Concrete or Shape Poems

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SWBAT analyze how shape poetry adds meaning for a reader and apply that understanding by creating a shape poem of their own that conveys meaning.

Big Idea

We're going to take free verse poetry one step farther. It's time to write a shape poem.

Teacher Background Knowledge and Preparation

Students will encounter all types of poetry in future years, and I wanted to make sure I exposed them to this type of poetry.  I found an amazing website called  This is a creation of poet Ken Nesbitt.  In fact he tells us quite a bit about shape poetry.  He says:

"The words form shapes which illustrate the poem’s subject as a picture, as well as through their literal meaning.  This type of poetry has been used for thousands of years, since the ancient Greeks began to enhance the meanings of their poetry by arranging their characters in visually pleasing ways back in the 3rd and 2nd Centuries BC."

So in fact students are conveying a certain feeling to their readers just by putting their words in a certain shape. Although standard RL1.4 is about reading poetry and not necessarily writing it, I know that students that are this young will internalize what I'm teaching them If they actually apply the skills we've been learning about to a piece of their own poetry.  By writing their own poetry, students' reading comprehension is also strengthened.  Students will truly understand the purpose of why author's use these literary devices to convey certain feelings because they've actually sat in the author's chair when creating a poem.

If you have other poetry books in your classroom that show shape poetry, you can always read those resources to your students as well.  You'll also need either your Smartboard lesson Poetry Unit.notebook or your Activboard lesson Poetry Unit.flipchart.  You will also need blank paper so your students can create their own shape poetry.

Reading Some Examples of Shape Poetry

30 minutes

I have two of Jack Prelutzky's poetry books in my classroom, and he has some fantastic examples of shape poems (see reflection from previous section for more details).  I called my students to the carpet and said, "Today we are going to learn about something called shape or concrete poems.  Just like free verse poems, shape poems don't have to rhyme.  Shape poems also convey strong feelings just like free verse poems.  Shape poems can also show a feeling or engage the reader by putting the words into a certain shape. I'm going to read some examples now so you have a better idea of what I mean." I read the shape poems in the books and we talked about the shape gave us certain feelings as readers. 

Then I went to the Smartboard lesson.  I said, "Now I'm going to show you some more examples of shape poems.  You can write a shape poem about anything." I read the examples of the shape poems on slides 14-26 of the lesson.  We talked about each one and what type of feeling the author might have tried to convey to us. After reading and discussing our poems it was time for the students to get to work and create a shape poem of their own.

Writing Our Own Shape Poems

15 minutes

Just like yesterday, I wanted students to be in charge of creating their own poetry, so I purposely chose not to give them any templates.  I also thought if I gave students a template, that it might corner them into a subject that they didn't necessarily want to write about in the first place.  I've already mentioned this in my reflection, but in case you've missed it, if you need to give your students some sort of template you can look at what poet Ken Nesbitt suggests to create a shape poem.

The students were at their seats and I passed out blank paper.  I said, "You may write about anything that you want, anything that you might have strong feelings about.  If you finish early and want to write another shape poem, you can always turn your paper over and write another one." I walked around the room, videoing my students.  I stepped back and let them create.

I was impressed with my students.  They were not apprehensive at all when creating their poems.  I think they had seen enough examples, and they all had an idea they wanted to try.  You can see my students creating their poems here in this video: Shape Poetry.mp4.

Our Closure

5 minutes

Since my students were so into this unit and creating their poems, I decided that I would let the students who wanted to share their work do so.  We did this as a closure.  The students enjoyed this so much, and it was a great way to end the lesson.  Even my students who usually struggle really felt successful because they wanted to share in front of the class and stood up there reading their poems with their heads held high.  As a teacher, it was so gratifying to see them shining with pride.