A lot of info below is from the book Awakening the Herat: Exploring P0etry in Elementary and Middle School (by Georgia Heard)
Poetry starts in the heart. It is about using our sense, our memories, working out concerns (e.g. musical lyrics often talk about love and other things we want to work out), communicating the things we wonder about. Teaching poetry is about helping students find their voice. Each person has to find their own image and listen to themselves. As teachers, we need to truly believe in each student’s potential. We can also acknowledge that it is hard to produce poetry on demand.
Rationale: Why to include Poetry in your English Language Arts program
- You can teach the 6 writing traits through poetry
- Poetry builds emotional literacy
- Helps students get in touch with their feelings / emotional lives (life lesson)
- Fosters interpersonal intelligence (knowing and managing one’s feelings) and interpersonal intelligence (understanding and getting along with others)
- Poetry workshops make students feel like their lives matter
- Poetry helps students get to know themselves and the world around them. They can give us comfort and connect us to others.
How to include Poetry in your English Language Arts program
- Set up an environment that nurtures the poet inside all students (the emotional climate matters) – if students feel like their lives matter, their voice is worth listening to, etc. then they can take risks in writing poems about whatever their hearts urge them to write.
- Believe that all your students, even the ones who struggle, can be poets.
- Don’t leave poetry until the end of the year when all the “more important” things have been covered – you can teach the 6 writing traits through poetry (see below for some examples).
- We need to listen to poetry more than once (e.g. read your students the poem more than once to model this) – we don’t just listen to a song we like once.
- Choose poems that are accessible and not threatening and are relevant to children’s lives (like the Boy at the Window poem was)
- Help students connect personally to a poem – help them find themselves and their lives in the poem
- Guide students toward analyzing the craft of the poem – figuring out how it is built, interpreting what it means, etc.
Some activities for poetry: recognize that any one of these could be your mini lesson for the day if you were doing a Writer’s Workshop using poetry.
Activity: Looking at a poem
We used “Boy at the Window” to study poetry. Students need to be seated in groups of 5.
- First, the teacher reads the poem to the class (the kids do not yet have a copy of the poem and are asked to just listen – they can put their head down or close their eyes or do whatever helps them listen.
- Second, the teacher hands out copies of the poem and each student reads it silently. Teacher should emphasize SILENTLY. Tell the students we are not worrying about interpreting it right now, we are just reading it. Students can draw or write on the page as they wish.
- Third, one person reads the poem to the rest of the group.
- Fourth, each student reads the poem again silently.
- Fifth, another person in the group reads the poem aloud to the group (they will read it differently than the first person).
- Sixth, each group member says one thing that stood out for them from the poem. Tell students not to leap ahead to interpreting. Take your time, don’t try to analyze the literary elements or what the poem means yet.
- Seventh, each student discusses with a partner: “What does this poem mean to you?”
- Eight, each group is assigned one literary element to look at in the poem (the literary elements are on the back of the handout that has the poem on the front). Give some time for students to discuss within their groups.
- Ninth, go around the room and get each group to share their analysis with the rest of the class.
Activity: 6 rooms
This is from the Awakening the Heart book (page 69)
Take a piece of paper and divide it into 6 boxes (rooms) by folding it in half and then in thirds.
- First Room (Image): Think of a place you love and describe it as vividly as you can. Our teacher said she likes watching fires and she picked a place she does that. Emphasize to the students that we are not writing poetry yet. Just describe the place. I know it is hard to think on demand (you can think of what is on your computer desktop if you can’t think of another place that is special to you). It doesn’t have to be something profound. Give a minute or so and then move on to the next room, letting students know it doesn’t matter if they haven’t finished the first room by the transition – there will be time to go back later.
- Second Room (Light): focus on the quality of light – is it bright, dull, flat? You can describe colour too. It’s ok if you already talked about colour in the first room (There is often repetition in poetry).
- Third Room (Sound): now focus on sounds – are there voices, rain, silence, peacefulness?
- Fourth room (Questions): write down any questions you have about the image or that you wonder about.
- Fifth room (Feelings): write down any feelings you have about the image.
- Sixth room (Repeat): look back over all the rooms. Select a word or phrase that feels important and repeat it 3 times.
Afterward, the teacher can share some things from their rooms (the teacher will have tried the lesson before giving it to the students and reflected on what they learned and made adjustments accordingly). The teacher can also ask students to share theirs.
Here is a picture of my rooms:
- Now: we have too much writing and need to narrow down.
- Underline key things you have written.
- Decide what you would leave out.
- See if you can put a metaphor or simile in somewhere.
- Think about where you can put in line breaks.
- From that, we created a poem by moving our phrases and words around. Here is the poem I ended up with:
What stories does this place hold?
Sunny, rocky, shadows.
The water sparkles. Ferries swim
in and out. Listen
to the creaking of the Arbutus trees.
What stories does this place hold?
the rock beneath your feet.
The sense of familiarity
The Winchelseas and Sunshine Coast beyond.
Activity: Heart Map
Pg 111 in Awakening the Heart
Our teachers said: I want to introduce the second activity and I’ll give you more time if you need to come back to the rooms.
Heart mapping is a good activity to use the first week of class as a way to get to know your students. On their heart map, they include: things they care about, things they love to do. Verbs. Objects that you love. They can make a long list and then think about how they want to organize it.
This might be a good activity to get students to do at the beginning of practicum.
Alternative to this activity: get students to trace their hands and put an emotion on each finger. Then they can make a tree and put a story to do with that finger’s emotion into the tree.
Another alternative: get students to list 10 things they love and 10 things they don’t like.
Activity: Writer’s workshop
You could easily use poetry in a Writer’s workshop and could even structure it like this:
- Monday: read the poem out loud twice. let students close their eyes and ask them a couple questions to help them connect personally to it (e.g. how does it make you feel) – they don’t need to analyze it and don’t ask them too many questions or else it will feel like a quiz. Can do this think/pair/share style.
- Tuesday: read the poem again and ask students to draw the poem or make a collage representing what stood out to them from the poem.
- Wednesday: read the poem as a class and act out the poem (movement) – e.g. express each line of the poem through arm/hand movements
- Thursday: bring in an artefact to discuss your personal connections of the poem:
- Friday: final group (choral) reading of the poem. Memorize the poem and recite it if desired. include the poem in your poetry folder.
Writer’s workshop helps get students writing (we could include poetry as writing if we wish).