This unit will be taught over a five week period. Week one will focus on how to read a variety of free verse by Shel Silverstein. Students will focus on authors' structure while reading free verse poems that have a strong rhythm. Introduce the idea of the author leaving the reader with a feeling or emotion. Have students describe the initial feeling they have when reading the poem. Have students note techniques the author used to get his or her mood across. Students will note repeated words, repeated phrases, word choice, or changed stanza structure. They will inquire in small groups why the author chose to write in this way. They will note words, phrases, or structure that helped accomplish the author's goal. They will give final reactions to the poems. Students will then focus attention on line breaks. Students will modify a poem's line breaks to change the meaning of the poems and will create their own found poems. They will analyze the difference in sound and rhythm when the line breaks change.
In the second week, students will note the authors tone using the knowledge gained from week one. They will also notice specific authors' crafts used in free verse. They will read a variety of examples of poetry that include alliteration and onomatopoeia. Alliteration is a craft authors use by repeating the same sound at the beginning of a word. Onomatopoeia means words or phrases that imitate a sound. They will be asked to analyze the newly introduced techniques the author used to add rhythm. The teacher will highlight students' ideas. Students who notice a rhythm of the poem can use instruments such as maracas or drums and play the beat to the class. The class will join in by clapping the rhythm or using instruments (depending on how many instruments the teacher has). The students will notice the rhythm in the poem by creating a faster or slower, louder or softer beat. Students will then work in small groups to find favorite poems with rhythm and will play the beat they hear. The lesson will be extended by having students write their own free verse poems with rhythm using alliteration and onomatopoeia.
During week three, students will start by listening to and reading haikus. They will make a list of their observations and analyze what makes a poem a haiku. Ask students what feeling did the author want to leave the reader with? Have students work in partners to identify the tone of the poems they are reading. Discuss as a class what the tone of the poems is. The teacher will use homemade or borrowed instruments (such as a drum) to syllabicate the poem in correspondence to the tone. For example, if the tone is serious the students can create a serious sound while syllabicating the words. Students will then work in groups to find new haikus that they can use to create a beat that corresponds with the syllables and tone. This lesson will be extended with students writing their own haikus. This activity can be repeated with cinquains if you feel that your students are struggling with counting syllables. Students must know how to syllabicate for the following lessons. Students should note that cinquains have an increasing syllable count. The first line has two syllables, the second has four syllables, the third has six, the fourth has eight, and the fifth has two syllables.
Students will practice reading a variety of poems while paying attention to the sounds of the words in each line. They will read poems by Emily Dickinson and Jack Prelutsky. They will practice reading each line and pausing. Students will note when the lines rhyme and when they do not. It should be noted that these poems rhyme in an ABCB pattern. They will raise their voice for rhyming words and explain how rhyming adds to the sound of the poem. Students will also note the meter the poem is read with. The poems chosen follow an iambic meter. This meter is when poets write with a short syllable followed by a long syllable. These poems follow a heartbeat pattern. Students will read the poem and pat their laps softly for the weak syllable and clap for the strong syllable. They will discover (but do not need to know by name) a pattern called hymn meter in Emily Dickinson's poems. The pattern she uses is made up of four-line stanzas or quatrains in which the first and third lines have four stresses and the second and fourth have three. They will then discover (but again do not need to know by name) an iambic trimeter in Jack Prelutsky's poems. This is a meter of poetry that uses three stressed syllables per line. Once the meter is noted, students can use instruments to accompany the beat of the poem. Students will then try to write their own couplet ABCB pattern poems. They will perform their couplet, and the class can note if the poems have an iambic meter in any of their lines.
During the last week, students will work on editing their own poetry. They will compile an anthology of the poems they found and wrote each week. The poems written in this unit will be published and bound. Students will memorize their favorite poem and will share the poem once by reading it with rhythm and once using instruments. They will explain why they chose the beat and how it expresses the tone they intended.