This session about poetry is a favorite of mine, written with insights gleaned from several authors: Ralph Fletcher, Georgia Heard, Regie Routman and Donald Graves. I presented it to a class of second-graders.
I began by asking this second-grade group what they knew about poetry. The first student said, “It has to rhyme.” The next said, “I think it has roses are red, violets are blue” in it somewhere. We bantered around other ideas we’d heard.
I shared the book I was reading, Poetry Matters, by Ralph Fletcher. I explained that while I’m not the best poet, Fletcher’s words helped me understand poetry better. Here are some of the gems he shares in his kid-friendly book:
- Poems should be short and intense.
- It doesn’t matter whether poetry is good or not because it’s good for the soul.
- Rules are important but when you write poetry, you can break the rules.
- Endings are really important - there should be a twist that captures the reader.
Fletcher also reminded me of Georgia Heard’s famous advice: “The challenge is to describe something as if we’re seeing it for the very first time.” Then we looked at and read some poems from his book.
I modeled. I copied onto chart paper a mentor text called “Fence” from Regie Routman’s book, Kids’ Poems: Teaching Third and Fourth Graders to Love Writing Poetry. (Routman wrote a series of books, one per grade level that students easily identify with.) I analyzed the structure and the meaning as I thought aloud. Well, not quite. Second graders have to join in my think-alouds.
Then, I wrote a poem in front of these curious ones about my new puppy, Dakota. I wanted to show them poetry writing, even for adults, takes thought, effort and revisions.
I asked them to choose a topic and write their own poems. They could try the text structure like mine or write anything that came to mind. I asked them to write short phrases – no sentences – and not to fool around with punctuation or capitalization this time. (A cheer went up from the crowd!)
Closure and reflection
We shared. We celebrated. We talked about what we learned about poetry from this first lesson. We wrote reflections. I post a few here for you…
- What I learned about poetry. It can be short. I thought it would be hard.
- I learned that you don’t have to capitalize or put periods and that’s what made it easier.
- I learned to read poetry.
- Poetry is good. It warms your soul. It has warm words. (author of “The Sun”)
- I learned that poetry has little paragraphs of words.
- I learned that all I have to do is pick a word.
- I learned that it doesn’t matter if it is funny or sad. All that matters if you have fun.
- I learned what poetry is and I love it!
Where do we go from here?
- Ask the student who wrote about the pencil as if it were alive how he came up with the idea. Name it as personification. Invite others to try using the literary element when writing.
- Look at some other structures to see the variety poets use.
- Study how poets use space in poems.
- Look at line breaks. Type their poems and try different line breaks on the computer.
- Introduce using capitalization and punctuation in poems. Who uses it? Why? How?
NEXT: Thinking about our thinking