The Perfect Poem to Close Read!

27 10 2013

We did a close reading of the poem, Abandoned Farmhouse by Ted Kooser last week. I read the poem aloud, then had the students read it again individually and then hold their thinking and note their observations, thoughts, questions etc.. 
Then we brok the poem down and looked at the tone of the poem. We found words that stuck out to us that showed the tone (broken, something went wrong,money scarce, winters cold). I had the students wrote the mood down and then find specific lines that supported the mood. We noted how each stanza talked about a different person: a man, woman and child. I had the students go back to the poem and find out specific things we knew about the people in the poem, and list them (the man was tall, the woman liked lilacs, the child played with a tractor etc..). We looked at repetition, figurative language and we discussed specific word choices that the author made.

Click here to check out the poem

Although we did a close reading of this poem, the students really did a nice job. They noticed a lot of really interesting things.   I liked this poem because we could discuss all of the things I mentioned above and the students were able to understand the poem. They didn’t feel like the content, topic or language was above their heads. It was a manageable length to close read, and  It didn’t scare them.

After we read the poem I had my students write a journal prompt about a place where they live, or have things. What would their room, house, or objects say about them. I also showed them this image. I felt this image really went well with the poem. They shared their writing and we all enjoyed a close reading and a writing session.

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Give a try, and let me know how it went! 🙂


Poetry. Every. Single. Day.

29 09 2013

Poetry books. Every day I read a poem to my students and we Mine for Gold.  To understand Mining for Gold, click here to see a previous post where I explain how I do it in my room.

I don’t close read it with them, or analyze every line. We just enjoy the poem, mine for gold and let it be. Every. Single. Day.

I want my students to become familiar with poetry and I want to expose them to many different types of poems. I want them to see that reading poems isn’t something we just have to do in April for National Poetry Month, but that poems, like fiction and non-fiction are to be read and enjoyed.

What are my favorite go to poetry books that the kids really enjoy? Paint Me Like I Am, Tell the World, Angst: Teen Voices From the Edge  and You Hear Me: Poem and Writing for boys..  Things I have to Tell You: Poems and Writings by Teenage Girls. Make sure you check out the poems, before sharing with students, and there are some content and words that may be inappropriate for  your students.

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I’ve had students beginning to check out my poetry books, and want to know which book a certain poem came from after sharing a poem because they want to read more like that. As we mine for gold they’ve started to notice things like structure, word choices the author makes and they even notice figurative language in the poems. They are definitely growing in their interaction with the text, but I’m mindful to not force it.

After doing this for the last six weeks, I have had students mention that they should bring in their own poems to share, and that my friends, was music to my ears! Students wanting to find poems they like and bring them in to share?! Sounds awesome. 🙂 

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is a place for close reading poetry and I will share my experiences with that and a great resource that has been successful with my  8th graders in a future post.

I really believe to be able to successfully close read a poem, we first have to start  helping students overcome their fear of poetry and let them see that there are so many types of poems to enjoy.

What are some poems or poetry books you like sharing with your students? 


Poem for your Personality

13 03 2011

Pick a Poem for your Personality!

I have used this activity at the beginning of the year and also when doing a small poetry unit.

I gather as many poems on numerous topics that I can and I cut them out so that they are all different shapes and sizes. I then scatter them around the room. I give students some time to look through the poems and read them. I then have each student select one poem that they feel represents themselves. I either have them get into groups and share the poem and why they picked it, or have them write why they picked the poem. It is a nice way to get to know students as they always have interesting reasons as to why they picked the poem they did.  I also pick a poem and explain to the class why I picked it so that they get to know me better and I model what I want them to do.

Poetry, Poetry, Poetry….

31 08 2010

As we read poems throughout the year, I keep a copy of the poems in a folder titled- Poems we have read together. I find that is a good springboard for students to use for ideas for writing their own poems. I have the folder on the white board. I also am keeping a list of poetry ideas above the folder when we think of them throughout the day. Here is a picture of what it looks like so far:

Here is our brainstorming board after we read the poem, You Can’t Write a Poem about McDonalds (click here for previous post). I challenged the kids to come up with ideas of things to write in a poem titled- You Can’t Write a Poem about….

Some are silly 8th grade ideas- but this sparked their thoughts. I had them write their you can’t write a poem about poems in groups and share- they had fun with this!

You Can’t Write a Poem About…

25 08 2010

On the second day of school I read with my students the poem, You Can’t Write a Poem About McDonald’s by Ronald Wallace (see the end of the post  for a copy of the poem).

I love using this poem because it shows students that poetry can be about many things and not just nature, love, rainbows or some of the stereotypical topics kids may think of.

I read the poem aloud with them and then give each group a copy to look at. I have them look for lines with sensory language, images, descriptions and voice expression. I have each group share their favorite lines with the class. We loved looking at the rich descriptions and could picture ourselves being at a fast food restaurant.

We then brainstormed other things that kids said we couldn’t write a poem about…. they came up with some good ideas- you can’t write a poem about:

a poem, graph paper, a pencil, nothing, pirates, Walmart

This would be a great challenge to kids to see if they could write a poem about some topics they brainstormed. It gives kids who have no idea what to write a poem about a topic!

I started a “Poems we Read Together” folder that I put on the board with a copy of each poem we look at as a class together. I think it may be a good place for kids to look back through to get writing ideas.

I also started a list on the board (you could do chart paper) where we list Poetry ideas. For the first idea I put-

You can’t write a poem about…

You Can’t Write a Poem about McDonald’s

Noon.  Hunger the only thing

singing in my belly.

I walk through the blossoming cherry trees

on the library mall,

past the young couples coupling,

by the crazy fanatic

screaming doom and salvation

at a sensation-hungry crowd,

to the Lake Street McDonald’s.

It is crowded, the lines long and sluggish.

I wait in the greasy air.

All around me people are eating—

the sizzle of conversation,

the salty odor of sweat,

the warm flesh pressing out of

hip huggers and halter tops.

When I finally reach the cash register,

the counter girl is crisp as a pickle,

her fingers thin as french fries,

her face brown as a bun.

Suddenly I understand cannibalism.

As I reach for her, she breaks into pieces

wrapped neat and packaged for take-out.

I’m thinking, how amazing it is

to live in this country, how easy

it is to be filled.

We leave together, her warm aroma

close at my side.

I walk back through the cherry trees

blossoming up into pies,

the young couples frying in

the hot, oily sun,

the crowd eating up the fanatic,

singing, my ear, eye and tongue

fat with the wonder

of this hungry world.

–Robert Wallace

Poetry Speaks!

4 04 2010

April is poetry month, and I found a GREAT book for young adults to enjoy poetry it is called- Poetry Speaks: Who I Am poems of inspirations, independence and everything else edited by Elise Paschen.

This is a cool collection of a poems from Maya Angelou to Poe to Sherman Alexie to Nikki Giovanni. It also comes with a CD that has many of the poems read by the authors!

Over the corse of the month, I plan to have my students listen to some of the poems and show them on the projector then have them mine for gold. I want my students to hear a variety of poems from different authors on numerous topics to expand their knowledge base.Having the students hear poets read his/her work will hopefully help the poem come to life. It is also always great for my students to hear a fluent reader read a piece and listen to someone other than me ! 🙂  This will also be a good starting base for a poetry activity that I want them to do later in the month.

Here is an excerpt from the introduction of the book:

From the Introduction:

“This is not a poetry anthology for adults, for children, for classroom study, or for required memorization and recitation. It’s made just for you.

When I was younger, I wish I had possessed an anthology like this one-a compilation that brings poetry to life through words and recordings. In grammar school, I memorized the poems I discovered in a favorite poetry anthology my parents had given me. In high school, after my British Literature teacher introduced me to the work of William Butler Yeats, I began to understand how to write a poem. But in middle school there were no poetry anthologies compiled just for students and poetry was not taught in class. So I gravitated toward poets of the past and read William Shakespeare’s love sonnets, trying to imitate them. I had no idea that poets were alive and writing. This anthology attempts to fill that void by offering poems about subjects that might express what’s on your mind.

Youth inspires poets. So when we asked poets to send poems either that were important to them at your age or that they’d written about being your age, we received hundreds of submissions. Many writers try to capture those moments you may be thinking about now as you step into a new world.

We strived to create an anthology where you can discover poems about the changes taking place in your life. We offer first kiss poems like “Zodiac” or “The Skokie Theatre.” If you’ve ever stood in the outfield, waiting to catch a fly ball, check out “Baseball.” There are some Bar Mitzvah poems called “33” and “49.” Poems about changing bodies such as “Bra Shopping.” Poems about the times you think you hate your mother as in “The Adversary” and poems about loving her such as “Dear Mama (4).” Poems about loneliness like Robert Frost’s “Acquainted with the Night.” We even have a “Vampire Serenade.” There are poems about navigating the turbulence of friendship like “Caroline” or the riptides of your parents’ marriage as in “Mediation.” We have paired classic poems with contemporary poems, from John Keats to Toi Derricotte, so you can read how poets throughout the ages have mulled over the same subjects.

Some poems will help you catch your breath, others will let you slowly exhale. Many of the poets traveled to studios to record their poems for Poetry Speaks Who I Am. When you listen to the CD, you will hear the immediacy of their words and the nuance of expression, and you will be able to hear and perhaps understand the poem from the poet’s perspective.

In seventh grade, my friends and I would get together at each other’s houses, listening for long afternoons to our favorite records. Older siblings introduced us to Carly Simon, James Taylor, Carole King, and we would sit and talk and sometimes just sit and listen to the songs, memorizing each one, playing them over and over in our minds. Let’s hope that these poem recordings touch that same nerve for you and that they hold the same power that music did. Throughout my life, whenever I read a book I often scribble down a draft of a poem in the back pages. In Poetry Speaks Who I Am, you will find pages at the end where you can write down your own thoughts. Maybe some of the poems in this anthology will stir you to write some poems of your own.

We hope you will find inspiring company with these poems and with these poets. As the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke writes: “Live a while in these books…” So live a while with these poems.”
-Elise Paschen

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