Saturday, January 19, 2013

Poetry vs. Prose... and more- Journey into Poetry Land

Greetings Dear Readers!

I can hardly believe that we have all introduced ourselves and now it is time to share the "goods"! WAHOO!

For my first "real" post here, I wanted to share for your reading pleasure the first of a series of posts that will chronicle my current venture in teaching 60 students (4th, 5th, and 6th) a mega unit on poetry. It has been quite the adventure, but I am loving it. Let's get started...

I have set up my classroom this year with a "Genre" board. I love it as it holds mentor texts, anchor charts, and the purpose of the genre.

Like This:
(Anchor charts will be filled out soon!)

Using the book "The Write Genre" by Lori Roq and others I started the unit by having the students write in their journals what they felt the difference was between poetry and prose. It was interesting to hear their responses since most students hadn't ever heard the word "prose" before. They were talking about star basketball and baseball players. Ha ha. It was pretty funny. After I told them what each was, I read them examples of each. For the prose example, I choose to read Byrd Baylor's "The Other Way to Listen". When I showed them the inside text page, they all guessed it was going to be poetry. It was fun to see the look on their faces as I read the story and it didn't rhyme (which is what almost EVERY student defined poetry as in their journals- short, boring, and rhyming).  Then I started to read some poems from Langston Hughes' "The Dream Keeper and Other Poems". I read several different poems from his book, some that rhymed, but many that did not. For homework, I gave the students a poem they had to read to a family member. The students also had to underline all the common nouns and circle the proper nouns. I felt it was an amazing way to start the unit.

For Day 2 of my introduction to poetry, we reviewed what we had learned yesterday about poetry and prose. Then, in our journals, we listed the 6 major differences between poetry and prose. It was a great eye-opener for some, and a total drowning for others. I thought that my 4th graders would struggle a little more than the 5th and 6th graders, but was pleasantly surprised that most of them understood more than I expected. The second part of Day 2 was spent in listing tools that poets might use to write excellent poetry.

With some guidance, we settled on:

1) Rhythm (Beat and Repetition)
2) Musical Language (Onomatopoeia, Invented Words, and Alliteration)
3) Sensory Images (Touch, Taste, Sight, Smell, Hear)
4) Comparisons (Simile and Metaphors)
5) Shape and Form (White Space, Line Breaks, and Major Forms like Diamante, Hiaku, etc.)
6) Rhyme (Not as easy as everyone thinks...ha ha)

To end the class period, I handed out a poetry book to every student (you could have the students read in pairs) and let them read and share and giggle and laugh. Many students found that it wasn't as "horrible" or "boring" or "lame" as they had thought. And the best part for me? It wasn't the rhyming poems that they seemed to enjoy the most. They really latched onto Langston Hughes and found that reading his poems was enjoyable! TOTAL SCORE!

When they had to leave, most students were sad that class had ended. I knew right then and there that this was going to be a successful journey into the land of poetry. WAHOO!

In my next post, I will show and tell how I taught the first "tool", how it went, share my poems, as well as  several student samples. I hope you will join me over at An Educator's Life for the remaining posts in this series.


P.S. Don't miss my Share the Wealth Freebie Linky going on over at my blog today! There are some amazing freebies that you won't want to miss. Click HERE or on the picture to check it out!


  1. I have to tell you that I LOVE this post so much because poetry is my "thing" (not just in the classroom, but in LIFE). I collect poetry books and have hundreds! I read poetry for fun on days off from school. I am THAT hooked.

    It is my favorite thing to teach, and I often wish I could teach it all year. I kind of did when when I served as Poetry Club Moderator in our school. :)

    The thing I love is that there are so many kinds of poems, so many styles of poetry, etc. that even the kids who think they don't like reading or can't write poetry end up liking it by the end. It's also a wonderful thing to introduce sixth graders to MY favorite writers (with carefully selected poems...haha!) like Eliot, Poe, Rilke, Auden, Cummings, etc.

    Last year I hired a local author to come in and do a writing workshop with my students- all 120 of them. She spoke to them about how she wrote several children's books as well as published poems in rhyme. It gave them a whole new appreciation for the difficulty of doing it well. Most of us learned that writing well in rhyme was out of our league and we stuck to writing without it, but a few advanced kids truly had the knack for writing in rhyme (think "Annabel Lee" and not "Green Eggs and Ham"). ;) We also learned SO much about imagery. My kids' poems were fabulous!

    Like you, I think I appreciate poetry without rhyme more unless it's done REALLY well like it is in "On Raglan Road" by Patrick Kavanagh, one of my favorite poems of all time. When the author is also a master at internal rhyme, there is no comparison (for me) to the beauty of hearing it aloud. :)

    I love to see teachers introducing poetry with so much enthusiasm and excitement like you. When I presented on poetry at an in service or department meetings, I found that so many teachers are intimidated by it or just don't enjoy it.

    I apologize if I've talked WAY too much, but your post got me all excited about teaching my upcoming poetry unit. It can never come too quickly! I look forward to the rest of your posts for some possible new ideas to add to my long list of "things I must do" as far as poetry goes with my kiddos. Thanks for sharing, my friend! I TRULY enjoyed it.

    "Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
    There is no happiness like mine.
    I have been eating poetry."
    ~Mark Strand

    1. Sorry for adding to my already WAYYYYY too long ramblings, but I wanted to ask you if you like The Writing Genre. I don't have that book and wanted your opinion on whether or not it is worth purchasing. Thanks for any feedback on this and again, thanks for a very inspiring post.

    2. Greetings Friend!
      I LOVED your comment. I didn't know you were such a poetry fiend! Wahoo! Now I know who to ask all my questions too!

      As far as the book, YES! It has been a life saver. It is SO well laid out, has tons of mini-lessons, suggestions, ideas, and student writing samples. I have relied on it heavily this year as a new teachers of just WRITING. I thought my previous 12 years would be enough- NOT! ha ha.

      Let me know if you have further question, let me know.

  2. Great post! I enjoyed reading it! I like how you have some books posted. In the past, I have just put a book cover up, but I think this year I may try to use your display idea. Thanks!

    1. Hello!
      Thanks for your comment. I LOVE having the mentor texts hanging on the wall. Those binder clips are amazing. It is very visual for the kids when I take a mentor text off the wall and use it for a lesson and then hang it back up. Students see that it really IS important to what we are learning.

      And, the best part is that they can take it and read it and then put it back, so they still have access to the texts.

      I hope you will join me over at An Educator's Life for the continuation of posts. :)

  3. Yes, I like how you have books hanging on the bulletin board. How did you get those clips stuck up on the board?

    Ladybugs Lounge

    1. Howdy!
      That is a great question and I probably should have said that in my post... ha ha. I used various sizes of binder clips and then used T-pins to hang them on.

      If that STILL doesn't make sense let me know and I will try to add an up-close picture on a future post in my series.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Excellent post.
    As one who sees your results first hand, I have to say that you are doing an awesome job on this unit. Thanks for all the time and effort you put into all you do.

    1. Thank Ya!
      So glad you could stop by. I appreciate your kind words.

  5. I LOVE teaching poetry. I've used that Langston Hughes book too. Another interesting collection is Jane Yolen's Once Upon Ice. Visual learners really get into that one thanks to the wintery photos.

    Also, I love your displays! What do you use to write on the black paper? It's very striking.

  6. Howdy Amber!
    Thanks for your comments and kind words. Actually it is the amazing Mrs. Hughes that does all the writing. She uses chalk and poster paper and 12 x 18 black construction paper.

    Wow, I am realizing that I need to do a better job of telling about HOW I do stuff... sigh.

    Thanks again for stopping by!

    1. Nah, it's fine! The focus was poetry, I just happened to be drawn to the displays :) I'm glad I asked; I was assuming it was some sort of new gel-pen-marker. Colored chalk, why didn't I think of that?

  7. Awesome lesson! I love looking at different classrooms. Just the simple way you hang the book jackets on your bulletin board as "mentor texts" makes so much sense! I love it! Why haven't I thought of that before!!!??? :)

    Pinkadots Elementary

    1. Thanks for stopping by. I enjoy looking at other's rooms as well. There is so much to learn from "seeing" them. Thanks for your comment and please stop by again soon.

  8. I'm enjoying being in class two days a week and learning fromMr. Hughes even though I'm not a poetry geek or anything, just has never been my thing. I do admit that only being in class twice a week means I miss a lot of the lessons in between and I'm glad Mr. Hughes is posting on his lessons so I can kind of catch up and understand more on the poetry unit. I was actually in the rhythm class session he talks about on his blog. I can't wait to see more on this unit. Mrs. E :-)

    Elysabeth Eldering
    Author of Finally Home, a middle grade/YA mystery

    1. We are so pleased that you join us each week. I really appreciate it. I hope I can post fast enough to keep you up to date. :)

  9. We are working on poetry right now as well...we are using some of Georgia Heard's ideas. Great post! :)

  10. Isn't poetry AWESOME?!?! I love teaching it. There is so much you can do with it in so many areas. Thanks for your comments.

  11. What a very lucky class you have...lovely poetry work here! I wanted to invite you to my site - The Poem Farm - as a resource. It is full of poems and mini lesson ideas. Free, searchable, ad-free...just for children and classrooms. If your students and you would like to share any of your poems there, I welcome you. You'll see some such celebrations under the POETRY PEEK tab. Thank you for this post. I will be linking to it. Yours, Amy

    1. Amy-
      Thanks SO much for the info and resources! WAHOO! Have a most WONDERFUL day!


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