Found Poems

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SWBAT write a "Found Poem" by using the dictionary and making decisions about word choice and line breaks.

Big Idea

Double up on objectives! Poetry Writing and Using a Dictionary.

My Lens

I ordered The Arrow Hits the Mark: A Book of Found Poems, a poetry book edited by Georgia Heard at the beginning of this unit of study.  It arrived today and I have decided to share it with students tomorrow.  I especially like the found poems from dictionary entries.

Today in our classroom discussion we were talking about the importance of line breaks.  I also found myself conferring repeatedly with students about the power of line breaks to emphasize meaning, determine poem fluency, and to break lines purposefully.

Therefore, this lesson seems appropriate and timely.  Also, when the students were writing their acrostic poems last week, many were reaching for a dictionary when searching for a particular beginning consonant.  So I think they will enjoy using the dictionaries for this purpose too.


15 minutes

Good morning students, today we will be reading some poems from this book, The Arrow Finds its Mark: A Book of Found Poems.  Georgia Heard, a poet and editor has compiled this little book of poems written by different poets.  Let me read the inside flap to you:

"Poetry is all around.  Imagine finding poetry on a scrap of paper tossed on the floor, or on a sign at the gas station, or in graffiti scrawled on the subway wall.  This is the found poem:  taking existing words, phrases and sentences from the unlikeliest of places and refashing them as poetry.  Discover the beauty of everyday words and be inspired to find your own poetry in this fresh, urban, and often surprising poetic form." 

Here are the rules:

1. You may find text that already exists in a form other than poetry and present that text as a poem.

2. Create your own title that gives your poem depth and another layer of meaning.

3.  You may combine the words with another form such as Haiku or an acrostic.

Let me red a few of these found poems to you.  I like "Find a Poem" on page 1.

This is an example of text Ms. Heard found in a thesaurus.  Show and read poem to students.

Discuss how this poem was the inspiration for the title of the book!

Listen to this poem found by Susan Mrie Swanson in the first entry for the word "light" in the American Heritage Dictionary.

Show and read poem on page 18, "Thinking About Light With the Dictionary Open".

Now it is our turn.  There is a couple of ways to approach this task.  We are going to use classroom dictionaries and thesauri to  "find our poems".

 Lets do one together.

I can either think of a word I like that has deep meaning for me (us) or I can just open the dictionary to any page and search for a word that I (we) like.  

Open the dictionary and pick a word.  

The word I am going to use with the class as a demo poem is "interpret".  Together as a class we will write a found poem following the rules listed above.  Students, when I write the poem with our found words I am going to be aware of my choices for line breaks.  To end we thought of a title for our poem "Shedding Light" 

Next, I will model the process for them, emphasizing that how I decide to read it determining how fast or slow, and where the pauses are tells me where the line breaks will be using my poem Shedding Light.

Engagement and Practice

5 minutes

While the students are still on the rug, pass out 1 dictionary for each partnership.

Partner A can go first.  They will flip through the dictionary (using guide words if they are looking for a particular word).  Once they have found their word, they will say it and then read the definition out loud to their partner.  Then, they will reread it pausing at different places to show another way to use line breaks.  Next, partner B will find a word and repeat the process.

The adults in the room will be listening in to the partnerships to coach students on how to read a dictionary entry, hard words, encouraging them to read it a second time with different phrasing.


Independent Writing

30 minutes

"Students, you will now go back to you seats and use either a dictionary or thesaurus to create your found poems.  Remember to try out different ways to read and write the line breaks in our found poem."


As students are working check in with table groups.  Asking students to read the dictionary entry for a word in two different ways.  

Check for student understanding of how line breaks affect meaning and intonation by using mentor text of found poem from The Arrow Hits the Mark.  If students are not constructing line breaks intentionally, have them read either Walden Pond or Places I'd Love to Van Gogh Someday.  Coach them how to read it based on the line breaks.  Have student imagine the poet making intentional decisions about stanzas and line breaks.

I will be looking for students to share their found poems at the close of the lesson.

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Share Out

5 minutes

Students will share their found poems to the rest of the class.  Ask them to tell a bit about their "process".  Why did they pick the word that they did?  How did they decide on the form they used?  Stanzas?  Couplets? Single words?


The Beauty Within