I used to have a blog called Writing Journeys. It held onto that name for about a day. Then I changed it to Teaching Young Writers. It’s like one of those old friends I still have, but we rarely see each other. As I sat down to write this post I was thinking about my writing journey and how I find it interesting that in the early days of its rapid growth I knew enough to name it a journey.
One of the practices I adopted early on in my writing journey was to explore poetry and play with language. Hands down, I would say that poetry is what grew me as a writer more than anything else. The reckless abandon that poetry can seem to find, the way it allows you to process any experience, its cryptic darkness, or starlight brightness captivated me, and I haven’t looked back.
At the time I was a kindergarten teacher, and I wanted my students to feel and find their voices through poetry. They did, and we had so much fun together, growing as a writing community.
What I find now, as a third-grade teacher, is a persistent difficulty in finding the places for poetry. I tend to do mini-units of my own creation or look for inspiration and just pause for a moment to teach a poetry lesson. As wonderful as spontaneous bursts of poetry can be, I know, from my own experience, and from the wise words of so many poets and writers, that bursts are not enough to really grow a writer. There are moments of poetry hidden all throughout our day. If we intentionally seek them, we will see the gifts they leave behind.
I decided this year I must create five, five-minute practices that I could choose from throughout the day, week, and months of the school year to infuse and embed poetry into my everyday. I find if I make space for something EVERY DAY, even on the days I somehow miss out, my students get more. If I decide a small moment of our day is only worth a once a week glance, the urge to skip it is great and before I know it three weeks have gone by.
Here are five start tomorrow ideas intended to help you start embedding a bit of poetry every day for your everyday small teaching moments.
Something I started doing last year comes from an idea used by Kelly Gallagher called The Reading Minute. He starts each class period with a one minute read aloud that has absolutely no follow-up in the beginning. This is then slowly released to students. A one sentence summary is part of his way of extending The Reading Minute for his students once established.
I began thinking this might be one of those perfect places to try and extend one minute to a max of five minutes and let students benefit from the reward. If I chose a week at a time to dedicate to the reading of poems or stanzas of poems, we could lift a line to linger for a bit. As a class, we could use shared, interactive, or independent writing practices to generate a “next” line of our own. One minute read, two-minute chat, two minutes of writing. Five-minute win.
#2 Collaborative Poems
I love collaborative poetry. If you’ve ever participated in my Facebook Collaborative Poetry work at I Think in Poems in April you know, it can be a treat. Irene Latham does a similar spin on this idea with the Progressive Poems in April with the existing Poetry Friday community. In five minutes or less my students and I could generate a line together each day throughout a month to create a growing poem. I love the idea of picking a student to add the line or working together as a whole class. Maybe some days we add a line maybe other days we revise a line. The idea is through writing together you build community. Everyone has a hand in the end product and often surprises come from this type of work. The stakes are low, but the reward is great.
#3 Borrowing Language
One of my favorite writing exercises for myself is something I shared here on TWT a long time ago. It was a two column exercise. I looked at my surroundings choosing a descriptive word. From that word, I broke it apart into more descriptive pieces.
I thought about this exercise and wondered if we could borrow language from our daily #classroombookaday read-aloud or my chapter book read-aloud and take apart a word. This, in turn, would be a way of borrowing language from a book to play with words like poetry often does.
#4 Mood Mentors
Creating the intended mood and tone within a piece of writing can be difficult for the most skilled and experienced writer. Poetry is one of those gifts that allows a writer to practice mood and tone frequently. Another option in my list of five ideas tonight is to lift a line from a poem and have students attach a feeling word to the line. Across several days, after several lines, you now have multiple mentor lines that depict mood and tone. Anytime I can create a running list of moves that cross genres I know it’s worth the time
#5 Teacher Model
Another one of my favorite poetry writing exercises uses one word or topic and a simple web or bubble structure. Starting with one word and bubbling out to new words. From these words, I can create lines of poems that connect to a central topic. Modeling a line a day for students would take only a moment. It would allow me to model some writing right in front of them as well as model how I can take a single word and simply write a line using it. This also lets me remind students that I’m crafting a line at a time. Therefore, when my lines are done, I can go back, reread to see if it says something I like, and then revise. The bubbles provide a skeleton to build upon and from there something exciting might happen. The point again is to model some writing of poetry without fear knowing that it might take me the full five minutes somedays and on others, I might have it on the tip of my pen.
I hope to cycle in and out of all five of these ideas to keep myself swirling through the wealth of poetry knowledge that I know is bound to grow if I allow space and time for it to breathe in my classroom.
Happy Labor Day and happy new school year if you began two weeks ago or tomorrow. We all want to start the year strong, and I hope you will consider finding five minutes in your day to weave a bit of poetry into the lives of your writers and their writing journey.
If you want more, here are some links to past posts I have shared here on Two Writing Teachers with a focus on poetry.
Daughter, sister, wife, mother, teacher, and writer.