I recently shared a “a fishing expedition for poetry”–a technique to help writers generate ideas for possible poems. Here is another idea that I first learned about from Georgia Heard in her book Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School. It is a graphic organizer that helps writers brainstorm ideas, words, phrases, images that could be part of a future poem.
Here is how it works:
Have students draw six boxes on a piece of blank paper and label each box or download a copy of my template below.
Ask students to “enter” each room, one at a time. As they linger in each room, ask some prompting questions to help students fill in each box. Here are some suggestions to get you started (from Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School):
Room 1: Think of a subject from nature—something amazing, beautiful, or interesting. Close your eyes and try to visualize it clearly. Notice details, and describe it as accurately as you can.
Room 2: Look at the same image, but just focus on the quality of light. Is the sun bright? Is it a dull, flat day? Are there any shadows? Describe any colors you see.
Room 3: Picture the same image and focus only on sounds. Are there any voices? Rustling of leaves? Sound of rain? If it’s silent, what kind of silence—empty, lonely, peaceful?
Room 4: Write down any questions you have about the image. Anything you want to know more about? Anything you wonder about?
Room 5: Write down any feeling you have about this same image.
Room 6: Look over the five rooms and select one word, or a few words, a phrase, a line, or a sentence that feels important and repeat it three times.
After the boxes are completed, have students use the words and phrases to create a free verse poem. They can rearrange the rooms in any order, eliminate rooms, words, or sentences. Students can use this same technique for poems about people, animals, experiences. (The labels for each box can change depending on the subject). It is a great way to brainstorm ideas before attempting to draft a poem, and it alleviates that “staring-at-a-blank-page-with-nothing-to-write-about” syndrome.
Here is a sample six room poem written by a 4th-grader about a person: