Collaborative Poetry

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SWBAT engage effectively in collaborative discussion by writing a group poem and choosing a group name.

Big Idea

What's in a name? Taking the time to name our collaborative groups.


10 minutes

This is it!  The day I assign my working groups for the first quarter. To prepare for this day, I have spent time creating a seating chart.  I take into consideration student personalities and needs.  I make sure to review all IEPs and 504s to make sure all of my students' learning and health needs are being met (preferential seating, etc).

As I am giving students their seating assignments, there is an instruction on the board for them to take out a sheet of paper and put their name on it.

Once everyone is in their seat, we assign roles for today's activity.  The roles are:

  • Recorder: Writes for the group, either producing a final product or taking notes on a discussion.  The recorder also reports out to the class.
  • Time Keeper: Watches the clock and reminds the group to stay on task.
  • Facilitator: Makes sure that everyone's ideas are heard. 
  • Task Master: Gets any supplies needed to complete the assignment.


Take a look at "Setting the Stage for Collaboration" for more information on how to assign roles and what to do if your students sit in groups of 3 or 5, instead of 4.


Getting Down to Business

35 minutes

The first step in this lesson requires some individual work.  I project the sentence frames and tell students their goal is to get down as many versions of the sentence frames as they can in 5 minutes.  I let them know that we're not going for perfection; we're going for quantity. I set the timer and they begin to write. 

I always circulate during this part of the lesson because it is so important that students participate in this group activity.  If I see someone who's stuck, I will remind them that they don't all have to be perfect.  I encourage them to try something they think is silly to see if that leads them to a statement of deeper meaning.  The goal is to have at least 3 sentences on your paper (though I don't tell the whole class this; otherwise, my smarty-pants kids will stop at 3).

At the end of 5 minutes, I ask the students to read over their lists.  They are looking for the two sentences they like the best.  I ask the students to mark those two sentences with a star.

Next, I ask the Task Master to calculate how many index cards his or her group will need so that each person has two cards.  I invite the Task Master to visit me for index cards. 

Once each person has two cards, I have the students write one of their starred lines on each card.  I remind students to put their names on the back side of their cards. 

Now the fun begins!  The students are going to use these cards to create a poem for their group.  They will slide the cards around and organize and reorganize the lines until they are happy with the result.  You will be amazed at what your kids will come up with!

I display the "Creating Your Poem" instructions, and clarify them for the class.  I remind them that the Facilitator has an important job in this discussion making sure that everyone's ideas are heard.  This discussion can take 10-15 minutes, and I love to circulate and hear what my students are talking about and watching their poems take shape.

Once the group is happy with their poem, I give each Recorder a poem template.  The Recorder writes the poem on the sheet.  Once he or she is done, I prompt the group to start discussing a group name that seems to emerge from the poem.

The name of their group goes at the top of the template, and each group member signs the bottom of the poem.

I have all of my groups share out their poems after a reminder of the expectations we discussed yesterday.  Even though only the Recorder (or Reporter) is doing the reading, I will have the entire group stand together as the poem is read aloud.  Standing allows them to support the Recorder (Reporter) in the presentation.  I always encourage polite applause so that students can be appreciative of their classmates' efforts.

Did They Get It?

5 minutes

At the end of our poetry presentations, I make a point of talking to the class about what it means to be a member of a group in my class.  It's more than just completing assigned tasks.  They will be taking care of each other.  I encourage them to exchange contact information.  I share with them the Class Summary form they will fill out if one of their group members is absent. 

(Disclaimer: Be careful here.  Make sure students are allowed to share phone numbers.  Thankfully, all of the students at my school have a school-provided email address to use.  Before we had these, I would ask students to make sure they could contact at least one person in class outside of school.  Most students were able to do that.)