Poetry: An Inquiry (Day 1)

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SWBAT understand five characteristics of poetry (rhythm, rhyme, verses, stanzas, repetition) and locate in a poem.

Big Idea

To begin the unit, students conduct a quick inquiry contrasting the design of a poem with a story or text.

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

5 minutes

I explain that today we will begin a new unit on poetry. We’ll spend a short amount of time each day over the next several weeks learning the characteristics of poetry and seven types of figurative language. This will give you a basic understanding of the poetry genre before we study different types and really practice writing our own. I take a quick survey of the room by asking who enjoys reading and/or writing poetry and who really isn’t a fan at all. I honestly admit that poetry isn’t exactly my favorite genre to read. And I explain that I think this dislike grew from the poetry work I was given as a student. We read boring poems that were long and old and definitely not written for kids. However, over the past several years, I’ve read poetry that makes me laugh, think, and is all around enjoyable. My hope with these lessons is that you will begin to see poetry in a new way, learn a few important terms, and gain a little confidence in your ability to write your own at the end!

A Little Inquiry

15 minutes

“For our first day, we’re going to do a bit of inquiry. This is where you study a topic for yourself without me telling you what to find or what to think! On each table is a stack of poetry books. In these books are short poems and long poems, serious and silly poems, ridiculous and gross poems! I want you to spend the next several minutes reading as many poems as you can. While reading, I’d like for you to be on the look out for how poems are structured differently from other texts you know – both fiction stories and non-fiction texts. See if you can pick out what makes a poem different from other texts you know. You can do this reading with a partner at your table or on your own; whatever works best for you!"

Naming the Characteristics

5 minutes

After the inquiry time, I ask students to share with me what they found. I get all kinds of answers from they’re shorter than most stories to they look different. By the answers of some, it’s evident they’ve had plenty of experience reading poetry and they tell me about stanzas and rhyming words. I make a list of their responses and then pass out their poetry packets. After writing their names on the front covers, I ask them to turn to the second page. I quickly go through the five characteristics listed and point out when there is a match between a term on the page and an answer supplied earlier. 

Analyzing a Text

10 minutes

I ask students turn to page four in their packet and then explain today’s task. They will work with a partner to read a poem of their choice and record any examples of the characteristics listed on page two. In order to be most successful, I suggest they use a poem that is at least a page long. 

Sharing our Work

10 minutes

After the work is completed, I have partners share what they found with others at their tables. Each partnership will read their selected poem and explain the characteristics found in each.