Our 4th grade is currently reading poetry in their reading block and writing poetry during writer’s workshop. To support their work, they asked me to create a lesson to give their students an opportunity to read multiple kinds of poetry to inform their work back in class.
I love working on poetry with students and many times this doesn’t happen until April, so I was so glad to see poetry being studied earlier in the year too. To prepare for this lesson, I spent a lot of time in our poetry section of the library looking for a variety of poetry. I of course looked for forms of poetry but I also looked for groups of books that explored a certain theme or idea. As I found possibilities, I placed them in stacks for consideration as I narrowed down our final choices.
Next I wrote a short description of each stack of books so these could be printed and placed with each table.
For students, I created a list of the types of poetry the would visit. The list had an empty box by each type so students could check the kinds of poetry they liked. There was also a line for them to write any notes or the titles of the books if they wanted to revisit them later.
To begin our time, I shared with students how I had a hard time coming up with a definition of poetry that I really liked. I asked them to think with me about how we might describe a poem. Students shared amazing ideas:
- a description of your thoughts
- capturing an emotion on paper
- feelings in words
Each time a definition was offered we agreed with it but we always felt like it didn’t completely capture all the things a poem could be. I asked them to continue thinking about this as they explored the kinds of poetry around our library. I encouraged them to read their poetry aloud so they could hear the rhythm and sounds the poets included.
Students sat alone or in pairs at tables and began their exploration. They started by reading the short description of the type of poetry. Then, they read as many of the poems as they could. Since I wanted them to experience lots of poetry, I kept us moving every 3-4 minutes.
As students sat and read, the teacher and I walked around and chatted with students about the poetry. Sometimes this was an explanation of the kind of poetry they were looking at. Other times we were making observations about the poetry and sharing our own learning with the students. I saw the teachers do this multiple times. They discovered poetry they had never heard of and shared their excitement with students as they learned something new.
Here’s a look at the tables students visited:
- The Friendly Four by Eloise Greenfield
- Joyful Noise by Paul Fleischman
- Seeds, Bees, Butterflies, and More! By Carole Gerber
- Messing Around on the Monkey Bars by Betsy Franco
These poems are meant to be read with a partner or group. Each person has a part they speak. Sometime you speak together and sometimes you speak alone.
Sijo & Haiku
- Tap Dancing on the Roof by Linda Sue Park
- Dogku by Andrew Clements
- Guyku by Bob Raczka
- Stone Bench in an Empty Park by Paul B. Janeczko
- The Cuckoo’s Haiku by Michael J. Rosen
- One Leaf Rides the Wind by Celeste Davidson Mannis
Sijo poems are Korean poems that have 3 lines with 14-16 syllables each. Or…they have 6 shorter lines. Haiku poems are Japanese poems that have 3 lines with 5 syllables, 7 syllables, and 5 syllables.
- Black Girl Magic by Mahogany L. Brown
- Black Magic by Dinah Johnson
- Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy by Tony Medina
- The Blacker the Berry by Joyce Carol Thomas
Experience poems showcase a group of people, animals, or objects and what they experience in the world. This collection of books is a sample of African American experience.
Single Word & Golden Shovel Poetry
- Lemonade and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word by Bob Raczka
- One Last Word by Nikki Grimes
Single word poems use one word to create other words that form a meaningful poem. Golden Shovel poems take a line from another poem. The words are written down the right side of the page. A new poem is created with each line ending in one of these words.
- Silver Seeds by Paul Paolilli & Dan Brewer
- Amazing Apples by Consie Powell
- Animal Stackers by Jennifer Belle
An acrostic poem is a poem where certain letters in each line spell out a word or phrase.
- Ubiquitous by Joyce Sidman
- Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman
- Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman
- Swirl by Swirl Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman
Nature poems use facts and observations from nature to create poetry. The facts and observations are often included beside the poem or in the back of the book.
Concrete Poetry (Shape Poetry)
- A Curious Collection of Cats by Betsy Franco
- Flicker Flash by Joan Bransfield Graham
- Ode to a Commode by Brian P. Cleary
A concrete poem is a poem that takes on the shape of whatever it is about.
List & Found Poetry
- The Arrow Finds Its Mark by Georgia Heard
- Falling Down the Page by Georgia Heard
List poetry takes an ordinary list of things and makes it extraordinary with a few descriptive words. Found poetry is words found in places that aren’t meant to be poems and then turning those words into a poem with very few changes.
- Mirror, Mirror by Marilyn Singer
- Follow, Follow by Marilyn Singer
When you read a reverso poem down, it is one poem. When you read it up, it is a different poem. However, the same words are used in both stanzas. The only changes are in punctuation and capitalization.
- Dirty Laundry Pile by Paul B. Janeczko
- If the Shoe Fits by Laura Whipple
- Can I Touch Your Hair? By Irene Lathan & Charles Waters
Perspective poems invite you to think about the same topic from a different point of view. Sometimes they are written from the perspective of an object that you wouldn’t normally hear from like a shoe.
- Pocket Poems by Bobbi Katz
- Firefly July By Paul B. Janeczko
Pocket poems are short poems small enough to carry in your pocket.
- Hip Hop Speak to Children by Nikki Giovanni
- Imagine by John Lennon
- America the Beautiful Together We Stand by Katharine Lee Bates
- Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star by Jerry Pinkney
- God Bless the Child by Billie Holiday
- One Love by Bob Marley/Cedella Marley
- Let It Shine by Ashley Bryan
Song lyrics are poetry. They have a structure and a rhythm.
At the end of our exploration, students took time to think about what there favorite types of poems to read are. They also thought about one kind of poem they wanted to try to write back in writing workshop. Now that all classes have visited, the poetry books they explored are available to check out as mentor texts back in the classroom. I look forward to seeing the types of poetry they create in the coming weeks.