After extensively researching the benefits of using poetry with young students, I needed to think about what types of poems I wanted to implement in my classroom. I wanted to be extremely mindful about which types of poems I would use and how they could help my students. Research suggests that when many teachers first introduce students to poetry they mainly focus on acrostic poems. “An acrostic is a poem in which the first letter of each line spells out a word”14 For example:
The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) has digital lesson plans for acrostic poems directed at the primary grades. The overview of the lessons they suggest is as follows: “Students write free-verse acrostic poems about themselves using the letters of their names to begin each line. They then write an additional acrostic poem about something that is important to them.”15 While some word choice is involved in this type of poetry it can be basic and not very creative. However, it would be easy for students to create this type of poem digitally since they could just type the letters down and the words across in an online document. While it would be easy to do, it might not be that exciting for students after a while. Research suggests that other types of poems must be taught in order for students to truly benefit from a poetry unit. From my own experience that I am not super passionate about acrostic style poems, I researched further to find what would really engage myself and my students.
There many types of poetry beyond acrostic for children to interact with. In addition to that, there are many online resources which can help children read poetry and write their own poems. Some other genres that the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) suggests for the lower grades are found poetry, theme poetry focusing on the five senses, thematic poetry focusing on content areas, and Rebus poetry.
“Found poetry is created by using only words and phrases that have been selected and rearranged from another text.”16 In this type of poetry students search a document for words they enjoy and then use these words to create something new. Taking something and then creating something new helps students to achieve the highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy; studies show that students retain and learn most when they are engaging at this level. The structure is new and the ideas from the original document have been repurposed.
A variation of found poetry is “blackout poetry”. It is called blackout poetry because the poet will black out the words that they do not want to use on the document that they are working from. What is left are the words that they have left uncovered to create a new poem. Furthermore, this kind of poetry can also be used to create works of art with the words. By blacking out the proper words in the text an image can be formed with the words that have been blacked out and the ones that remain. Using found poetry can also provide students with choice in the activity which is critically important at all ages. It is also important to remember that these poems do not need to make perfect sense. Rather, students should enjoy engaging in the process and learning a new art form (digital or concrete).
Found poetry is a great way for students to explore literacy as well as become more creative and it can be done digitally. If students begin with an online text, they can mark it up with an editing or paint style app. They can completely create this type of poem digitally if they type it. In order for the benefits of literacy to be apparent they will need to be able to read the words to use them in their new poems. For this reason, found poetry will help with accuracy while reading. The students must also be creative when deciding which words they would like to remove and which words they want to restructure in their own poem. There are many digital examples of found poetry that students can look at online for inspiration. It is a fun and creative way for students to explore digital media, poetry, and their own self-expression.
Poetry of the Senses
The five senses are often taught in the low grades as part of science or used in writing. We learn about the world around us through our senses. Students explore how their senses help them learn and understand different things. After being taught initially, the senses are often incorporated in writing units since they help students to use adjectives. Using sense poetry would create cross curricular activities with science, reading, and writing. “Your five senses help you take in information from the world around you. These senses are also a powerful tool to use when you're writing. They help convey a message to readers by providing a strong image in their heads.”17 Students can learn how to use imagery (which is a craft move) by including sensory words in their poems. One idea for sense poetry is to describe certain foods by using the senses. For example, if they were writing a poem about popcorn students could describe how it sounds when it is popping and how it smells at the movie theaters or if it is too burnt. While writing these types of poems technology can be used for students to watch videos of popcorn popping so they get the imagery and hear the sounds. This can be done with any experience the student may wish to write about. Technology can be used to help remind them of what something looks and sounds like.
Content Area Poems
In content area, poetry students look at texts that are related to a specific subject such as a scientific or social studies topic. They can create different types of poems based off the words that they find in these texts.
One example is to create acrostic poetry with these subject area vocabulary words. This would make the acrostic poems more meaningful than just using a name or word and adding adjectives to it. For example, students will “gather a word bank of supporting details and content vocabulary about a concept. Then they use these words as a basis for writing acrostic poems”18 These poems that they create can help them to further understand the concepts that they are being taught in these content areas. They will reach a higher level of Bloom’s Taxonomy if they take what they have learned and create something new with the information. This would create opportunities for cross-curricular activities that would benefit students. My students would be working with literature and that content subject. Students could also create blackout poetry for these content area poems. The main idea is to get students to interact with the vocabulary in a new way that will help them to create a deeper meaning.
Technology could be used to create these types of poems as well. The acrostic style poems as previously mentioned can be typed in an online format. Students can also use word generators to get ideas for their word banks in a specific content. They can also utilize online poem libraries and search by category or content to glean ideas for their own poems.
Rebus means that images are used in place of words in a text. This imagery is often used in lower level texts to help students to understand what words are being used. A common teaching strategy in primary grades is using the illustrations in a text to help aid with decoding and comprehension. In Rebus poetry icons are used in place of certain words such as a heart to symbolize love or a smiley face to signify happiness. This type of poetry can be a great option for young students who cannot write full words by themselves yet. They can use images and icons to express themselves without being worried about getting the words right. Often young students get fixated on spelling and reading everything correctly. However, Rebus poetry can give them an outlet to express themselves without using words.
An extremely easy way to tie Rebus poetry back to technology is to let students use emojis as their icons. Students are very familiar with using emojis to express themselves when using their phones and tablets. They could have fun using emojis to create a poem instead of using them for texting or posting on social media. Students may have an easier time using emojis rather than other icons that they may be unfamiliar with. Even if they did not use emojis, students could use Clip Art in a word document and insert the images directly into the document.
There are so many poems beyond the ones listed on the NCTE’s website that can also be used to help students understand what poetry is and how they can use it to express themselves. There are many other digital resources that teachers and students can use to create their own poems. Such resources are poem generators or word generators that assist in the creation of poetry. Students should have the chance to interact with these interfaces so that they have a full grasp of what poetry is and what types of poems are available for them to create. There are way more options beyond acrostic style poems that students should access to explore themselves.