I did a poetry activity at the end of the year with my fifth graders that involved them reading a poetry anthology, choosing a mentor poem, responding to it, and creating their own similar one. The poetry anthologies they could choose from included many from the Poetry for Young People series. It is an excellent series. The end of the year is quite challenging for me as a "special" teacher (I teach gifted ELA) because kids are often pulled from my class for lots of end-of-year goings-on. I have to choose projects that are largely independent and can be done whenever they come to class and finished up at home or in other classes when they don't.
While they were reading anthologies, I was teaching mini-lessons on figurative language and poetry terms. We were also reading The Crossover aloud, which I've raved about on this blog. What an opportunity to point out a myriad of poetry techniques - including the pure joy of the sound of poetry and language. As a culminating activity at the end of the unit, students chose a poem to recreate exactly (one of the issues I've noticed in my classroom is that young poets don't always notice where line breaks are and will tend to write poetry that looks like prose), respond to the poem in 250 words or more (my students are used to the magic 250 word requirement because of Slice of Life blog posts), and then write their own poem using some/all of the mentor poem's techniques/ideas/structure.
Here is one of my student's work:
As I was evaluating this, I noticed that she did an excellent job understanding the irony of segregating the merry-go-round and how the merry-go-round demonstrates/symbolizes the folly of trying to say some people are superior to others. She also uses effective persuasive review language and understands dialect and circular structures. A little constructive criticism - she was a little too general with her illustrator's response and needed to provide more specific examples to explain her opinions. I enjoyed her own poem. I liked that she chose a children's amusement ride like the merry-go-round. She also tried out the idea of a child's frustration at being unequal or "not enough," even though her own topic was less serious. I love how she used quotation marks just for "Mister's" response. She understands line breaks and "voice." I wish I had included a requirement to explain their own poem and how her choices reflected the mentor poet's. Next time! Your thoughts? I'd love to hear what you might have conferred with her about or how you would tweak this activity.
Now, head on over to Jama's Alphabet Soup for the Poetry Roundup!