This Friday, my fourth graders will participate in the 4th annual Poetry Slam at my school. It is actually something the music teacher and I cooked up a few years ago, so my students have an opportunity to share their favorite original poem with each other and their families.
Before our school music teacher gets involved, my students study five different figures of speech and create five poems that demonstrate each figure of speech at least one time. Writing poetry can be intimidating for kids, so I break down different poems and types of figures of speech into simple activities to help students create their own poetry.
- Take an existing poem by a famous author and borrow the structure, repeated words, or style. While reading the novel, HATE THAT CAT, we use the poem, "Love That Boy" by Walter Dean Myers to create an "inspired by" poem. My students keep the beginning of most of the lines and develop their own simile (so I get to teach simile at the same time). My son is actually in one of my language arts classes this year and his "inspired by" poem made me cry. He does not know I am reprinting his poem here... and sharing it on Facebook... and Tweeting it... and Google+'ing it because I thought it was so sweet.
- I try to match up adjective and adverb grammar lessons with my poetry unit. Give the students an everyday object and ask them to generate a list of adjectives that describe the object. This year, I had my students use one of their shoes as the everyday object. They used a template with blank lines and dropped the adjectives onto the lines and then designed a concrete poem.
- I have a big list of topics that I cut into little strips and put into an envelope. Each student draws a topic from the envelope. I like to choose topics from nature like a cloud, mountain, tree, flower, sunset, or ocean. The students write five sentences about the object, but each sentence must use personification. We spend some time talking about human traits, and I provide a traits list on their class activity page. The cloud could offer comfort. The mountain could glare down at you. The flower could dance. The students list the five sentences and then move the sentences around a little and edit to create a poem.
- A fun activity I used with my early finishers during our poetry study was book spine poems. You may have seen book spine images floating around on Pinterest. I have a vast classroom library, and the students stacked books to create a poem from the book titles. This year, they took a picture with our class iPads and inserted the image into a PicCollage and added an explanation of their poem. In previous years, students have used MSPublisher to publish their book spine poems.
Poetry can be fun for students and offer a creative way to express feelings students might not share otherwise. I have also started to realize how much poetry enhances all areas of language study and because poems are often short, it provides a great literature alternative when teachers run short on instructional time.
Need some new poetry resources?
Here are links to great products by our Lesson Deli members:
TheRoomMom's Poetry Unit and Figures of Speech Game (includes activities listed above)
The Owl Spot's Robert Frost Author Study (and other author studies)
Teaching Ideas 4U's Poetry Writing Unit
JB Creations' Revolutionary War Poetry Unit