Today students are reading, brainstorming and writing poetry. Poetry in the classroom is difficult. Students struggle with offering assistance to their peers beyond "It's good" or "I like it." Students also struggle with feeling open enough to write poetry without a classmate thinking it's emotional. My highly structured students, who usually think in black and white and are very linear, struggle with the freedom of poetry; the non-structured writing. To help us all embrace the poetic frame of mind, I share with them the Criteria for Judging Poetry from Chuck Guilford's website. The document is on page 10 of the link. I stumbled across this document a couple years ago and I give it to students so we have a set of norms for reading and writing poetry. Typically, my students spend much time thinking critically about their writing and the writing of their peers, but poetry shifts that focus just a little bit. Instead of thinking critically about claims and evidence, students think critically about word choice, figurative language and voice. This feels more personal to them.
After I project the Criteria for Judging Poetry, we talk about it. We discuss each point.
I distribute the Where I'm From Prewriting document and tell students they will be brainstorming some ideas for their own poem today. I like this poem and template because it helps all students feel like they can successfully write a poem. Often times, students think they need to rhyme everything and they focus on that more than content of their poem. I have scanned in my own teacher brainstorm example and will display it on the SmartBoard. I discuss my own brainstorm and explain that students shouldn't feel nervous about being too personal. I will make sure they understand that they are free to write down anything that comes to their mind. I want students to write as much as they can about these topics so they have lots of ideas from which to choose for their poem. I will set the clock to 15 minutes for the brainstorm. This seems like a long time for prewriting, but I think it is an extremely important step. Too often students jump right into writing, focusing on the end result. Instead, I want students to really focus on the planning and developing of ideas and identifying what is most significant (W.9-10.5). After students are done writing, I will ask them to take three-five minutes and discuss their brainstorming at their table. I ask them to do this because I want them to be comfortable sharing their writing. This student brainstorm example demonstrates a students ideas.
All of today's instructional choices encourage students to think critically about their own writing. Standards W.9-10.4 and .5 ask students to spend time planning, revising, rewriting, etc. In this video getting students to think critically about their writing I explain how modeling helps students think critically about their writing.
I distribute George Ella Lyon's poem "Where I'm From." The link is to the author's website where she provides resources for teachers. I asked students to brainstorm before we read the poem because I didn't want them to be influenced by the author's lists. I first ask students to read the poem quietly. I give them two-three minutes to do this. I want students to try to hear her words. Asking them to read with this purpose helps them identify an author's tone (RL.9-10.4). After reading silently, I will read the poem aloud and then will ask for three volunteers to read it aloud. The more people who read it aloud, the better. Particularly with poetry, hearing the rhythm of an author's text helps students analyze how an author's choices concerning how to structure a text contributes to her purpose or the overall meaning (RL.9-10.5). I will also ask students to consider where she ends lines and how she plays with the white space on the page. Asking students these questions will help us identify how her choices in structure help to contribute to the overall meaning. We will share ideas aloud and discuss the poem.
To end class, I will ask students to get out a piece of paper and answer this prompt:
Please reflect on our reading of Lyon's poem. Write two questions that a classmate will answer tomorrow. These questions can be about a particular word in her poem or her structure.
I ask students to do this because it's a great way for them to reflect on what they learned today and a great way for us to begin class tomorrow.