Language Arts Ideas
~ Working with Poetry

 Schoolwide Poetry Display
~ Mary Tigner-Rasanen (with help from the NCTE listserv)

My last year teaching 8th grade I had my students post poems around the school during National Poetry Month. First I sent them out with notepads looking for good locations for poems - in the office, over the drinking fountains, in the detention room, in the bathrooms, hallways, etc. We posted their results on newsprint and stuck them up on the wall. Then I dumped my large college of poetry books on the table, gave them each a package of stickies, and said, "Find some poems." When they found one they liked, they put in a sticky and wrote the location they thought the poem should grace (one about water over the water fountain, one about understanding in the counseling office). When all were selected, I photocopied them. Students glue-sticked them to bright paper, and we put them in plastic sleeves - there were about fifty in all. Then we stuck them on the walls. We got many, many positive comments. These were my 'at-risk' readers, and they had a good time doing it.

 Poem of the Day
~ Gregory Van Nest

Something I try to do from the beginning of the semester is have a "poem of the day." Sometimes we discuss it, sometimes I put it on an overhead, and sometimes I just read it, let them think for a moment or two and then move on. I try to get them used to poetry as a non-threatening daily event. After all, how often does the average person hear or read poetry, other than when the teacher is asking them to torture a confession out of it? How can we get the "poet-phobic" students to like poetry if all we ever do is turn it into work? I really don't think poets write because they want to provide English teachers with more teachable poems, so I don't think that I need to turn every poem into an English assignment. Eventually we do move on to a unit on poetry, but by then, they're used to hearing poems and it (hopefully) isn't such a traumatic event.

Poetry Reading
~ Anita Britton

On almost every Friday, we devote our Language Arts block to poetry. I usually start by sharing some favorite poem books, modeling some poems with expression and simple hand movements, and modeling other learning like changing tempo, voices, etc. Kids are then given 10-15 minutes to find a comfy place in the room and enjoy poetry books. At the end of that time, I invite them to pick a poem to "perform" and a partner, if they wish. Kids can perform solo. I give them 15 minutes or so to practice, reminding them about what makes the performance exciting to the audience. We gather together on our carpet and share our performances the final 20-25 minutes. My kids love this, believe it or not!

Poem of the Week
~ Renee Goularte

I like to do a "poem of the week" every Monday. Usually these are seasonal or else they connect to a theme or topic we are working on. I write the poem on chart paper with a marker, and have students use the poem for a variety of activities. For example, I have them circle the periods or capital letters, find and underline or highlight rhyming words or high frequency words. I also use these poems to teach about stanzas, rhyming patterns, onomatopoeia (and let me tell you it is a trip to hear first, second, and third graders talking about onomatopoeia) and other poetry elements. I also put the poem on paper, followed by several word identifiction questions (Write two rhyming words. Find a three syllable word. Find three words that are colors.) PLUS a response question (What do you think the poet means by ______ ?) PLUS instructions to draw a picture on the back of the paper that shows what the poem is saying. This goes home for homework Monday night. The charted poem goes on the wall, and two "poems of the week" are always readily visible next to each other for "reading the wall" with the earlier ones underneath them (so students can lift the current ones to see/read the ones underneath). This is a very popular activity with little ones, and addresses many areas.

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