Poetry: Writing our own

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SWBAT use what they've learned in the unit to write their own poems.

Big Idea

After weeks of learning important terms and characteristics, students write two poems. One structured and about themselves and the other is a free choice on their own topic.

Unit Introduction

I created this unit for a group of students who needed extra practice with fluency and a beginner’s understanding of poetry. Each day provided a quick lesson on one characteristic or type of figurative language, multiple readings of a short poem, and practice using the term of the day. The unit was designed to take no more than thirty minutes per lesson and lasted three weeks in my classroom.

Due to copyright issues, I could not include the actual poems used each day. However, because the terms being used are universal, fitting poems shouldn’t be too difficult to find! All of the poems I used came from one of two sources:

- Scholastic’s Storyworks magazines

- The Big Book of Classroom Poems [Hollenbeck, K (2004). The big book of classroom poems. Scholastic Press: New York, NY.].

Setting a Purpose

10 minutes

Students have spent the last several weeks reading poems and learning important terms and characteristics. Today, students write their own poems that show what they’ve learned. To begin, I call students to the meeting area and explain today’s task. They will write two poems. The first is called, “I Am.” On the page there are several sentence starters, which students complete with details about themselves. While all prompts seem very simple, some can be quite thought provoking. For example, “I see…” and “I hear…” could be answered with what students currently see or hear in the classroom. However, students could choose to answer these prompts with ideas such as “I see… a college degree in my future,” or “I hear... the sound of waves crashing during summer break.” Other prompts such as, “I wonder…” asks students to record what they question about life. I tell students that this is one of my favorite poems because I learn so much about my students. (On a side note, this also is a great activity to complete at the beginning of the year!).

The second poem is closer to a free write. Students choose the topic and whether it will rhyme. The only rule I have is that it must contain an example of alliteration, onomatopoeia, simile, metaphor, personification, and either a hyperbole or an idiom. I explain that this might make for a very silly poem, but it will demonstrate what they’ve learned throughout the unit. In order to help get them started, I show my own example that incorporates examples of each characteristic we’ve learned.

Writing and Sharing

20 minutes

Students can choose to work independently or with a partner. If they choose to work together, I ask that they complete the free choice poem first and then complete the “I Am” poem on their own. Because this poem is personal, they must complete it independently. I encourage students to talk through ideas as they work and give feedback as they share. 

Practicing for the Poetry Slam

20 minutes

To celebrate Poetry Month, our special events committee has planned a Poetry Slam for our grade. Students will perform the poems they’ve written today with students from other classes. In order to prepare for their performances, we practice by holding a mini version of a poetry slam in our room. Students volunteer to share their choice of poem with the class. If they worked with a partner to write the free choice poem, they can choose to perform it together. Instead of clapping, the audience snaps after each reading in the tradition of an actual slam.