Happy National Poetry Month! Enjoy These Resources


Happy National Poetry Month! Enjoy These Resources: Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives
This month I have dipped into the archives to gather the poetry prompts I have provided over the years. Whether you are a teacher, poet, or journal writer, enjoy these prompts. For the seasonal ones, like the first, you may need to make some independent choices. Be creative. Have fun. Rock your words!

autumn-metaphor-poemPlay With Your Words: An Autumn Metaphor Poem

Teachers and students alike are back in the classroom. No matter what grade level, literary devices are probably being taught or reviewed. Some key ones include metaphor and the use of sensory details. Craft this autumn metaphor poem to exercise these skills and capture the essence of autumn.

Farewell ’15: Write a Poem of Remembrance

Just think of a moment–this week, this month, maybe this season–that you’d like to hang onto. Your poem doesn’t have to rhyme or have a beat. However, if you love rhyme schemes and meter–play away!

“aab…” Poetry Mystery Form–Try It!

The basic unit of the form is a stanza consisting of a couplet (two rhyming lines) followed by a single unrhymed line.

Tree BlossomApril is National Poetry Month–A New Haiku

The Wonders of Haiku and what you may or may not already know about the form.

Play With Your Words: Three Minute Poems

Savor the turning of the season. Go outside. Write three three-minute poems.

130001114Vacation Poetry Inspiration: Mount Rainier National Park

I have just returned from a trip to Mount Rainier where every experience was fodder for a poem. If you are a writer, or you want to encourage your children’s literacy skills, take pen or pencil and notebooks on vacation and pause to write. Try these easy poetry forms: haiku, list poem, or concrete poem.

wooded path 7.13My Most Visited Writing Prompt Ever: The Essence of Summer Poetry Haiku

The graduation ceremonies are winding down, I haven’t had to wear socks for weeks, and this next Friday will be the last day of school. Go somewhere you love, soon, and write some summer haiku’s.

Write Your Life—In Short Form

I have recently adopted a short form of journaling—the haiku. Capture some snapshots of your life.

Who am I? Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

It’s the beginning of another school year—time to get to know your students and to warm them up to writing by having them write about themselves. Thus, the “Who am I?” poem, a poetry template that uses the list poem format to write a description of self. Using the template, write your poem leaving one line of space between each stanza. Revise, edit, and share.

The Essence of Summer: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

Capture the essence of summer’s outdoor world by writing a haiku. Think about several of your outdoor experiences this summer. Choose an image to focus on in you haiku. The most simplistic American haiku form is the 5-7-5 pattern, but You can choose to vary your syllables and their spread over the three lines or reduce your haiku to the least number of syllables possible without losing its meaning.

The Essence of Summer: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt Revisited

I found just the right words for summer at Mom’s, and even words for reentry into daily life when I got home. I’ll share them. Then, review the steps for the Essence of Summer haiku and write your memories or farewells to this sweet season, or perhaps your welcome to the new school year and fall. Includes, “Mom’s Hummingbird Feeder,” “Pinecrest,” and “Reentry.”

A Day in the Life…Narrative Play With Your Words Writing Prompt

Write a story, from the point-of-view of a possession you carry with you every day. Give your possession its own style. Have fun with this prompt.

Warning!!! Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

Write a poem that both honors the spirit of summer and includes a health or safety warning. Have fun with it. If you’d like, make a poster and upload it. I’ll make sure it appears here on the blog as well as on my Pinterest board.

Summer is Fig Lang ExerciseSummer is—Figuratively Speaking: Play With Your Words Writing Prompt

Practice using figurative language. Complete the pre-write exercise then write a richly descriptive paragraph using sensory imagery and figurative language to describe summer.

Summer Dreams and Plans: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

Write a poem about your dreams and plans for the summer. Post includes instructions for brainstorming, drafting, and revising, and links to information about free verse and sound effects in writing.

Poetic Advice not Taken: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

Write a poem based on A.E. Housman’s “When I was 0ne-and-twenty. Focus on word choice, the sound and fluency of the poem, and of course on the concept of advice not taken.

A Pair of Quatrains/Play With Your Words Writing Prompt

How is your day? Write a pair of quatrains describing your April 20, 2012.

Poem a Day Challenge: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

April is National Poetry Month and Writer’s Digest is running a “poem a day” challenge. Day 1’s assignment? Write a communication poem.

Write about Your Favorite Song: Play With Your Words Writing Prompt

Write a short essay explaining the meaning of your favorite song. Practice using quotation marks and proper punctuation while doing this. Punctuating quotes examples included.

A Pre-write for a Poem: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

When writing a poem about an object, feeling, or idea it is challenging to find something new to say. However, a little pre-writing can provide you with a list of vivid associations and images to draw on that will make your poem uniquely your own. Decide on a topic for your poem and then follow these steps.

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt: Musical Muse

Musical Muse: Freewrite to instrumental music then go back over what you’ve written and highlight what you like best. Use the highlighted bits, and add to them if you wish, to write a poem. Revise your poem for sound and share. Optional preschool activity included.

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt: Datebook Poem

Datebook Poem: Write a poem in the form of date book entries representing your goals, hopes and or dreams for the coming year.

Write a Current Event Poem/Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

Write a Current Event Poem: Find an article in a newspaper, news magazine or  news website. Write a poem inspired by what you read.

 Inner Landscape Poem: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

Inner Landscape Poem: For this month’s poetry prompt, you are to write a poem that describes the landscape inside you—in your mind, your heart, your spirit. Use sensory details. Show how this landscape relates to who you are. Revise, edit, and share.

Self-Metaphor Poem: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

The Self-Metaphor Poem is a poem that describes the inner and outer you. The Self-Metaphor Poem is composed of two parts. The first part details who we are in the world, and the second part consists of an extended metaphor for the person you are inside. Here’s how to write one.

A Summer Metaphor Poem: Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt

Happiness is a Warm Puppy, by Charles Schultz, is an example of a book based on a collection of metaphors. Collect your own metaphors to write a “Summer is…” metaphor poem.Look for a pattern in your collection. Select items that go well together to create a “Summer is…” poem.

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt: I Hear America Singing

Read Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing.” Write a free verse or structured poem celebrating something you love about life in the United States of America.

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt: A Snapshot from Your Future

Imagine a “perfect moment” this summer. Write a poem in the past tense describing it as though it has already happened.Mom and Marie Capitola Edited

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt: “A Picture of My Mother”

Find a picture of your mom. List a bunch of words or phrases you associate with this photo. Use your list to write a poem.

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt: What Is…? Poems

Learn how to write a “What is…?” Poem, and write a poem that only you can write. Web or brainstorm topics, web or brainstorm descriptions, and write your poem.

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt: List Poems to Capture Your Life

Writing a list poem is a good way to process your life. How to write a list poem: Choose a topic; brainstorm ideas that relate to the topic; choose the ones you want to use in the poem; decide the order in which you wish to present them; write your poem.

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt #8—Farewell Poem

Write a Farewell poem. Characteristics of a Farewell poem are: It is written as though its audience is the person, place, or thing the author is saying good-bye to. It is written as a means of saying good-bye, be it permanently or only for a time to the subject about whom it is written.

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt: Free Verse

Write a free verse poem. Use sound effects of poetry and line breaks for poetic effect.

Play With Your Words Poetry Prompt: Patterned Poem

Write a poem that plays off the pattern of a poem or song you like. Use the built-in repetitions of the model poem or song to establish the organizational framework for your poem.

Play with Your Words! Poetry Prompt: Poetry Poker

To play poetry poker, you need to collect words, and build yourself a “deck” of words. Shuffle your deck, draw cards from it, and use the words you drew to craft a poem.

Play with Your Words! Poetry Prompt: Six-Pack Poem

Using observation, recall, and note taking, craft a Six Pack Poem.

Your Turn

Playing with your words is a fun and critical part of a literate lifestyle.

Do you have a favorite poetry prompt? If so, please share it in the comment box below? Have you tried one of these prompts? Feel free to share that as well.

Together we can both celebrate  National Poetry Month and create a great resource list for each other and those who find us.

Don’t be shy; let’s encourage one another!

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The Landay: Play with Your Words with a New Poetry Form

The Landay: Play with Your Words with a New Poetry Form; Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate Lives

Last week, while vacationing at my aunt’s home in Carmel, I discovered a new poetry form, the landay, and had to try it.

Discovery

As usual when traveling, I brought along a stack of magazines, Writers Digest, The Writer, The SFWA Bulletin… I’m always behind with my magazine reading and enjoy the change of pace from reading online.

In the Writers Digest, September 2017 issue–told you I was behind–the “Poetic Asides” column by Robert Lee Brewer featured an unfamiliar form–the landay. I found it intriguing and became obsessed with “capturing” out getaway using the form.

The Landay

The landay is a fairly simple poetic form that features:

  • couplets–it can be a short poem of just one, or longer poem featuring many
  • specified syllable lengths for each line–9 for the first and 13 for the second
  • couplets that relate a witty, but difficult truth–this was a characteristic I neglected to follow because of my purpose in writing.

PreWrite

Because I find coming up with multiple couplets challenging, I started by brainstorming. I made lists of words and phrases for multiple categories, for example, the sky, the beach, the house, the 17 mile drive, and focused on sensory imagery–what I saw, heard, smelled, tasted, and experienced through touch.

Next I looked for pairings of word sounds that could work together and began crafting phrases and lines.

Finally, I selected the couplets I wanted to use.

My Landay

August 2018, Carmel, 17 Mile Drive

Cormorant perches, wings spread to dry,
sated lord of kelp kingdom, proud beak raised to sky.

Seals bask and bark in sun-washed splendor,
Dive, frolic, splash spray, giving selves to joyful surrender.

Endless sea swells rise, whoosh, plunge, and crash ,
moon-pulled, singing serenity’s praise with every splash.

Your Turn

  • How do you like to capture special times in your life?
  • Did you give the landay a try?

Please share your thoughts and poems in the comment box below. Let’s encourage one another!

Winter Holiday Literacy Activity: Borrowed Poems

Winter Holiday Activity literatelives.wordpress.comOne of the things I love doing with my students, which you can do either in the classroom or at home for fun, is write what I call Borrowed Poems.

What is a Borrowed Poem?

A borrowed poem is a new poem created by analyzing and playing with an already existing poem or song. The winter holiday season is so jam-packed with so many familiar songs that it lends itself well for this activity.

How to Write a Borrowed Poem

First, select the song you wish to play with. For this exercise, I have chosen a traditional favorite: “Deck the Halls.” If you ou your student do not know the words to the song, you will need to access them.

Observe and analyze the first verse of the song.

Deck the halls with boughs of holly.
Fa-la-la-la-la La-la La La
‘Tis the season to be jolly
Fa-la-la-la-la La-la La La

What do I notice?

The first sentence is an imperative statement, instructing the listener or an unknown participant to do something. As such, it begins with the verb, “deck,” meaning to decorate.

I also notice this song uses an ABAB rhyme scheme: the two A rhymes are  “holly” and “jolly,” the two B, part of a repeated refrain, repeat the final “la.”

Finally I notice the rhythm of the verse: Dum da Dum da Dum da DumDum. Since I will use the refrain as is, I have no need to analyze this. It may be helpful to select a song that does have some repeated verse or refrain that can be incorporated into the poem.

Plan, Prewrite, Compose

Jot down any ideas you have for your new poem:

  • Who is the narrator?
  • What is the setting?
  • What is the poem about?
  • What are some rhyming words that may suit your intent?

My first thoughts were that I wanted my poem to be about getting all dressed up and doing something fun. At first I considered making it a New Year’s Eve poem. However, my imagination, right now, is rather caught up in brightly colored lights and Christmas fun. The “lights” concept gave me one of my first rhyming words: “glow.” (I love light, especially in the dark days of December!)

Thinking about lights got me thinking about all the decorated houses in my neighborhood. I thought maybe the “fun” activity in my poem can be going out to view all the lights.

However, once I got to thinking about going out–outdoors–the traditional practice of caroling popped into my head. I decided caroling would be my activity.

And once I got to thinking about caroling, I thought about neighbors and all the ways we love and serve each other through the year.

With all those ideas in mind, it was time to write.

Write Your Poem

Prepare yourself with plenty of paper, a pencil, and possibly an eraser (although often in the midst of drafting, I don’t have the patience to erase and just cross words out and go on).

Do not expect perfection the first time out. Initially, I was determined to include a babysitter in the caroling rounds, but discovered the word just had too many syllables. After much switching words in and out, I at last settled on a cat sitter instead.

Even once you think your poem is done, don’t ink out a final copy right away. Set it aside and do something else. The idea for the cat sitter did not come to me until I had washed the dishes and gone upstairs to put away clothes.

Edit and Revise

Go back and look at your poem. Play with sound of the words using alliteration, assonance, consonance, and repetition.

Edit for grammar and punctuation. Don’t be intimidated. A sentence is a sentence whether it’s written as prose or a line in a poem. However, if you wish to get creative with grammar and punctuation, a poem can be a good place to do it.

Publish

Once you feel your poem is done, “publish” it. Publishing can come in many forms–inking out a final handwritten copy, entering it into a word-processing program and printing it out, doing either of the former and decorating the final copy with stickers, borders, zen-doodling, or clip art, or mounting it on some holiday paper.

Publishing also means sharing. Maybe you want to read it to family or friends one evening after dinner, post it on a bulletin board, or write it into a card.

Here is my poem:

Caroling in Oregon

Dress yourselves in clothes that glow,
Fa-la-la-la-la La-la La La,
Tonight, out caroling we’ll go,
Fa-la-la-la-la La-la La La.
First to Jim, who shares his garden bounty,
Fa-la-la La-la-la La La La.
Next, to Sue, best baker in the county,
Fa-la-la-la La,  La-la La La.

Santa songs for little Sam,
Fa-la-la-la-la La-la La La,
Angel’s carols for Mrs. Lamb,
Fa-la-la-la-la La-la La La.
Cross the street to cat-sitter Jayne’s
Fa-la-la La-la-la La La La,
All while hoping it won’t rain,
Fa-la-la-la La,  La-la La La.

Your Turn

Did you try it? Did you and your kids have any fun? Please use the comment box below to share the titles of other songs that have a refrain, or, even better, your own creation. Enjoy this week with the young people in your life and borrowed holiday poems.

Alack and Alas…A Change of Schedule

New Blog Schedule: Literate Lives

Alack and Alas…

It has been fun blogging twice per week through my recovery from mono and over the summer, however, like summer itself, this too must come to an end.

While I love blogging, sharing my life, my reading, my love of writing, and my encouragement for parents and educators, I will be returning to the class room as an educator and will therefore have less free time for blogging.

A Temporary New Schedule

Next week I will begin blogging once per week, and next week’s post will come out on Tuesday.

However…

I will only continue the Tuesday schedule if I do not hear from you.

Your Turn

On what day of the week would you prefer to see Literate Lives bounce into your inbox? Please voice your opinion using the comment box below. Based on your preferences, I will determine and begin blogging on your chosen day for posting.

Enchanted Conversations Publishes My Poem, “Dishwater Dreaming”

This, and all of the fabulous art in the Donkeyskin issue was created by Amanda Bergloff, contributing editor and art director at Enchanted Conversations: A Fairy Tale Magazine

In June, I sold my first poem, “Dishwater Dreaming”, to Enchanted Conversations  A Fairy Tale Magazine, and it came out this month.

Enchanted Conversations:  A Fairy Tale Magazine

I am so excited about the opportunities at Enchanted Conversations, a web-based magazine that publishes six times per year, each issue focusing on a particular tale and inviting both prose and poetic submissions. The issue my poem was accepted for was one exploring the story Donkeyskin.

Why Enchanted Conversations?

  • I still love to read folktales and fairy tales.
  • I love the opportunity to explore, play with, and retell folktales and fairy tales.
  • Enchanted Conversations is a really fun outlet for crafting poetry (I rediscovered my love for writing poetry a few years ago and have fallen more and more in love with the practice as time goes by).

Interested in Submitting to Enchanted Conversations?

The story focus for the next issue of Enchanted Conversations is “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” The deadline is the end of this month. Click here to view the submission guidelines.

Classroom Applications

Wouldn’t taking Kate Wolford and Enchanted Conversations‘ be a fun way to process a whole class reading unit? Students could submit stories, poems, and art to create a class magazine or webzine that could be shared with parents and community. I love letting students process learning through the use of imagination.

Your Turn

Do you know of any other magazines or webzines that focus on folktales and fairy tales? Do you have any favorite tales that you would like to play with? What is it? Go ahead and the give the exercise a try (and please, please post your results). Just use the comment space below. I love to hear from you.

Family Literacy and Fun: Paint Chip Poetry

Family Literacy and Fun: Paint Chip Poetry

Need to make a run to the hardware or paint store this summer? Be sure to take your children along, or at least go with them in mind. Why? Because then you can have fun writing together creating paint chip poetry.

What’s paint chip poetry? Basically, its poetry written using words from a paint chip. There are several variations on the process.

 

Step 1: Gather Paint Chips

As I said, take the kids along and let them select their own paint chip cards, or, if that’s not possible, select a few paint chip cards for each child, keeping in mind their favorite colors and interests–the colors of their favorite stuffed animal, school, or team. Don’t forget to grab a few cards for yourself. Modeling your interest in writing and literacy is one of the best ways to encourage your kids to engage in literacy activities.

Step 2: Choose a Process

Since I lost the link for the article I read on this, I researched a few paint chip writing activities, and there were several variations on the process available. Here’s three to choose from:

  • You and your kids can make up similes (statements using the words “like” or “as”) for each color name on their selected card. You can even write the similes directly over the swatch of color.
  • You and your kids can write a patterned poem using a paint chip color.
  • You and your kids can select from grade/age appropriate options and write your poems accordingly.

Be sure to have plenty of paper and writing utensils on hand.

Step 3: Explain and Write

  • Give you children their paint chip cards.
  • Explain what you are going to do. Maybe even do a sample together from one of your cards.
  • Turn your kids loose to write for a set period of time. (For children not yet old enough to write, let them dictate their thoughts, and you write them down. Then read the “poem” back to your child, pointing to each word as you read it to reinforce the one-to-one correspondence between the written and spoken word.)

Step 4: Gather and Read

Call your kids back to a central area and have fun reading your poems to each other.

Step 5: Celebrate!

Maybe afterwards you can have a colorful snack, like rainbow sherbert, cupcakes with multi-colored sprinkles, or 9 layer bean dip and multi-colored tortilla chips.

Try using your color words in conversation over the next few days. Have fun with these words.

For Teachers

The links above were written with the classroom in mind. Also, if you search “Paint Chip Poetry” you will find still more options to take with you back to school in September.

Your Turn

How did your paint chip poetry session go? Please use the comments section to share some of the poems you or your children created. Now’s your chance to brag on those little ones!

Did you find some interesting color words on your paint chips? Share the color names that caught your fancy. It would be so cool to end up with a list of delightful names.

 

Play Your Words Writing Prompt: A Bag of Bugs–Alliterative Writing Prompt

David Kirk’s Sunny Patch for Melissa and Doug Bag of Bugs

For today’s writing prompt, it’s time to get a little silly.

Last weekend my husband and I went garage sale-ing, a favorite summertime activity. At one particular home that had a titan’s cornucopia of crafting supplies, I found a bag of wooden, brightly painted, bug pins and I bought it. When I got in the car I said, “I love my bag of bugs!” and my husband started riffing on other alliterative insects in containers. Laughing, he finally suggested I use some of them as a writing prompt. So,  here they are:

Write a poem, paragraph-length description, or short story using one of the alliterative terms below (or you can make up your own.)

a bag of bugs
a sack of snails
a box of beetles

Have fun! Let your inner child out to play. It is important that we not only encourage our kids and ourselves to build writing skills, but we remember that writing can be fun.

And please, oh please, use the comment space below to share your response or riff further on alliterative containers for insects.

Literate Lives 2017

Litlives PurposeWelcome to Literate Lives 2017!

In the week between Christmas and New Year, I have been doing some much-needed housecleaning here on the blog, and ended up reading a lot of old posts. The process charged me with excitement for this next year together, and instead of making you new promises, I want to touch back to my original intentions here at Literate Lives. So here is a blast to the past: excerpts from (and a few additions to) my very first post, June 6, 2010.

Literate Lives: The Vision

The concept of a blog is interesting. It is a challenge to be both personal and useful-to others. This is my second version (now my third actually) of my first blog post here in “Literate Lives.”

In the first version of this post, I eagerly shared who I am and the things I love, believing if readers and I share some common passions, you might come back to read more. And I do want you to come back for more. I love reading, writing, and teaching, and I want to contribute to the reading, writing, teaching community in a positive way.

However, having completed that first post, I was aghast to discover it was all about me! Me, me, me—as if I were some kind of navel-gazing egomaniac who has nothing to offer save my own glorious vision of myself. (Definitely NOT my intention.)

While a revised “version one” will likely soon appear as a post (because I do feel, if you and I are to become friends and colleagues in pursuit of a literate lifestyle, I must be willing to share who I am). What I want to say here, however, is that I hope “Literate Lives” will be a “place” to which you can come, a quiet corner where you can think about reading and books, writing, and creativity. I hope it will be a “place” where you can share your love for these things with a like-minded community and glean from the blog posts, comments, “Play with Your Words” writing prompts, and reading response exercises treasures to enrich your own literate lifestyle and that of your students or family.

Play With Your Words: An Autumn Metaphor Poem

autumn-metaphor-poem

The leaves have started turning russet and gold, and teachers and students alike are back in the classroom.

No matter what grade level, literary devices are likely being taught or reviewed. Two key ones include metaphor and the use of sensory details. So, let’s review.

METAPHOR

Metaphor is often taught along with simile because both provide a vibrant means for making a comparison. Unlike a simile (which uses the words “like” or “as”), a metaphor compares by stating that one object or idea is actually a different object or idea, thus emphasizing what the two have in common.

SENSORY DETAILS

Sensory details are descriptive details that can be perceived by the senses–seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching. They are evocative, because they appeal to the part of the brain that actually connects to memories of that sensation and therefore make for powerful details in writing.

AUTUMN METAPHOR POEM PRE-WRITE

Using either a 5-circle web (one for each sense) or a 5-column table (one column/sense) brainstorm observations and memories about fall. List them according to which sense is most dominant.

When you have at least three items for each theme (But don’t limit yourself to that amount!) go back and see if any fall into groups that share a similar theme. If you do, you may want to work with that theme or simply select an item from each web/column that you find most appealing.

You are now ready to begin writing your poem.

WRITE THE AUTUMN METAPHOR POEM

Line 1 sets up your poem: “Autumn/Fall is…”

Each line, 2-6, will contain a single metaphor for each of the five senses.

For example, one of the things I love about autumn is kicking through drifts of crackling leaves. For me, the real pleasure is the sound, so for my sound detail, I might say, “Crispy crackly leaves.”

Remember, make a metaphor for each of the five senses and make your metaphors as personal, specific, and concrete as possible.

Close the poem with a final thought.

Here is mine:

Autumn is…
Cool mornings,
The rising sun gilding golden trees,
Wood smoke,
Crisp, crackly-crunchy leaves,
Apple cider, hot and sweet,
An invitation
To savor the season
For soon winter’s winds will blow.

REVISE AND EDIT

When done, look over what you’ve written.

  • Are there some vague words for which you can find more specific replacements?
  • Can you play up the sound effects in your poem? (Note in my example, “crisp” and “crackling” start with a nice, hard, “C” sound.)
  • Can you use repetition for emphasis?
  • Punctuate your poetry like you would a sentence.

SHARE YOUR CREATION

When done, share your poem with your family, classmates, or writing friends. Compliment the strengths you see in each others’ creations, their vivid imagery, the poems’ effectiveness at summoning an “autumnal” feeling.

If you are a teacher, consider allowing your students to illustrate their poems and then post (“publish”) them on a bulletin board.

If you are working with a pre-reader/writer, guide your little poet through the same instructions as above, only you do the writing. When you are done, read back what he or she has “written.” Point to the words as you say them to reinforce the one-to-one-correspondence between the written and spoken word. Together use photos, stickers, cut outs, or clip art to illustrate the poem and hang it somewhere it can be enjoyed by all the family.

I would love to savor your autumn metaphors. Please feel free to post your poem as a comment.

Happy Writing!

 

Teacher’s File Drawer: Summer Back-to-School Poetry Unit

Pug w SunglassesMy favorite unit I’ve ever done with my students is a Summer Vacation Poetry unit. I liked that it was different from the usual “write an essay about your summer vacation,” that it allowed us to play around with poetry, and that working with poetry is a great way to build students’ word choice skills.

The length of time it ran varies from year to year, depending on how many types of poetry I want the students to try, and the final product was a hand-crafted book of poems.

STEP ONE

To begin the unit, I had kids get out pen and paper and brainstorm the things they enjoyed doing during their summer. (I usually timed this: 1-3 minutes depending on the needs of the class.)

Next, I had them circle three that they are most interested in writing about.

STEP TWO

The next time we worked, I asked the students to choose one item from the three circled on their list around which to focus their poetry.

I also introduce the various techniques of poetry. I used this handout for the lesson.

Summer Techniques of Poetry Notetaking Guide

At the end of the lesson, I discuss how these can also be used for mood and emphasis in prose writing.

STEP THREE, FOUR, FIVE, ETC…

At a rate of two forms a day, I introduced different forms for poetry and require the students to write a poem using at least one of them relating to their chosen summer activity.

Some of the forms I’ve used over the years are:

  • Haiku
  • Tanka
  • Acrostic (using the name of the destination or activity)
  • Diamante
  • Couplets
  • Quatrains
  • Free Verse
  • Concrete
  • Farewell Poem
  • List Poem
  • Letter/Post Card/Wish You Were Here Poem
  • A Sensory Poem (using at least 4 of the 5 senses to describe a particular object or moment

The number of options is tremendous!

For each form, I modeled a poem of my own from my summer vacation experience.

I did this as a writers workshop, and so during our writing time, while students are required to try one of the new forms, they were also welcome to try the other new one, one from a previous day, or revise their poems working in some of the techniques of poetry.

STEP FOURTH TO THE LAST

Finally, I asked the students to select 8 poems they wish to incorporate in their books. (Of course, they were always welcome to select more if they want to. This day is then spent selecting and revising each poem, focusing especially on word choice and the techniques of poetry.

STEP THIRD TO THE LAST

On this day, I had students pair up to peer edit their selected poems.

STEP SECOND TO THE LAST

With plenty of art materials on hand, I shared a book with the class, Making Books That Fly, fold, Wrap, Hide, Pop Up, Twist, and Turn by Gwen Kiehn, which has examples of a variety of ways to make their books. (You can likely find books like this in your school library and most assuredly online.)I encouraged them to consider a way that most interests them and welcome to use their own ideas as well.

I allowed a couple of class sessions for the students to make their poetry books

FINAL STEP

I instruct the students to write me a letting including the following criteria:

Paragraph 1

  • The strengths and weakness you see in your poetry
  • The title of your favorite poem and the reason it is your favorite

Paragraph 2

  • Explain your understanding of:
  • Types of poetry
  • Techniques of poetry
  • Cite examples from your own book.

Paragraph 3

  • An explanation of what was the easiest and the hardest part of writing your poetry
  • An explanation of how you helped yourself to overcome your challenges

In addition to the letter, I also ask them to staple together (and label) a copy of their pre-writes, drafts, and evidence of revision and editing.

SCORING

In addition to scoring using the school’s standards for scoring writing (which count for 40% of the score.)

I also scored for:

Preparation

  • Pre-writes (5)
  • Rough Drafts (5)
  • Evidence of Revision and editing (5)

The Book

  • Title (2)
  • Table of Contents (2)
  • Creativity (2)
  • Color (2)
  • Illustrations/Graphic Elements(2)

Writing

Your school or districts writing rubric = 40% final score

The Letter

  • Discussion of Strengths (4)
  • Discussion of Weaknesses (4)
  • Most Proud/Why (4)
  • Mastery of Types (3)
  • Mastery of Techniques (3)
  • Conventions (2)
  • Examples Cited (3)
  • Discussion of what was Easiest (4)
  • Discussion of what was Hardest (4)
  • How you handled the challenges

The total of points will come out to x/100. You can then apply the percentage to whatever you want this unit to be worth.

THE RESULTS

First of all this unit was fun. (A great way to start the year.)

Second, each poetry book was totally unique to each student. (A great way to begin to get to know your class.)

Third, word choice skills are highlighted as well as the rhetorical skills in the techniques of poetry that students can draw on in their writing throughout the year.

Fourth,the  writing process has been established and practiced.

Fifth, the results were a delight to read.