Thursday, March 27, 2014

Spring has Sprung...A Poetry Blog Hop!

Hello blog hoppers! So glad you could stop by my blog for the poetry blog hop! First of all, a huge thank you to Rebecca over at Line upon Line Learning for setting up this blog hop! You'll want to make sure that you head over there so you don't miss any of the bloggers, their great ideas, and their freebies for stopping by!

So poetry...funny that we should be doing a hop centered around poetry because a week ago, and the Illinois Reading Council Conference, I heard Nancie Atwell speak. She's one amazing teacher researcher, and she told us that she always started her year with poetry. I had never considered doing this, but now, I think it's such a great idea.

For upper elementary and middle school students, reading, analyzing, and learning about free-verse poetry opens up doors to writing that are kind of limitless. Poetry defies the rules of prose writing, making it more accessible to students. They don't have to feel like they are confined to all the rules of writing and they can be free to express their thoughts and ideas. Starting the year with poetry also is a way for new classes of students to get to know one another, as I'm sure that many students will be writing about personal interests and sharing with a group.

Now, you may be thinking, "Okay, sure, Michelle. My students are just going to write free-verse poetry?" To this I share my first teaching tool:

If you haven't read this book, right now, go to amazon and order it. It's that good for teaching students to be open to writing poetry! (Well, wait, because you'll want to order a few other books, too!)

This book is about Jack, a third or fourth grader, who thinks writing poetry is for girls. The book is written in kind of a diary form, but all the entries are Jack's writing and all in poetry. Over the course of the year, the teacher shows Jack that anyone can write poetry, including himself, who goes on to write about his beloved dog, Sky. I would love to tell you the whole story, but it will be better if you read it on your own. You could probably read it in one sitting - it's super quick!

One other cool thing about Love That Dog is that in the back of the book are the poems that Miss Stretchberry, his teacher, has shared with the class. So, you can see how Jack's poems take on the qualities of the poems Miss Stretchberry shares.

Once your students see how writing poetry is just putting words on paper but


your students will be more open to trying this on their own.

Another idea would be a poem a day with your class. Pick poems you love and then share the content of it, and also the craft and structure that the author employs. Here are a few of my favorite collections, and a poem from each. Enjoy!

First - 

From this collection by Gary Soto, my favorite poem is Eating Mexican Food:

Eating Mexican Food
Rule #1
Don't pick up the tortilla
With your fork.

Rule #2

Salsa - red ants
Marching on your tongue

It's okay to scream into your napkin.

Rule #3
Keep things clean - 
Wipe the plate's face with a napkin of tortilla.

Rule #4
With posole soup,
The corn arrives smiling.
By the end ot he meal,

It's toothless as an old man

As for you, roll your tongue across your own teeth
Like a wiper blade pushing down dead
Yellow insects.

Rule #5
It's okay to prop your elbows on the table.
And if an ant comes to see,
Show kindness -
A single grain of rice will do.

Rule #6

The menu's in Spanish?
Nothing wrong with pointing.

Rule #7
You're friendlier than you think.
A fly, mostly eyes circles your plate.

When the fly sets down,
He scrubs his hands for dinner.

Offer this uninvited guest a chip.

A little kick-butt salsa will open his eyes even wider.

So good, right? My favorite part is the metaphor in rule #2!

Another great collection:

There are so many great poems in this book, about identity, and students who move to a new country where culture is different. As a middle-class, white teacher, it's easy to forget that many of my students didn't have the same background as I did, and poems like Why Am I Dumb? remind me that our backgrounds can be very different.

Why Am I Dumb?
Why am I dumb?
In my country

I was smart.
All tens!
Never even and eight!

Now I'm here.
They give me C's or D's or F's
- like fives
or fours. . .
or ones.
I feel like I'm turning into Kiko
from my old class.
Kiko's dumb
in any country.

Well, I'm still smart
in math.
Maybe dumb in reading.
But math - 
- all tens,
I mean

Another favorite collection of poems is Ralph Fletcher's A Writing Kind of Day: Poems for Young Poets:

So many great ones in this book, my favorite though? Poetry Stands.

Poetry Stands
They wanted to level
our favorite forest.

Our class sent the mayor
a swarm of angry verse;
we pelted the newspaper
with a blizzard of poems.

At my cousin's funeral
her family stood up
armed with nothing
but tears and poetry.

Poetry must wound
or heal those wounds.

When everyone else sits,
poetry stands.

Are the nouns and verbs in that one just right on point or what? A *swarm* of angry verse? A *blizzard* of poems? My family stood up *armed* with tears and poetry? OMG! LOVE!

In addition to sharing great poems with students, a final recommendation for your poetry unit is a book I love that teaches kids about poetry and gives them tips for writing it: Poetry Matters: Writing a Poem from the Inside Out.

This little gem, also by Ralph Fletcher (one of my faves!) is a little how-to for writing poetry, but for kids. This book covers the qualities of great poetry: emotions, imagery, and rhythm. Not only does it describe what each of those are, it also offers up lots of examples of each. Additionally, it has interviews with a few different writers who share their ideas about writing poetry.

When working on poetry with students, I would have them do these readings from Fletcher's book at home and then come back to school to discuss. I'd probably want my students reading and analyzing a poem a day, and then set off to write during workshop. We would end the session with a share time. At the end of our poetry unit, students would perhaps publish a set of five or six poems, employing poetry techniques that great poetry writers use.

Before you go, I wanted to thank you for stopping by! I've compiled a list of most of the books in my poetry collection at school and got that all ready to share with you! Stop by my Teachers Pay Teachers store to download it!

hahhahhaa :-)

After you've done that, you're ready to head over to Kristin's blog at Ms. Jordan Reads for her post on poetry and another freebie! But, before you go, don't forget to follow me and connect with lots of great ideas here at BigTime Literacy!

One more thing before you go: Do you have a favorite collection of poetry to use with your elementary school students? Please share in the comments if you do! I'm always looking to grow my collection even more!

Have a great weekend!


  1. Thanks for sharing all these great titles and resources. I had forgotten "Poetry Stands" but it's so perfect. Ralph is a brilliant poet and writer. One of my favorite collections is ORDINARY THINGS: POEMS FROM A WALK IN EARLY SPRING.

  2. OMG! We did a school wide book study with Love that Dog last year. Such a sweet book for teaching poetry. Every student in our school got their own copy and we even got to skype with the author Shannon Creech! Our students were able to ask her questions about poetry and being an author. Such an amazing experience for them and got them really excited about free verso poetry!

  3. This is great! So many times we make elementary school poetry learning about the formal types of poetry...and writing our own that way. Instead, let them enjoy READING it on their own level and it will naturally inspire them! Wonderful! As I work with younger ones right now, I am not familiar with some of the books you mention, but I will definitely go look them up! Thanks!

  4. Монтаж систем вентиляции и дымоудаления производственных цехов, административных и торговых зданий, объектов нефтегазовой отрасли, больниц, детских садов и школ. Цена и прайс-лист, стоимость отдельных видов работ по установке вентиляции. Монтаж вентиляции производится сотрудниками, имеющими аттестацию в промышленной безопасности, что позволяет нам проводить работы в опасных и взрывоопасных промышленных цехах, на объектах нефтегазовой и химической промышленности.


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