“A poet is a verb that blossoms light in gardens of dawn, or sometimes midnight.”
Before you say but “I am not an English teacher” or “I am an administrator” consider: are you looking for ways to infuse creativity and divergent thinking into to your class or staff? And before you say: “sure but I just can’t imagine it!” check out these examples of poetry “out-of-bounds.” Have you talked about or thought about creativity and playfulness as vital to igniting and sustaining learning? Poetry invites both! Wouldn’t poetry be a great way to invite students (and teachers) to make sense of content and themselves? What if poetry was seen as a way to make sense of the world…not just in English class but in all classes and for adults as well!
Before you say “well I just don’t have time!” No worries! Start small and consider trying a #sixwordstory to summarize part of a lesson or staff meeting. And if that sounds overwhelming start with “just one word” and then create a collective found poem (see description below). Sounds fun right?!
Some reasons you might consider poetry:
1. Invites fun and playfulness.
Students often see “school learning” as a series of rules to be followed exactly. Poetry invites playfulness and fun into the process. Learning is fun and playful, playing with words is a great way to show case this.
2. Showcases and normalizes divergent thinking.
When students see learning as an answer on a worksheet they become uncomfortable and intolerant of divergent thinking. Writing a poem showcases that there be many legitimate ways to understand and explain a topic. It also models to students that there is more than one way of knowing and explaining.
3. Opportunity to make meaning and make it public.
Learning is all about making meaning for ourselves and sharing this meaning with others. What better way than through a poem or performance!
4. Invites and encourages creativity as a viable way to operate in school.
When we only do creative acts in certain subjects it signals creativity as only useful for certain topics, but don’t we want students to think creativity is important for all subjects?
5. Develops a sense of identity.
When all answers are identical it is challenging to develop a sense of ownership and personal connection. Poetry allows for personal flair and perspective to shine through.
Poetry Resources and Examples Round Up
1. Poetry in the classroom pinterest board
2. Just One Word
Not feeling the poetry thing? Ok how about “just one word”? At the end of a unit, day, class, meeting or movie clip, ask students to think of one word that captures their thoughts. After they all have their word have students say their word aloud in rapid succession to create a “found poem.” It is always interesting to hear the similarities and patterns that emerge. Want to dial this activity up a notch? Collect the words and use as the raw materials to create a #sixwordstory.
Unsure about using poetry in your classroom? Get started with a formulaic type poem. I have used biopoems at the start of semester to get to know my students and then used it over the course of the semester for the different organisms we study in Biology. You could use it to explore a character in history or a type of equation in math.
A biopoem is a poem that describes a person/character/animal/etc in 11 lines. There is a specific formula to use when writing a bio poem. Bipoem form to use here and outlined below:
Four adjectives that describe the person/character/organism…
Lover of (three different things that the person loves)…
Who feels (three different feelings and when or where they are felt)…
Who gives (three different things the person gives)…
Who fears (three different fears the person has)…
Who would like to see (three different things the person would like to see)…
Who lives (a brief description of where the person lives)
Students choose (or are provided with) an object, picture, event, sentence…then are invited to write a story using only six words. These stories can be shared verbally or posted into a doc, a slide show, on a sticky or tweeted out. An example from my Biology class is provided below (students wrote on stickies and I posted to our Facebook group). Six words do not intimidate anyone!
5. Blackout Poem
A couple of weeks ago @davidtedu wrote this awesome post in which he highlighted blackout poems. His post was the catalyst and inspiration for my poetry craze of late (thanks David!).
Students could create one individually or in groups and could use a newspaper, magazine or old paper back. I thought this would be a great way to “churn up” a professional article with teachers and the blackout poem they created would summarize what the article meant to them. Black out poems are great for students who hesitate to write as this format allows them to express themselves without making the commitment to writing themselves.
Blackout poems are poems, sentences, phrases created from words of an existing novel (article, newspaper, chapter). Have students underline, first in pencil, words they might like to use in the poem. Now have students use pen circle the words they want to use in the poem. Finally have them black out everything else.
More ideas in presentation below:
7. Found poem
A found poem can be created in a multitude of ways but basically it is a hobbled together set of phrases or sentences. A collection of #sixwordstories could be a found poem. Students could select one phrase or sentence from a text your read aloud to them. Have students each read their catch phrase aloud..ta da instant found poem. Want something more formal? Open up a google doc and have students each add their phrase their. Add images and turn into a presentation (use Animoto and add music). Students love to hear other student’s poems and I am always amazed at how much information gets kicked up!
Found poem template here.
8. Slam poetry
For a larger project or presentation how about a slam poetry event? Students could write poems from the perspective of a character or react to a controversial topic in science (for example Should GMO Crops Be Banned? or Should Designer Babies Be Legal?).
Slam poetry form to use.
Watch these inspiring performances as examples: