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 perspective, the author’s voice comes through as they craft each line, each stanza, each idea.

Building from their knowledge of poetic devices, and different poem types students will step forward as creators, crafting unique pieces that only they can tell. Through a scaffolded experience, this will be the final release of responsibility as your students step from the confines of teacher-led authorship, towards the intrinsic desire to create for the sake of creation.

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.

If you would like to say thanks, consider buying me a coffee. But that is neither required, nor expected.

2.06 – A Poem Only You can Write

Step One: Understanding the Planning Sheet

The planning sheet for their unique poem will present students with a moment’s pause before they press forward towards creation. For some, the act of putting pen to paper, or fingertips to keyboard, can be where the journey begins. But for others, the split second before the pencil touches down, or the first key finds itself depressed, can seem an eternity as thoughts coalesce and break apart once more.

This sheet encourages everyone to step back, consider what they want to write, and put forward a touch of planning to truly understand the metacognitive aspects of creation.

Students are asked to consider:

  • In what way the poem will be a story that is unique to them
  • What specific details will draw their audience towards them
  • Why they are passionate about the subject matter
  • How poetic devices will enhance the reader’s experience
  • What impact the last line will have on the reader

Once those five pieces have been considered, and planned, students will be ready to create. Some may never formally plan another poem in their life, while others may modify the planning graphic organizer to fit their needs. Others, still, might never fill out boxes, but keep these thoughts in the back of their mind as they jump right into the act of creation.

The importance here is not to ensure that students do things the same way, each and every time, but simply to provide them with tools – with options – to help them move forward, when help moving forward brings comfort to the writing process.

No one will say “I can’t do this” when asked to add a sentence or two, or even a few bullet points to a box. And, no one will say “I can’t do this” when translating their planning to a poem, because the thought process to get this far has already proved that, indeed, they can.

Step Two: What’s your Story?

Students should be encouraged to fill this sheet out in stages. Take a moment to fully explain what each box is asking of the students, and then offer in-class time for every step.

After students have added their ideas, an opportunity to share can be put forward. Many students may not want to open up to the class, but others might. Once again, these opportunities don’t exist to force students to put their ideas into the world, but simply to allow them to do so if they would like.

As always, when saying “I would love to hear what some of you wrote for XYZ; would any of you like to share?” it can be beneficial to lead by putting your own thoughts forward first. And, do not move on too quickly. Some students need to build up the courage to admit that, yes, they want to read their ideas aloud.

I look at the clock, and watch the second hand tick halfway around. If after thirty seconds there are still no takers, I reinforce that that’s fine, and encourage them to consider sharing after the next piece has been completed.

In what way the poem will be a story that is unique to them

As mentioned, a poem is a personal tale. Even if it isn’t about the author. Let students know that one way or another, the poem they write should be unique to them.

This could be accomplished by:

  • Exploring a personal memory
  • Narrating the experience of a family member
  • Exploring their feelings about an event
  • Describing an object of personal importance
  • Sharing their thoughts

What specific details will draw their audience towards them

Poetry connects to readers by making the personal relatable. This is done through the use of details that others can connect with.

Students may choose to:

  • Describe how a memory made them feel
  • Provide sensory descriptions
  • Share specific moments in time
  • Isolate highly specific instances of interest

Why they are passionate about the subject matter

When a writer’s passion comes through, their interest becomes the interest of the reader. Much in the same way that a speaker’s passion engages their audience, the writer’s passion engages the reader. Just knowing why this is something that interests them is often enough for them to engage with the subject matter in a unique way.

How poetic devices will enhance the reader’s experience

Students have learned about poetic devices. They have read poems that used poetic devices. By this point there should be no doubt in their mind that when they read “The flames erupted as red ribbons; agile gymnasts performing on a field of black” is more evocative than “The fire burned.”

Considering which type of devices, ranging from metaphor to repetition (like in their Where I’m From poem) is an effective first step to ensuring that readers have a way to see beyond the literal.

What impact the last line will have on the reader

Always leave them wanting more. The first page, and the last page are often the most important in any novel. Likewise, the last line in a poem is what brings all the thoughts together.

Remind students that just because they have planned their last line, before writing, it doesn’t mean that they have to stick to it. they can modify as necessary.

However, knowing where you’re going is always an important first step for those trying to actually get there.

Step Three: Sharing their Creations

Once poems have been written, students should be encouraged to share in a poetry cafe format.

Want to bring in snacks? Beverages? light the room with lamps, rather than overhead ultraviolets?

Whatever you think works best will create a space for students to move forward with their work.

Sometimes all it takes it turning on your projector, finding a good “fireplace” streaming video, or even a cafe soundscape.

Small changes can drastically alter expectations, and altered expectations alter engagement.

Once small change can make all the difference.

The Impact

Having provided students with yet another tool for their tool belt, they will be ready to move on as creators that are looking to engage with the readership around them, and they will now know why and how a poem that connected with them came to accomplish that. Not only that, they will be ready to create the same impact for their readers.

All of this leads towards the final task in the poetry unit – creating a chapbook of poems,a nd sharing them with the world. Or, at the very least, some of the people in it.

English – Unit Two: Poetry

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)

Written by…

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!

Feel free to support the website hosting by buying him a coffee or sharing this post on facebook, twitter, or whatever social media is trending these days.

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