, after telling the students what an analogy is and giving the students examples, you can hold up a pen and say ‘This pen looks like a ___.’ or ‘This pen is shaped like a ___.’ Don’t forget to use examples such as ‘He is as ugly as ___.’, or ‘Her hands were as rough as ___.’ The more concrete the examples, the better the chance of the student using these images in their own writing. Using body parts for analogies is a great concrete way to help students remember imaging. Also, analogies used in T.V. commercials will directly relate to our students since we know how much of the dreaded tube they do enjoy. After working on analogies the students will write some poems on their own lies, wishes and dreams. Koch found that students who wrote poems on these topics were particularly uninhibited. They can say what they really feel without being threatened by having to own their words. phrases such as ‘I wish I could . . . .., but I can’t because . . . .., and ‘It only . . . ., have worked well in my classroom. If more specific rules are needs; ‘If only I was (name a person, place or thing), then . . . .., might be helpful. Now the students can move to recognizing and writing similes. The poem
by Eloise Greenfield has good examples of similes. After explaining similes to your students they can write their own by using such phrases as ‘I’m a ___on a ___. or I’m a ___in a ___.’ Then have them write in a color in the second half of their sentence. For example, I’m a car in a blue bottle. On any given day you can put the students’ poetry together and read it as a group poem. According to Kerber in his
The Teaching of Creative Poetry
reading poetry aloud, to and by your students, is an excellent way to build vocabulary and make the connection between reading, writing and speaking. It is a good way to reinforce how all three aspects of our language effect one another.
Now I would like my students to recognize the general mood of a poem.
by Yolanda Zealy is an outright example of being black and proud. A list of specific questions allows and directs the student to conclude how the poet feels about the subject he is writing about. Next, the student will count stanzas and lines, learning that a line is also called a verse and that a stanza is a bunch of words grouped together and separated from another group of words. The poem
by Naomi Long Madgett contains a few stanzas and has an easily recognizable mood, the fight for freedom and perseverance. Many of the previously used terms and concepts can be reused with new poems and therefore reinforce old concepts.
The final activities to be used in the two weeks of writing poetry will be clustering, as suggested by Rico in her
Writing the Natural Way
. The students will focus on one word, circle it and write all of the things they associate with it. This is a good way for students to see that a poem involves feelings that you relate to the subject. A group activity will work well here to help students who are shy. If, for example, you cluster the word noise on the board, questions such as When do you hear that noise? and How does it make you feel? can facilitate many varied answers. At this point you can introduce prepositions and prepositional phrases as a way of extending and stretching the student’s imagination. For example, you can say or write on the board, ‘It’s fun to ___(on, in, around) a ___’, substituting the prepositions and creating new ideas or views on something. Since a lot of poetry contains phrases rather than full sentences this will reinforce that idea. See lesson plans.
There is no need for my students to memorize the above terms. I want them to be able to recognize when they are used, and to use them in their poetry. However, you may find it to your advantage if they find, identify and memorize the definitions of the terms all at the same time. This material will be too much for my students to digest all at once. If the students cannot get past the language they will be frustrated once again. When they read a poem, I want them to be able to tell the general mood of a poem; anger, happiness, sorrow, etc. If there are additional words that need to be defined, they will look them up in the dictionary, or I will give them a synonym for the word. This will keep the students’ interest (because of their short attention span) by avoiding numerous steps to get to the end result.