As a third grade teacher, my district’s curricular calendar includes a mini-unit on poetry. The unit begins with reading poems in reading workshop and then writing poems in writing workshop. Currently, my class is finishing up personal narratives and we are also reviewing some test-taking strategies as our New York State English Language Arts Assessment draws near. Time is crunched, to say the least.
Looking to plan this unit for my class, there are other challenges besides a time crunch. I have 24 students in my class and their abilities are quite diverse. I have a few English Language leaners and an ENL (English as a New Language) teacher pushes into my classroom during our reading instruction. We need to collaborate on what we are teaching and the best way to deliver the curriculum.
I believe in the power of poetry. I don’t like to limit it to one unit or one time of year. My students keep Poetry Journals from the start of the year and we share a poem a week. Each week, the students read the poem, discuss it, highlight favorite lines, and illustrate the poem in their notebooks. Poetry is woven into our year, in this way, so studying poetry is not completely new to them.
There are new concepts to explore, of course. This year, I decided to try Poetry Centers to allow students to learn about some literary devices and figurative language. The idea was to immerse students in learning poetry, reading poetry and experimenting with writing poetry before our more formal poetry writing unit in writing workshop.
Here is how this unit has worked so far:
Poetry On Demand Writing:
Before exploring the Poetry Centers, the ENL teacher and I asked students to write a poem for their on-demand assessment. We invited them to be inspired by a color for their poem. I brought in paint chips from a hardware store in case students wanted to select a color. The on-demand writing showed us what students already understood about writing poems and how poems go.
My third grade colleagues and I hung poems around our hallway, with numbers on the bottom. We asked students to walk around the hallway and read the poems. Next to the number on a sheet, students would write what they noticed or wondered about the poem they read. After all the students participated in the Gallery Walk, we discussed what they noticed about poetry and their questions.
I created 6 different Poetry Centers, which you can access here. The centers focused on making mental images as you read poetry, seeing an object with a poet’s eyes, alliteration, personification, simile, and fluent and expressive reading of a poem on Flipgrid. Some of the poetry centers include a video for students to watch where the concept is explained. The video I shared with students for personification can be seen here.
The ENL teacher has been able to adapt and add materials to the centers that support student understanding of some of these more complex concepts. We are both able to check in with all the centers as students explore poetry. Students have been enthusiastic about Poetry Centers and it’s been joyful to see some of the writing they are trying!
What are your favorite ways to teach students to write and appreciate poetry?