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 bring the poetry unit to a close. By now, your students have engaged in writing poetry, and reading poetry, and making poetry that is meaningful to them and their experiences.

The next step is one of self-publishing. There are a number of ways that you can move forward with this. Over the years I have taught students how to:

  • Create their own physical texts
  • Build zine-style books that can be mass-produced using a photocopier
  • Design eBooks that are sold through an online marketplace
  • Format their works into apps that can be accessed through app stores
  • Publish small-scale runs using local printers
  • Write an inquiry letter to send with an industry-standard manuscript to publishers

While there are always a variety of options for how students look to enter their work into the world around them, the true value isn’t in choosing the best options but in choosing an option.

There will always be something more they could have done, just as you will feel there is always something more that you can do for them. But the fear of making a choice is at its most harmful when it prevents any choice from being made.

This lesson plan will walk through the creation of detailed text for students to keep, but if you are looking to expand your horizons, and those of your students, feel free to look into The Publication Project.

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.

2.07 – Creating a Poetry Chapbook

Step One: Understanding the Requirements

This assignment has a limited number of requirements. The importance of this isn’t to force students to write certain types of poems, simply to write poems. The only limitations on what they can create are these straight forward requirements:

  • Include at least 5 different literary devices that we learned about
  • Be at least 250 words long (this is a combined word count of all poems)
  • Include at least 4 types of poetry (sonnet, free verse, limerick, etc.)
  • Include at least 7 different poems
  • Include a personally made cover image or title page
  • Include a visual piece to accompany each poem
  • Have interesting and engaging titles for both the poems and chapbook

This means, of course, that a student could write four haikus, one limerick, one concrete poem, and a very long free verse poem, to ensure that the word count reaches 250. They are free to include all five literary devices into the one free verse poem, if they wish, too.

Essentially, this ensures that they do not just write seven short haikus, and turn it in. Which isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with writing seven haikus. The students should be encouraged to write as many haikus as they want – but they will also need to explore a few other pieces.

Once students understand what they have to create, they can start using the planning page in the assignment to ensure that all requirements are included.

When they submit their final work, this sheet will be of great help for you, as well, to ensure that all aspects of the project have been completed.

Step Two: Gathering Content

Students should very quickly realize that they do not have to complete any new poems. They should realize that you weren’t kidding when you suggest that if they took advantange of the opportunities they were presented with throughout this unit, that the final task would progress smoothly.

Their Where I’m From poem is a free verse poem that has a fairly substantial word count. It also includes metaphor and repetition.

If they wrote one of each poem type during the poetry type slide deck lesson then they should already have the required number of poems.

Some students may need to write one more free verse poem that includes a number of literary devices, but with any luck the poem that only they could write will fulfill those requirements.

Some students love writing poetry, and they should be encouraged to create as much new content as they want for this project. Others, however, will focus – not on the creation of the poetry, but on the creation of the artifact itself.

Step Three: Adding Artifacts, and Binding them Together

Adding Artifacts

Each poem needs to be accompanied by a visual piece. This could be a picture that the students have drawn which connects with poem, or a photograph of something related to the poem. But, it could also be a concert ticket, or bus transfer, from an event that inspired the poem. It could be a leaf that has been pressed in waxed paper, preserved within this collection.

Students should focus on what made their poems meaningful, and consider how they can use something real to try to convey the importance of the poem to their reader – even if that reader is their future self, long since graduated, who had all but forgotten this brief moment in time.

Binding it Together

There are many ways to bind a book. A staple in the top left corner is not one of them. Encourage your students to choose a more artisanal technique:

  • Sew the spine with thread – or dental floss for the extra strength (and sometimes minty flavour)
  • Place the the pages within a purchased portfolio, ensuring to use each space available
  • Craft their own hard covers, and bind their text from that

And, of course, there are some students who will always love staplers beyond all else. For them:

  • Teach them how to use a long-armed stapler to get a centre staple in the spine
  • Show them how to replicate a long armed staple by punching holes with a thumb tack, and manually pushing the staple through, before folding it over

The texts that students create should be a beautiful gift to their future selves that they may forget about for a decade, but then come back to glad for the keepsake.

Step Four: Returning to the Cafe

What better way to honour the creation than by holding another poetry cafe. You can use the same techniques that are suggested in the prior lesson.

By this point students are hopefully not fearing reading their poems, but rather excited to read them.

And, if nothing else, this will be a great way for you to enhance an existing oral communication grade, or assess their skills informally to fill in a hole in your grade book.

The Impact

You’ve done it! You’ve brought poetry to your students. And then you brought your students to poetry.

So many students start off by saying “I hate poetry” and end this unit saying how much they enjoy it. The craft of creative writing is something that many teachers stay away from, often times because they don’t know how to evaluate it.

But, by taking things step by step and focusing on the tools that are used, rather than seeking to say “this is what good looks like” and “this is what poor looks like” – because, as you’ve taught, everything is subjective – they find themselves at ease.

And now, when they leave your classroom behind and find themselves in another room where the teacher wants a five paragraph response to what the author intended when they mentioned that the drapes were purple, at the very least, they will have a foundation to explore. And they will remember that poetry can be so much more.

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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