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Wish Poems

“Poetry breaks through the skin of suffering in which children are often imprisoned: silent, confused, and scared.  A child’s poetry is an intimate, trusting gift to her parent or to anyone who wishes to ‘read’ her heart.”

–Alice Walker (Cited in Heard, 1999, 3)

Last week  I led a poetry exploration with my students.  First, we talked about reasons to (continue to) teach poetry even though poetry isn’t a part of the Common Core’s writing standards.  Once we did that, I spoke about ways to engage students using activities and ideas from Georgia Heard’s Awakening the Heart (1999).  Next, I did a minilesson for them about painting images with words.  After that we used “Soap Bubble” by Valerie Worth and a container of bubbles I brought from home to inspire some poetry writing about bubbles.  Finally, I used four poems from What You Wish For: Stories and Poems for Darfur to inspire my students to write wish poems. (If you haven’t read through the short stories and poems in this book from the Book Wish Foundation, then it’s worth looking at sometime soon.  There are so many possibilities for mentor texts in this collection!)  BTW: 100% of What You Wish For‘s proceeds go to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, to build the refugee camp libraries.

Their instructions were simple: write a wish poem about family, home, love, safety, or another topic.  They were to choose one or more of the following poems to use as a mentor.

  • “I Wish I Could Live (In a Book)” by Nikki Giovanni
  • “Secret Song” by Naomi Shihab Nye
  • “What I Wish For” by Gary Soto
  • “Wishes” by Jane Yolen

While I’m a big believer in sharing, I decided not to ask students to turn and talk with a partner or share in a small group after writing a poem like this.  Why?  I knew, even before I walked around the classroom, that they would be writing really personal stuff.  (And, after all, they’d only known each other for a few days when they wrote these.)  As I did walk around the classroom, once I finished writing my own wish poem (which I did share), I saw that they were working on some pretty personal stuff.  That being said, in a classroom where poetry comes towards the end of the school year, I would imagine having students to share and publish their wish poems.

So, what do you wish for?  Feel free to share what you might right a wish poem about.

Some students hand wrote their wish poems…
…while others wrote them on their laptops.

Stacey Shubitz View All

I am a literacy consultant who focuses on writing workshop. I've been working with K-6 teachers and students since 2009. Prior to that, I was a fourth and fifth-grade teacher in New York City and Rhode Island.

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).

I live in Central Pennsylvania with my husband and children. In my free time, I enjoy swimming, doing Pilates, cooking, baking, making ice cream, and reading novels.

15 thoughts on “Wish Poems Leave a comment

  1. Poetry is such a personal writing format that it really needs to be taught as early as Kindergarten so that children aren’t scared to share their thoughts, feelings, and fears. As a child, I always wanted my teacher to read some of Shel Silverstein’s poems to the class….and I never seemed to get tired of the funny antics that happened throughout his books. However, by the time I got to high school, teachers were really making poetry a dreaded experience for all of us. I am so glad to hear how you are igniting the excitement and passion in students to delve deeper into this genre. Thank you for sharing your story!

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  2. I too can’t imagine a classroom that is not rich with poetry. Glad to hear you are passing that message to your students here. My wish poem might be that more people should write poems. I don’t think any bad could come from that.

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  3. I just bought “What you wish for” and already see so many possibilities. What a great idea, though, to write a wish poem with these mentor poems. I imagine that this would be something quite wonderful to do at the beginning of the school year, whenmy kiddos are still wide-eyed and anxious about the middle school life they have just begun. We study poetry all year…even during “testing season” – I wish more teachers felt that they could squeeze poetry into their weekly curriculum…the kids do love it so!

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  4. Sounds like a wonderful lesson — I love the idea of having the students experience poetry with the “painting with words” minilesson! Thanks for sharing which mentor poems you used for the wish poems too! I’d love to try this with my ELLs next year! As for poetry not being part of Common Core, I think poetry is something that can relate to anything. I recently read in one of his books how Jim Burke weaves poetry throughout the year, within his other units. I feel like that’s the perfect way to “sneak” it into Common Core!

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  5. I am always on the lookout for new poetry ideas to share with my students – THANKS! I love this idea and will be searching for the book you referenced. Poetry not part of Common Core????!!! HA – just try making me give up my weekly poetry workshop! Thanks for sharing these great ideas as always.

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    • @Julie: Everyone should still be teaching poetry! I, too, wove it into my classroom year-round when I was a f/t teacher. I cannot imagine teaching without a classroom rich with poetry!

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  6. I just saw this quote not too long ago, and your post made me think of it: “A poem begins with a lump in the throat, a home-sickness or a love-sickness. It is a reaching-out toward expression; an effort to find fulfillment. A complete poem is one where the emotion has found its thought and the thought has found the words.”
    —Robert Frost, American poet, letter, 1916

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  7. Stacey – I love it when you share these lessons ideas. Gives me things to research/look into if I’m not aware of the resources (to use with students) and ideas for my own writing. THANK YOU.

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  8. Wonderful to be sure that they begin to learn (if they don’t already know) that poetry is important too. You know that I would wish for good care for my husband always. It’s not so easy to come by I have discovered, so I feel blessed as you know that he’s in a good place. Of course, all my family and friends are always in my best wishes and prayers, but he’s the first one now. Thanks for sharing what must have been a powerful lesson, Stacey, and for the poem ideas!

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