As I will not be teaching full time, the classroom I will be working in will not be my own. Maryellen Hellyar, with whom I once co-taught, has agreed to work with me in her third grade. This situation will not alter my approach.
Beginning sometime in October, I will start introducing some of the Shel Silverstein poems I have selected. My unit contains a list of his poems that I feel will fit well with my overall objectives, but the individual teacher is the best judge of what will work with a particular group. The students will be given some biographical information on Silverstein and they will make or be given folders in which to hold the poems they read and write. I will attempt to purchase folders with pockets in both sides for easy separation of their poetry and that written by Silverstein. Later, as they begin to write prose material, they will have another related folder. At first, they will be asked not to illustrate their folders. This task will be postponed until students become more familiar with the wonderfully expressive drawings that the poet creates to accompany his poetry. When this has happened, the class will be encouraged to decorate their folders with drawings that either imitate Silverstein's work or represent their own ideas relative to the poems they have written. A combination of both types might be ideal. Throughout, students will be urged to include illustrations with both their poetry and prose but not at the expense of their written work.
At first, I will present one or two poems a week. We will talk about the poem's content, some of the basic elements employed by Silverstein, and any message they feel the poem is trying to present. If there is an illustration included, we will talk about its connection to the poem, whether students like it, and other ways in which he could have illustrated the poem. Students will be encouraged to write their own poem on subjects related to the Silverstein poem. After the first two or three weeks, poetry assignments will become required rather than optional. Hopefully, by that time students will feel secure enough with poetry to feel at ease writing their own. Discussing the elements of poetry present in the Silverstein poems should provide some of the tools they need in writing their own. During this phase, they will not yet be asked to develop any material related to narrative or expository writing.