By Vicki Davis
Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher is a full-time teacher, the author of the book Reinventing Writing, and the host of “Every Classroom Matters” on the BAM Radio Network.
No more groans when you teach poetry! When you teach poetry—cinquains, haiku, sonnets, or any format—the challenge is inspiring students to be creative within certain limits. Taking students out of the classroom will give you a burst of creativity, especially if you illustrate the poem with a snapshot.
Because most poems don’t require a lot of text, I would remove the keyboards and just go tablet-only for your excursion.
Step 1. Capture a Photograph and Insert It into Your Document
Take students to an interesting spot on campus (gardens are great) to take photos of beautiful or interesting things. Have them use a word-processing or note-taking program (Microsoft Word, Publisher, OneNote, Evernote—all are great options) and insert their selected photo at the top.
Step 2. Brainstorm Words
Encourage students to write as many words as possible about their topic. If you are doing haiku, you will want them to figure out how many syllables their words have. If you are doing cinquain, depending on the type, have them make notes (such as part of speech, syllable, and the like).
Step 3. First Draft: Guided Poem Building
At this point, you have two options. Students who prefer to work alone can use a printed guide you have prepared or an online source to guide them through the creation of the poem. (Remember that tablets can dock side by side.) For the other students, talk them through each step as they write about their photograph.
For example, if you choose to write a cinquain with parts of speech, you can say:
- “On the first line, write a noun describing your picture.” (Depending on their age, you can remind them what a noun is.)
- “On the second line, write two adjectives” (pause).
- “On the third line, write three words ending in -ing” (pause).
- “On the fourth line, write a phrase” (pause).
- “On the fifth line, choose a synonym for the noun on the first line” (pause).
Step 4. Revise the Poem
Now talk about proofreading and editing. A first draft is just getting words on the page—many poets work for days to find the perfect words.
You can let proofing continue at the off-site location or return to the classroom. Students can be encouraged to write more than one poem about their topic, using a variety of pictures.
Find synonyms. If students are using a word-processing program, point out the synonym feature and encourage them to find creative words that they feel may better fit their poem.
Read aloud. Students can swap tablets to share or can read aloud to a partner.
Step 5. Publish and Share with a Wider Audience
When poems are complete, each student should select his or her best work to display in a poetry gallery. You can do this online if you are blogging, or you can print it and display it where student work is showcased at your school.
Be sure to include with the display the format notes of how you do this (the format is how it is supposed to read: i.e., first line is a noun).
Step 6. Make Portable Poetry a Permanent Part of Your Classroom Experience
You can take this further by having Portable Poetry experiences several times as you explore various types of poetry. Instead of complaining about poetry, when it is time to write students will grab their tablets and run for the door!
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