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Building a Living Poetry Anthology


Pat suggested that I work with my students to create a Living Poetry Anthology (I believe Georgia Heard first presented this idea in one of her books.) during my first year of teaching. As the overzealous person I was in my first year of teaching, I did it. My students each recopied three – five poems they loved onto white paper and then they illustrated them as they saw fit. We found appropriate spots in the school building, floors one through five, for each and every poem (26 x 3 = 78; 26 x 5 = 130; So we hung somewhere between 78 – 130 poems in 2005). It was amazing.

While the Living Poetry Anthology was only supposed to stay up for the month of April, it landed up staying on the walls until the following April, when I did this project again with my second class.

Last year brought tougher times with my health. Preparing for surgery took up my extra time and therefore, I didn’t do this Anthology. And, this year, I didn’t think of it… until today.

My students performed at PPAC tonight through a program called “Chance to Dance.” However, five of the fourth graders stayed behind with me while Kate chaperoned the group of 35 who performed. So, I started thinking about building a mini-Living Poetry Anthology. I proposed the idea to the kids, who seemed to go for it. We perused books of poems and once we found the ones they liked, we copied them, pasted them onto 12″ x 12″ paper and then decorated the paper with gel and bold-colored markers. I took the pieces home tonight and laminated them since one’s going up in the bathroom (“Hat” by Shel Silverstein, where the boy wears a toilet bowl plunger for a hat.) and needs to be protected!

Here’s a partial sampling of what they created:

One student found a bubble gum poem and decided she was going to attach it to the trash can to remind people to throw out their gum. She drew a picture of a teacher and a student who was chewing gum. (Is the teacher me? I wonder…)

So, here I am, with less than 20 days of school left, creating mini-Living Poetry Anthologies. I suggest this, rather than a poem on this Poetry Friday, since I think it’s a project that every classroom should undertake (possibly school-wide where each student contributes one poem to hang in a specific place). I hope that this post inspires you to think about doing this project with your students in the near future.

This week, Poetry Friday is being hosted at Becky’s Book Reviews.

Stacey Shubitz View All

I am a literacy consultant who has spent over a decade working with teachers to improve the teaching of writing in their classrooms. While I work with teachers and students in grade K-6, I'm a former fourth and fifth-grade teacher so I have a passion for working with upper elementary students.

I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).

2 thoughts on “Building a Living Poetry Anthology Leave a comment

  1. The sixth grade LA teacher at my school did this last fall and the poems are still up. Every once in a while I find one I hadn’t read yet hanging in some corner of the school. It is delightful!

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  2. This sounds like a great idea. Here is another related idea. Coordinate with other teachers to get kids school-wide decorating the hallway walls or doors of each other’s classrooms. I am not sure how it would be done, but I could see the kids getting excited with the thought of doing this “Secret Santa” style (with the other class not knowing which class chose them for the poetry makeover). In fact, you could call it “Extreme Makeover: Poetry Edition”!!!!!

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