Everyone arrives to class excited today because they are looking forward to writing poems on topics of their own choosing. If there’s one thing sixth graders enjoy it is to be included in the decision making process.
Right away we get down to business by reviewing the characteristics of free verse poetry using a worksheet from readwritethink.org. Then we discuss the writing process by going over this checklist, which students are expected to refer throughout the writing process. Along the way, be sure to address the students’ questions and to clarify any misconceptions. They realize pretty early on that most of these guidelines match the Poetry Wheel introduced in yesterday’s lesson. It is also helpful to review the rubric at this time so that the students have a clear understanding of the expectations for the completed poem and of the grading criteria.
Students who did not bring in an item or photograph of an item can use one that I bring along from home and that are on display around the classroom: plants, stones, seashells, grapes, a collection of butterflies in a glass case, etc.
I pass out the Nature Walk: Writing From 8 Rooms worksheet and we review each section. One option for demonstrating its use is to work backwards using “Go Wind” by Lillian Moore or “Seeing the World” by Steven Herrick (from yesterday’s lesson) to fill in the worksheet together. Then students work independently and quietly to fill in each box. During this part of the lesson, I circulate around the room helping out where needed and then pull aside a few struggling students to complete this task together. Sometimes I let students work with a partner to write one poem together. Partnering can be beneficial for both strong and weak writers as each gets to talk through the writing process. Of course, partner selection needs careful consideration so that both people stay on task and each must contribute to the final product.
As noted in the free verse writing checklist, there is a great deal of revising and editing that goes into producing a polished product. Be sure to have a supply of dictionaries and thesauruses available or access to online resources. I allow students to share their work with a partner(s), but remind them to be specific in the feedback they hope to receive. I circulate among the students and ask those who used particularly vivid language to read aloud to the class. Also, I allow students to solicit aid from the class for finding just the right phrasing.
Once students finish the revising and editing process they are ready to produce final copies. You may choose from a variety of methods to publish these works. Perhaps an online blog or shared folder (Google Drive, Dropbox, etc) works best for your group. Or you may opt for old-fashioned paper and marker on chart paper. Whatever you or your students decide, it is important that each completed poem should include an illustration. Two sets of examples appear here and here.
Do your best to find the time for students to read their poems to the class and to respond to questions and comments from peers. You may also consider that this gallery walk can occur days later than the writing lesson. Give students time at home (from one weekend to a full week) to polish their poems and to write final drafts.
Some thoughts on the poetry writing process and the finished poems appears here:
To end this lesson, students reflect on what they have accomplished by responding to these questions on the attached worksheet: What did I learn about writing poetry as I wrote my nature poem? How will this experience help me write other poems?