Focusing on self-selected poems, allow students the opportunity to search for a poem that speaks to them. More importantly, it provides them with multiple tools for finding poetry. Many people do not read, because they do not have access to things to read. Many people don’t read poetry, because they don’t know where to find poetry.
Yes, this lesson leads to students reinforcing their skills, embedding quotations, and writing a PEE paragraph, but the real importance lies in giving them a framework to continue to seek out, enjoy, and engage with poetry once they have left the classroom.
English Course Pack: Unit Two – Poetry
This assignment is part of the The Full English Course Park. This piece is part of Unit Two: Poetry, which focuses on engaging with literary / poetic devices, reading and appreciating poetry, writing poetry, and creating a unique artifact filled with personal expressions.
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2.05 – Exploring a Poem you Enjoy
Step One: Finding Poetry
There are so many different places to find poems. Try to direct students to at least two or three, if not all of the different options listed below:
- Your school library likely has a number of different books of poetry. They could be contemporary authors, they could be historical authors, they could be adults, children, anything in between. But, engaging with your school librarian, and asking if they will help put together a book talk for your class, focusing on different poets is a great place to start.
- Your local library makes a wonderful place for a field trip. Taking students for a walk to the library, and having them meet their librarians can be a wonderful, life changing, experience. You may want to provide students with library card registration forms prior to the trip, so that they can get their very own library card once they enter. Once again, feel free to connect with the librarians to see if they’d be willing to put together a book talk for you.
- Digital libraries can often be accessed online, using a local library card. Your school may also have access to digital library resources. While there is benefit in going to a physical space, there are times when that isn’t possible. The internet has brought the libraries to us.
- Project Guttenberg is a repository of texts that fall under public domain. If you want to direct your students to read some W.B. Yeats, you could send them on an adventure to search through those archives. You might challenge them to find something in one of the more popular searches.
- So Many Websites have archives of poems. I often direct people to PoetryInVoice.ca to find works that they might enjoy. Demonstrating that poetry is not only something that was written in ages past, but is still being written now is important.
- Toronto Public Library: Young Voices is a publication that youth submit their works to. You can find the entire archive online. Once again, this demonstrates that youth are still creating poetry right now.
- Peer’s Creations are powerful poems. Perhaps one student listened to their classmate read something that really spoke to them. Looking at the poems written in your classroom can be a great jumping off point for both the reader and the writer.
Once students have been pointed towards all of these tools, they will have direction. You may want to encourage them to create a graphic organizer to prepare the search. By this point, they should have seen a number, and will know what sort of tools work best for them.
Perhaps they will make checklist for the sources they plan to use? A box for what they find? A column for what they enjoy, and one for what they don’t? Having prepared your students well, you should be ready to start stepping back and letting them freely explore the tools you have provided them with.
Step Two: Considering the Poems
Students may benefit from using the poetry analysis graphic organizer that they were introduced to in the poetry analysis lesson. Or, they may want to enjoy the poems on their own terms.
Once each student has found a poem that speaks to them, consider having them share it with an elbow partner, and then have those elbow partners group up with other elbow partners, and then do that once again, until a group of eight has shared their selected poems.
the first elbow partner will have heard some of the poems three times, the group of four will have heard some twice, and the group of eight will have heard each poem at least once.
Repetition is important, and it may change how the students engage and feel about the poems.
Now comes the time to have each group select one of the eight poems, and read it to the class. They can speak to it, or just let it hang. Students can ask questions – but the questions shouldn’t be to the reader. they should be used to spark a full-class discussion.
This is the power of poetry – how a short piece can create a lasting conversation.
Step Three: Writing their Paragraph
Finally, the time has come to present students with the assignment sheet. It is a paragraph writing template that encourages students to write a PEE paragraph, embedding two quotations that support why they enjoy the poems.
This is an extremely formulaic paragraph, but you will notice that a blank box is presented prior to the template. This is because, students should be ready to write their own PEE paragraphs without adhering to a strict formula. However, for those who find themselves supported by that scaffolding, they should be encouraged to use it, as you gently try to move them away from those outlines in the future.
The writing of the PEE here allows for an evaluative piece, and it allows for a further demonstration of their learning. You may even use it to replace an existing evaluation in your grade book, because their evaluations should reflect who they are, not who they were. Or, you might just skip this piece all togehter.
The real importance was showing students how to access poetry on their own terms, and how great discussions can spring forth from it.
As hard to believe as it may be, the time will come when the students in front of you will no longer be in your classroom. Even more shocking is that there will be a time when they are no longer in your school. And beyond that, they may no longer be in your town, as life takes them in their own exciting directions.
But, you have opened their eyes to libraries, to an internet beyond memes, and to the value of poetry! You have provided them with an opportunity to continue to grow and expand their horizons as they seek to read for both pleasure, and self discovery.
That isn’t too bad for one little lesson, is it?
English – Unit Two: Poetry
2.07 – Creating a Poetry Chapbook (English Lesson)
Honouring the creative process by leading students to create an artifact they can keep with them for years to come is a perfect way to…
2.06 – A Poem Only You can Write (English Lesson)
Writing poetry is a personal experience. Each author approaches a subject through their own lens. Even when trying to craft a narrative from an alternate…
2.04 – Analyzing Poetry: Looking at Four Poems (English Lesson)
This lesson moves students from writing poetry, to looking at – and analyzing – poetry. Some teachers start with reading poetry, and then shift to…
2.03 – Introducing Types of Poems: Slide Deck (English Lesson)
There are so many types of poetry. This slide deck, created by Katherine Pearce, introduces students to a number of different types: By introducing students…
2.02 – Writing a Where I’m From Poem (English Lesson)
Where I’m From poetry is a type of poem that anyone can write, feel confident about, and present with authority. Where I’m from poetry are…
2.01 – Top Ten Poetic Devices: Slide Deck (English Lesson)
Metaphor, Simile, Alliteration, Hyperbole, Imagery, Onomatopoeia, Symbol, Repetition, Allusion, Personification… These are the ten key literary / poetic devices that students will use in their…
English Course Packs: Full Units
Unit One: Literacy Skills
Unit Two: Poetry
Unit Three: Literature Circles (In Progress)
Unit Four: Creative Writing & Choose Our Way Tales (In Progress)
Unit Five: Essay Writing (In Progress)
Unit Six: Culminating Tasks (In Progress)
Michael Barltrop has been teaching since 2006, integrating comics, video games, and TTRPGs into his classroom. He has been the head of English, Literacy, Special Education, and Assessment & Evaluation and Universal Design. Feel free to reach out through Twitter @MrBarltrop!
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