Spring into Poetry
During the past week I have been in four classrooms that have just begun or will soon begin a poetry unit of study during writing workshop. Since a lot of teachers seem to teach this unit in the spring, I thought I would write a series of entries on poetry strategies and ideas.
My favorite type of poetry to teach is free verse poetry. The mini unit I am going to share today is NOT free verse poetry, but it is fun to teach and students really enjoy it. Parents love it even more! That’s because the final product of the unit is a Mother’s Day or Father’s Day gift book. I’m always looking for authentic purposes for my students to write, and giving our writing away as a gift–the recipient is a built-in audience. I always tell them that their parents might not keep all of the refrigerator magnets they make and that the marigold planted in a styrofoam cup won’t last past summer, if that long. But their writing will be saved and treasured forever!
I decided to begin this poetry series with this unit because Mother’s Day is quickly approaching, and if you are looking for something to have your students make, you will still have time to do this short unit.
As I mentioned, this is not a free verse poetry unit, but rather a unit that teaches six different types of “form” poetry: cinquain, acrostic, bio-poem, simile poem, rhyming couplet, and two-word poem. Before beginning the unit, I immerse my students in published poetry anthologies so they can make noticings about different types of form poetry. Once I’m ready to begin the drafting phase, I follow the steps below:
- Photocopy a packet of the six planning sheets for each student.
(click images to enlarge)
- Make an overhead transparency of each planning sheet or display on Smartboard or document camera.
- Select one type of poem to introduce each day. Explain the format of the poem. Show samples if you have any.
- Model each step on the planning sheet on the overhead. After each step is modeled, have students complete that step on their sheets.
- Repeat this process each day until each poem is completed.
- Revise and edit poems.
- Have students copy the revised poems onto good paper.
- Bind each student’s final drafts into a book.
- Have students write a title and illustrate the cover and each page.
- Have students wrap the books to give as presents.
Here are some samples from some former third-grade students that you are welcome to use as mentor texts for your students.
The key to making this unit successful is to provide lots of modeling and brainstorming. If you just give your students the planning sheets and ask them to “fill in the blanks”, the poems will probably turn out pretty dry and boring. To combat this, my students and I do a lot of brainstorming and “writing in the air” before putting anything on paper. The number one rule is that they must be specific. Anyone could say, “My mom is pretty.” I encourage them to find things to say that could only apply to their own moms. Once we start throwing ideas into the air, students have a great time trying to think of ideas that no one else could say.
When Father’s Day rolls around, I give my students the same packet of planning sheets, refresh their memories about each type of poem and encourage them write the poems pretty independently. I have had great response from the parents who receive the published booklets—lots of laughs and even a few tears!