Writing Poetry

I've always taught poetry.  We read it, analyzed the rhyme scheme, meter, all that good stuff.

But I never taught it through writing.  Oh, we wrote acrostics or cinquains, that kind of stuff.  But just cut loose and write?  No way.  Every good elementary teacher knows without the right guidance, kids write poems like this:

I have a wish
For a new fish
It will go splish
On a dish.

Am I right?  I knew kids could do more, I just didn't know how to provide that right kind of guidance.  So, we didn't write poetry.  For a lot of years.

But, then!  Then, I found the winning combo.

Love That Dog teaches kids that they can like poetry that is not written by Shel Silverstein.  There is a sequel called Hate That Cat.  Picture this: Boys and girls fighting over copies of the sequel, discussing it with each other on their own, bringing it to me to point out elements of poetry or to tell me that they actually understood a poem.  Seriously.

Now that they like it, Regie Routman steps in and shows you how to teach kids to write poetry.  (Do not despair younger grade teachers, their are books for K, 1, and 2.)  It works.  I was FULL of doubt.  But I started the unit with the attitude of, "I don't really have any other good resources, so . . . . "  And then they wrote poetry.  Then, the next year, I started the unit full of doubt.   And then they wrote.  And then, the next year-well, you get the idea.

How about a reluctant boy writer saying, "Hey, when are we going to write that poetry stuff today?"  Basically, the book has really kids poems, you have the kids notice, then try.  I group the poems by theme-likes/dislikes, home, friends and family, feelings, etc. so that it gives them a topic to hold onto.

The first day of writing is a little sketchy, but after that, Wow!  The first day, I ask them for 5 minutes of try.  That's all.  They're willing to try for five minutes.  I bump it up a minute everyday until we're at 10 minutes.

Here are some of their poems:

I make a really fancy poetry journal for each student.  I fold four sheets of white paper in half and staple it.  Then, we decorate the cover.  Crazy stuff.  I make one for myself and write while they write and share it with them.
Not because I'm an awesome poet, just to show them you don't have to be awesome, just honest.  They share at their tables and then have the option to turn their journal in to me to read.  I just write a super quick note, but they love it.

This is also a huge support for our STAAR reading.  If there is one poetry passage on our test, poetry makes up 20% of their score.  You can teach poetry all you want, but it's much easier to understand poetry when you're looking at it through a writer's eyes.

We'll make a class poetry anthology next week.  Everyone will contribute two poems to it.  Then I make a copy for everyone.  It's a lot of paper (and effort), but the kids love it.  It takes them to a whole new world, so I think it's worth it!