We just finished up a quick unit on poetry in Writer's Workshop. To be honest, I am not the best at writing poetry. I totally understand how some kids who struggle with writing or confidence issues feel because I feel that way when asked to write poetry. My kids are used to workshop and have been exposed to poetry every year so it is not a big deal to them. But to me, poetry is the most challenging...probably because I wasn't exposed to it as a young writer (or reader for that matter!) and my brain gets stuck on the notion that poetry is somehow just so different from prose. So as a teacher this is the unit that I dread the most!
However, while my writing was not so great, the kids' writing during this unit turned out fantastic. Some of them are just natural born poets. Those who struggle with the rules and conventions of fiction or nonfiction find their voice as poets because we teach them that poetry doesn't always follow the rules. It's fun to see the child who usually struggles suddenly come alive as a writer when they understand that poetry truly is about the heart of the message and not so much about periods and commas or capital letters.
Our district bases the writing units off Georgia Heard's marvelous book Awakening the Heart. There are five "doors" that poets look through. I want the kids to see that these doors are remarkably similar to the places that writers look for inspiration when writing fiction or nonfiction also. Here's pictures of the "doors" in the writers' notebooks. We folded a page back to make a door. On the inside of the door kids brainstormed possible topics for poems. Then on the following blank pages they drafted poetry relating to that door. The icon on the front of the door matches very basic construction paper doors with pictures on them to remind the kids what each door represents.
The heart door - what is special or important to you? If you've done a heart map in your notebook before this is a great link. Many of the topics on the heart map will appear on this list also.
The observation door. Look close - but then look CLOSER. What do you see, hear, or notice? What can you notice about the classroom, or a pencil sharpener, or the backpack closet? You can observe anything. This is a good opportunity to include simile and metaphor as you really observe...or as I say...look close, but then look CLOSER.
The concerns about the world door. Don't you love my Earth drawing? Ha ha. This is the place where we think about the things that make you worry or that you feel are a problem in the world - pollution, saving animals, etc. - it all belongs behind this door. Some of these topics can be fairly serious. A lot of the kids included onomatopoeia in these poems, whether it was the sounds of machines chopping down trees in the rainforest or an angry person pounding their fist.
The wonder door. What questions do you have? What do you really wonder about? These can be serious topics - why don't I have a brother or sister - or not so serious topics - why can't we have pizza for dinner?
The memory door. Think back to a special moment. What sensory details do you remember about it? Why is it so special to you? This is a good door to also touch on imagery and sensory language since the kids will need to include those kinds of details when recalling a specific memory.
I'll see about posting student samples shortly. We have our writer's celebration for this unit on Thursday and the majority of the kids are pumped to share.