Poetry Month: day 10

I am introducing performance poetry to my students this week.  My plan is to give them a taste of an example and then move into two-voice poems.

I will introduce them to Shane Koyczan by showing them the first six and a half minutes of this,  and then I’ll hand out poems I’ve photocopied from a wonderful book by Paul Fleischman called Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices.  Because I want this to be an intro (and because I have limited time) I will give some of the shorter poems to some pairs but most I will give to groups of four and ask them to switch paired readers halfway through.

They will have the end of this first period and the beginning of our next to read through and practice their poems.  We will read them out to each other at the end of the second period…. unless they really want more time, then I might push it to next week and give them an extra period.  If I do give them more time I will likely do a second mini-lesson on performance speaking so that they have the tools to work with over the longer time-frame.

 

p.s. I found it harder than anticipated to find good, not too long, examples of performance or slam poetry that was acceptable and/ or engaging for an elementary audience.  If you know of a good source, please share!

Poetry Month: day 9

This week I taught my 6/7s about pantoums.  A pantoum is a structured poem, written in quatrains, with the repetition of particular lines creating a morphing effect in the voice.

Here is my Pantoum handout.

My students were not learning poetry terms with their classroom teachers so at the top of my handout there is some space for us to discuss and them to write down a short definition of a few terms which I them use in context for the rest of the lesson.
If you are unfamiliar with the formula of a pantoum, it is thus (from the handout):

line 1
line 2
line 3
line 4

line 5 (repeat of line 2)
line 6
line 7 (rep. of line 4)
line 8

line 9 (rep. of line 6)
line 10
line 11 (rep. of line 8)
line 12

(Continue with as many stanzas as you wish, continuing to make the 2nd and 4th lines from one stanza the 1st and 3rd lines of the next.  This continues until you get to the last stanza…)

Last stanza:
line 2 of the previous stanza
line 3 of the first stanza
line 4 of the previous stanza
line 1 of the first stanza

(So the first line of the poem is also the last.)

Once we had reviewed the structure, I read them some examples and we paid special attention to the repetition.  The third page of the handout is a blank frame, including the reminders of which lines are repeated where.  After a very difficult start for a number of students–choosing a topic, and finding rhyming words were a challenge–I allowed some of them to work in pairs.

Note: when a writer gets to line 6, after repeating his first line, he will often be worried that the poem isn’t going to make sense: line 5 (2) was written in the context of stanza 1, and therefore feels very weird as the opening to stanza 2.  That is how I felt when I first learned how to write pantoums.  They have to trust the form.  The writing of lines 6 and 8 will be guided by lines 5 and 7.  This is what creates the interesting wave-like development of the poem.

Will you try this with your students?  Have you already done it this year?  Do you have any favourite student poems?

Poetry Month: day 7

I’ve written about one found poetry idea already in this series.  Today I will give you a variation on found poetry that I did a few months ago with some of my classes.

One of the various creative writing starts I do with my classes is have them listen to music and write to the mood of the music.  I had done that already this year and wanted to use music again, but with a different focus.  I chose to play several songs from an album and asked my students to listen to the words, as best they could, and write down whatever they heard.  We all made a real time list of the words that jumped out at us from the songs (I did it too, on the board, which helped my ELLs) prix du viagra au luxembourg.  Once we had listened to the first 2 songs, I turned down the music and let the students write whatever type of piece they wanted, while trying to use as many of their words as possible.  Again, while they were writing, I modeled with my own piece on the board – those who needed the model used it as an example, those who didn’t need it focused on their own writing.

The album I used this time is called Steal the Light by a band named The Cat Empire.  They are school-appropriate, upbeat, and have sometimes poetic, sometimes abstract lyrics.

Poetry Month: day 6

I have been doing a poetry activity with a grade 3/4 class this week inspired by the collection of poems by Mary O’Neill titled Hailstones and Halibut Bones.  All the poems in the book are about a colour and are listy-type poems describing what each colour looks, smells, sounds, tastes, and feels like.  There is a nice (but not intimidating) combination of literal and metaphorical examples in each poem.

After reading a few of the poems to the class I asked them to divide their paper into four quadrants.  Each quadrant was then labeled with one of the five senses (they would choose 4 of 5 in total.)  They selected their preferred colour and wrote it at the top of the page as a title.  This became our brainstorming page.  Students tried to come up with four or five things for each category.  As they started to lose steam, I read them a few more of the poems, which they could hear with more attuned ears now that they were getting ready to write their own.

Once most of the class had at least three or four things in each quadrant (ie. three things yellow smells like, four things yellow tastes like, etc) they turned the page over and used their brainstormed ideas to construct their own colour poem.

We will type them when they’re done (which will act as an additional ‘draft’) and post them around the library among the Kandinsky-inspired artwork created by another class.