Or hate it.
I've found that often, when students read poetry, they hate it. But writing it, they love.
Why? I think it's the "no rules" thing that creates this dichotomy. When reading a poem, students find it hard to understand or interpret, unable to rely on their usual reading strategies to break it down and figure out the meaning. This is the same reason why they often love writing poems. Poetry has no rules! It doesn't have to mean anything! It doesn't have to rhyme! It doesn't have to be long! It doesn't have to make sense to anyone but you. Poetry is permission to be silly or deep... to play around with words in whatever ways you choose.
This year for National Poetry Month, I'm challenging my students and myself to write a poem each day. I've been using some prompts from Poetry Super Highway and recently some from Ethical ELA. It takes about 7 minutes at the start of each class.
We started on April 3, and we have Spring Break this week... so they won't write quite 30 poems, but I might! I'm going to post the poems I write with my students (or without them) here each week.
Day 1: "Word Cloud Poetry"
In this exercise, I collected a random word from each student in the class, then challenged them to create a poem using as many of the words as they could. They LOVE this one. I don't love it as much, but whatever gets them excited is fine by me. I wrote 5 of these, but I'll only post one here.
Words: lit, phone, boring, paper, photography, table, notebook, water, tragedy, food, monster, and (Can you tell this is middle school?)
The table buzzes
wit lit up phones.
No more boring conversations-
meals are peppered with food photography.
Kids play with iPad games-
Not coloring on paper tablecloths.
Now, a spilled glass of water
is a tragedy.
Day 2: Question and Answer
In this poem, each person writes a series of statements or questions. The students partnered up at the beginning of this exercise. Partner 1 wrote 10-20 questions starting with "why". Partner 2 wrote 10-20 statements starting with "because". This creates 3 poems. A question poem, an answer poem, and a call and response poem. The students were amazed at how little sense these made at first, yet how well some of the poems ended up flowing together.
My list of answers:
Because the dog was barking.
Because my mother said so.
Because it's too loud.
Because I have too many thoughts.
Because the world is round.
Because I'm too short.
Because I'm disorganized.
Because it's fun.
Because I'm running out of time.
Because I'm running out of ideas.
Because people are weird.
Day 3: Dystopian found poetry
On this day, students created found poetry from articles about real life dystopian events. Here's my found poem from an article about the fake news epidemic.
from the dark corners of the internet.
Facebook and Google say
An echo chamber
No sources cited.
Well informed public
believed a news story
disturbing fact and fiction.
Day 4: Today students wrote a "How-to" poem about something they don't particularly like to do. These were my personal favorites of the week. Most students wrote funny things about breaking up, doing homework, and chores. I will get permission to share some of their work next time!
Here's my poem about laundry:
How to do the laundry:
Step 1- Wear your clothes and put them in the hamper.
Step 2- Continue piling clothes into the hamper until it overflows.
Step 3- After the hamper overflows, create new piles on the floor, the sofa, or your bed.
Step 4- Complain about how the laundry needs to be done.
Step 5- Dig into your closet and dresser to find any possible combinations of clean clothing.
Step 6- Start wearing anything that smells clean and is free of stains.
Step 7- Run out of clean underwear.
Step 8- Do the laundry.
Step 9- Vow not to procrastinate next time. Enjoy the luxurious feeling of freshly laundered clothing, hot from the dryer, and feel satisfied that the worst chore of all is finally complete.
Day 5: Today students wrote poems inspired by super heroes or superpowers. I was a little iffy on this prompt... at first. The students puzzled over this prompt for a few minutes before beginning to write, but a lot of them came back to these poems at the end of class and started making revisions. This was the first time I saw this all week!
Here's my superhero poem (which I am still revising! I started to like this one, too!)
It's easy to forget how super I am
If patience is my strength, then Fridays are my kryptonite.
Then I remember...
Batman has a batcave, but I have my classroom.
I can't breathe underwater like Aquaman, but I can breathe under pressure.
Wonderwoman can fly, but I can turn a lesson around faster than a speeding bullet.
Green Arrow's bow is no match for my books.
I might not have Iron Man's strength, but I have nerves of steel.
Wolverine's wounds can heal, but my spirit is unbreakable.
Like the Hulk, I carry hundreds of students on my shoulders.
Spiderman has spidey-sense, you could say I have that too...
Teaching is my superpower, what about you?
I can't wait for next week's poems! Try with me... if you dare! Post in the comments if you like, or share with #napomo on twitter! :)