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Make and Take: Poetry Lesson

Over the years, my teaching experience has grown to include more and more age groups. This variety has allowed me to see the value of reading and using poetry in a writing workshop for many learners.

For the teacher who is looking ahead and seeing inconsistent schedules and breaks from their routines, I hope this post finds you. For the teacher who isn’t sure how to start with poetry but wants to try, I hope this post finds you. For the teacher who just put in for a very well-deserved personal business day in the next week or two, I hope this post finds you. This is meant to be a print-and-use post for kindergarten to eighth grade. I’ve created a simple lesson plan for three stages of learners and included links to poems you can use in your classroom tomorrow. 

Mentor Texts of Poets to Know:

Kindergarten-Second Grade Writers

“Famous” by Naomi Shihab Nye

“The Creature in the Classroom” by Jack Prelutsky

“I Left My Head” Lilian Moore

Third-Fifth Grade Writers

“On Quiet Feet” by Nikki Grimes

“Introduction to Poetry” by Billy Collins

“Jaguar” Francisco X. Alarcón

Sixth-Eighth Writers

“Hanging Fire” by Audre Lorde

“Drum Dream Girl” by Margarita Engle

“Football Dreams” by Jacqueline Woodson

Prepare your poem(s) for students. Younger students, present the chosen poem on a chart, sentence strips, or project it onto a whiteboard. For older students, you can offer printed copies or digital access. 

All learners need refreshers. Start off by talking about past experiences with poetry. What do they already know? 

Read the poem(s) aloud and talk about what students imagine while listening. For younger students listening to “Famous,” perspectives on fame might change. Did you ever imagine the water being famous to the fish? What does that even mean?

For slightly older students,  “On Quiet Feet” might spur imagining the comfort of a loved one or father figure in their life. 

For older students listening to “Hanging Fire” might connect readers to the feelings of isolation and loneliness of the speaker. 

Take time to identify word choice, figurative language elements, and the format of the poem. How do these elements change the way the reader feels and the way the reader “reads” the poem. Then, discuss the different techniques used by the poets. For instance, rhyme, repetition, and imagery. 

Explain to students that these poems can offer inspiration for their own writing.

You can generate a sample poem using ChatGPT or write your own. Here is a sample poem I generated from ChatGPT using the following prompt:

“Write a short poem for third-grade students based on the elements of a Robert Frost poem, Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening.”

Here is the poem it generated. I can now put this alongside the original for students to see the direct link and connection of shared elements. 

Snowflakes falling from the sky,

In the woods, a peaceful sigh.

Trees stand tall and covered white,

A winter wonderland, what a sight!

Whose woods these are, I do not know,

But stopping here is quite a show.

The snow is lovely, dark, and deep,

A tranquil scene, one should keep.

My little horse must think it queer,

To stop without a farmhouse near.

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

So let’s enjoy this snowy view,

And bid these woods a fond adieu.

For though it’s tempting to stay here,

We must keep moving, never fear.

By ChatGPT

This tool is meant to give you texts at your fingertips. Use this prompt to generate mentors based on poetry that works for your students and age group.

The next step is to encourage your writers to take these elements, whether an image, rhyme, repetition, or other elements, to create their own poem. One stanza or ten, each line makes your students poets!

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