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:
- The Big Book of Classroom Poems [Hollenbeck, K (2004). The big book of classroom poems. Scholastic Press: New York, NY.].
I start the lesson with a talk about Sponge Bob. He seems all the rage these days. To be honest, I’m a little tired of seeing that title pop up on students’ reading logs, but know that this should catch their attention. I ask students to tell me about the book or the show because I’ve not read or seen either. The students are aghast! They explain to me that he is a sponge that lives under the sea and about his friends who live there with him. I exclaim, “You mean to tell me that a sponge comes to life and acts like a person? It can talk and play pranks and have adventures with friends?” Students assure me that this is true! Wow, I tell them. That kind of makes me think about our term of the day, ‘personification.’ I post the word on the board and ask if students can tell me what the root word might be. They identify ‘person’ and I tell them they’re correct. Personification is when an author gives human characteristics or abilities to something that is not a person. Kind of like Sponge Bob - he’s a sponge, right? The sponges I know of don’t talk, don’t live in the sea, and don’t have adventures with their pals. They live under my sink, are pretty quiet, and the most exciting part of their day is scrubbing my dishes! But when an author uses personification, things like sponges talk or thunder can ‘scream’ and wind can ‘howl.’ Today we’re going to read two short poems that use personification and you will try to find examples of each as we go.
I ask students to open their poetry packets to the page on personification. I repeat our term of the day and explain its definition. Students turn to their partners and do the same – stating the term of the day and telling its definition. I read the page aloud until I come to an example of personification, which we read together.
I point their attention to the first poem of the day. It’s a short poem called “Views from a Window.” There are four stanzas and each is written about a different season. We read it through once simply to become familiar with it. Then I ask students to find the examples of personification, label them, and record them on their packet. We move onto the second poem and repeat the same task. This one is a little different and is designed similar to a graphic novel. Most of the students in the room have never read a poem in this format and so we spend a little extra time reading it together and talking it through.
Partners then spend the next several minutes reading the poems to each other. If there is extra time, they switch partners at their table and practice with someone new.
When everyone had a chance to read the poem multiple times, I ask the group to turn to the next page. I ask them to work with someone new to develop their own lines using personification. They can write a complete stanza about one topic, similar to the first poem we wrote. Or if it is easier, they can write several lines that are about different topics. Their choice!
Students share their work with someone in the room they have not worked with yet. They take turns telling their partners the term of the day, their understanding of its definition, and the work they completed during the practice activity.