I love reading poetry and creating poetry with kids. I’m always amazed at the freedom that many kids feel when they express themselves through poetry and give themselves permission to abandon some of the “rules” we must follow when we write in other forms. While there are many “rules” in poetry too, I’ve noticed that many kids aren’t intimidated by writing a poem when they realize that poetry is painting a picture with words and not necessarily writing in a complete sentence.
I’m happy to work with students on poetry all year round, but we of course do our fair share of lessons in April for poetry month. Recently, Ms. Lauren’s Kindergarten class came to the library for an introduction to poetry leading up to our annual Poem In Your Pocket poetry cafe.
Rather than read a bunch of poetry, I chose to read one poem that is a full length book called Black Magic by Dinah Johnson and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. The text is filled with vivid similes about the color black such as “black is loud like my best tap shoes making happy noise with every move.”
Prior to reading the book, I wrote “Green Magic” on the board and asked students to think of a list of things that they thought of when they thought of the color green. Their list looked like this:
- green flags
- green leaves
- green books
- green beans
- green stickers
- green turtles
Then, we read the book. We paused along the way and paid attention to the language. I wasn’t specifically focusing on similes with them but instead just noticing the unusual descriptions or the vivid descriptions.
Following the book, we revisited our list. I asked them, “How can we take each of these things in our list and make it more vivid or unusual?” Students took turns offering suggestions. Sometimes we went with the first thing a student said, and other times we listened to several suggestions before deciding what to add. I let the students come up with the words, and I wrote them for us on the board.
To close our time, we read the poem twice. First, I read it aloud, and then we did a choral reading.
By Ms. Lauren’s Kindergarten Class
Green flags waving in the sky
Green leaves falling from the trees
Green books sitting in the library
Green beans dancing in my mouth
Green stickers sleeping on my hand
Green turtles minding their own business
Now, many of these students want to go back into the classroom and try writing their own color poetry modeled after this one. This time of writing really seems like magic to me. Students come in with a blank screen in front of them and we unite our minds and voices to create something together as a community that just seems to spark when it is spoken into the air. We did this without any fancy technology or bells and whistles. It was just us, our imaginations, an inspiring text, and a dry erase board and marker.
What poetry magic have you created this month?