Long Term Poetry Activities
Introduction to Poetry
I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide
or press an ear against its hive.
I say drop a mouse into a poem and watch him probe his way out,
or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.
I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem waving at the author’s name on the shore.
But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope and torture a confession out of it.
they begin beating it with a hose to find out what it really means.
District 7 Poetry Unit
By Mary Pell and Mary Ann Stoddard
We hope you find the following activities and poems helpful in your quest to “beat it with a
Long Term Poetry Activities
The teacher can share a poem a day, just for enjoyment.
A few years ago, the poet Billy Collins created Poetry 180, a program to encourage American high school students to read a poem aloud every day of the school year. The program‟s goal is not to analyze or teach the poems, just to accustom students to reading and thhearing poetry. Teachers can find good poems to share in anthologies such as The 20 Century
Children’s Poetry Treasury, edited by jack Prelutsky (new York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999). Browsing in the 811 section of the library will yield all kinds of poetry collections; magazines like Cricket also have excellent poems. Once you have begun collecting favorite poems, you will want to make a notebook or filing system to keep them. It‟s also a good idea to photocopy a
poem, glue it on a piece of cardstock or old file folder, and laminate it. Making one copy is legal, and this will give you a sturdy collection you can share with children.
Reading poetry can be a regular part of independent reading.
Including a poetry section in the classroom library or putting a basket of poetry books on each table for browsing during independent reading time will encourage students to explore poetry on their own.
The students can make a poetry anthology.
This year-long project comes from The No-Nonsense Guide to Teaching Writing by Judy
Davis and Sharon Hill (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2003).
; Students browse in poetry books for poems that connect to their lives and mark
favorites with sticky notes.
; They choose a favorite and copy it onto paper.
; They use the poem as inspiration for a poem of their own. They may be inspired
by the content or the form of the published poem.
; They mount both poems side by side on a large sheet of white construction paper
and do an illustration on the rest of the page.
They share their poems with the class.
Once students have worked through this guided practice, they have a monthly assignment
to find a favorite poem, write a poem inspired by it, and illustrate the poems. The teacher
provides a notebook or folder of unlined paper for the anthologies. Students share and
enjoy each other‟s work on the last school day of each month.
The authors suggest these variations:
; Use the anthologies to collect and illustrate favorite published poems.
; Have students write a response to the poem instead of an original poem.
(See Appendix A, example of a teacher response)
; Do the anthologies exclusively in class to provide more support.
Every six weeks, students choose three poems from their reading. For each poem, students are required to: (This assignment can be modified to just one poem per six weeks.) (See Appendix B for poetry project rubric.)
; Copy the poem by hand on white paper
; Illustrate it
; Write a response explaining what the poem says to them and what they notice about the
way the author wrote the poem
The three poems are due the last week of the grading period. Before bringing the poems to class, students need to choose the one they plan to share and practice reading it aloud.
In class, in groups of four, students share their favorite poem and their response to it. Each group decides which of these poems it chooses to share with the whole class. After each group has shared its favorite, the class chooses one poem as its favorite and posts it for the next six weeks. The teacher might choose to copy the class favorite so that every student has a copy for his notebook or anthology.
Second semester, the teacher might encourage students to use an original poem as one of the three to turn in.
Poetry Pass is one way to encourage students to read a variety of poems before making their decision of which poem they want to include in their project. To conduct a poetry pass, make photo copies of about 50 different poems. Put 8 to 10 poems at each group of four students. Each student takes a poem and reads and then passes it to the person on their left. If they like a poem, they should tag it with a sticky note and their name. After all of the poems are read, the different groups are to swap their collections of poems and repeat the process. Continue swapping until all poems are read. This takes about 45 minutes. At the end students choose one of the poems they tagged to start their poetry project. This is a fun and efficient way to encourage students to read a variety of poetry.
LESSONS THAT WORK WITH ANY POEM
You may want to use these lessons to involve students in thoughtful reading of any poem.
Save the Last Word for Me (Reading 3-1.1, 3-1.3, 3-1.10; 4-1.1, 4-1.3,4-1.10; 5-1.1, 5-1.3, 5- 1.10; 6-1.1, 6-1-3, 6-1.1.8)
Teacher-led version: Before sharing the poem with the students, the teacher chooses a few lines that she considers especially important or interesting. For each group of four or five students, she prepares an index card with the lines she wants that group to discuss. The students read the entire poem, either as shared reading or independently. Then each group gathers with its card. One student, the facilitator, reads the quotation aloud. Students go around the circle, each making a comment about the quotation. Students may not speak out of order and may not say, “I agree with…”, although they may pass. At the end, the facilitator gives his or her contribution.
Student-led version: Once students have had some experience with this strategy, they may be given an index card and asked to choose the line(s) from the poem that they want to discuss. In this version, each person in the small group will have his own card with his quotation written on the front and his response to the quotation written on the back. Discussion proceeds in the same way, around the circle, with each student sharing his quotation, listening to the responses of the group, and finally sharing what he wrote on the back of the card.
Tea Party (Reading 3-1.1, 4-1.1, 4-1.1, 6-1.1)
This strategy comes from Kylene Beers, When Kids Can’t Read, What Teachers Can Do
(Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2003). As she says, “Tea Party offers students a chance to consider parts of the text before they ever actually read it. It encourages active participation with the text and gives…a chance to get up and move around.”
Before class begins, the teacher prepares an index card to each student. Each has a phrase from the poem written on it. The entire poem does not need to be included, and especially interesting phrases can be repeated more than once. When she gives the cards out, she asks students to get up and move around with four goals in mind:
Share their card with as many classmates as possible
Listen to others read their card
Discuss how the cards might be related
Speculate on what the poem might be about
Students move around for about ten minutes, then get into small groups to discuss what they heard and what the cards in front of them say. As a group, they write a “We think” statement that briefly describes what they think the poem is about and explains their reasons for that prediction. Last, they share their predictions and then read the poem. (Note: This activity is particularly effective with narrative poems.)
Say Something (Reading 3-1.1, 4-1.1, 4-1.1, 6-1.1)
This strategy also comes from When Kids Can’t Read, What Teachers Can Do. In this
activity, students read independently up to an agreed-on point, then predict, clarify, question, connect to, or comment on what they have read. The teacher needs to model a Say Something with a partner and offer some guided practice to the class using the “Stem Starter for Say Something Comments” (Appendix C) before students work on their own. The Stem Starters can be copied for each child to keep in a reading notebook or folder.
The “Rules for Say Something” are:
1. With your partner, decide who will say something first.
2. When you say something, do one or more of the following:
a. Make a prediction.
b. Ask a question.
c. Clarify something you had misunderstood.
d. Make a comment.
e. Make a connection.
3. If you can‟t do one of these five things, then you need to reread.
Question Game (Reading 3-1.1, 4-1.1, 4-1.1, 6-1.1)
This strategy comes from Janet Allen, Yellow Brick Roads (Portland, ME: Stenhouse, 2000), p.
; Each student reads the poem and writes down three questions he or she would like
answered. (10 minutes)
; Students choose a partner, exchange questions, and try to answer each other‟s questions.
I usually try to have students do this in writing before they share. (5 minutes)
; Partners then sit together to discuss answers to each other‟s questions. At the end of the
discussion time, these partners form three new questions. These questions can be
extensions of questions they had in their original sets, questions that remained
unanswered, or new questions that came out of their discussion. (10 -15 minutes)
; Each two-person team exchanges questions with another two-person team. The partners
discuss the questions they have received and attempt to answer them. (10 minutes)
; The two two-person teams that have exchanged questions combine into a four-person
group. The four readers discuss the six questions represented in their group. (10 minutes)
; When time is called, each four-person group comes up with one question that is still
unanswered or that they would like to bring to the whole-class discussion.
Allen points out that this strategy works well with any text (including textbooks).
Lessons in Elements of Poetry (Reading 3-1.3, 3-1.10; Writing 3-4.1, 3-4.6; Reading 4-1.3, 4-
1.10; Writing 4- 4.1,4-4.6, 4-5.3; Reading 5-1.3, 5-1.10; Writing 5-4.1,5-4.6,5-5.3; Reading 6-1.3, 6-1.9; Writing 6-4.1,6-4.6,6-5.3)
Introduce simile with this definition: Simile comes from the Latin word for like. It compares one thing to another to provide understanding or insight, as in “Chocolate ice cream taste like
prunes…since Hannah moved away.” (Judith Viorst) A simile uses either like or as to make an
Using objects in the classroom, children will brainstorm simile. (Example: The overhead projector is like a Cyclops. The cafeteria at lunchtime is like a swarm of bees.) Teacher will make a chart recording several examples, then students and teacher will rewrite them using the as …as form: The cafeteria is as noisy as a swarm of bees.
Teacher will then do a shared reading of an appropriate poem, using a transparency, a chart, or a copy for each student.
in a new notebook
run, even and fine,
like telephone wires
across a snowy landscape.
With wet, black strokes
the alphabet settles between them,
comfortable as a flock of crows.
For a variety of other poems with similes, see Appendix D.
During independent reading this day, encourage students to find similes in their reading to share. Remind them that they will find similes not only in poetry anthologies, but in fiction and nonfiction reading.
Introduce metaphor with this definition: a metaphor is a comparison of one object with another that suggests a likeness between two unlike things without using the words like or as. “He‟s a rock.”
“Look around the room with your students. Using metaphors, turn everything you see into
something else: chalkboard (mirror for teacher‟s thoughts), desks (perches), windows (the building‟s eyes), rows of chairs (train cars), art work (polka dotted walls)…To give the activity
further focus, compare objects in your classroom to animals.” David L. Harrison and Bernice E.
Cullinan, Easy Poetry Lessons that Dazzle and Delight (New York: Scholastic, 1990.)
The teacher and students will create a chart of their metaphors.
The teacher will then do a shared reading of an appropriate poem, using a chart, a transparency, or a copy for each student.
The fallen leaves are cornflakes
That fill the sky‟s wide dish,
And night and noon
The wind‟s a spoon
That stirs them with a swish.
The sky‟s a silver sifter,
A sifting white and slow,
That gently shakes
On crisp brown flakes
The sugar known as snow
For a variety of other poems using metaphors, see Appendix E.
During independent reading this day, remind the students to look for metaphors in their fiction, nonfiction, or poetry reading and mark them to share with the class:
Extension Writing Activity: Simile or Metaphor Poems – Review simile and metaphor with the
students. Model on chart paper a metaphor/simile poem using a family member or pet. The first line states the comparison; the second line explains it. See Appendix F for an example.
Extension Activity: Guessing Metaphors – Using Valerie Worth‟s poems or any other metaphor
poems, remove the title and have students use inference to figure out the title. p. 81 Awakening
the Heart Georgia Heard (Portsmouth, NH, 1999)
Introduce onomatopoeia with this definition: It comes from the Greek word that means “name making:‟ words that sound like what they represent, as in pop, bang, whoosh.
Have students brainstorm words they know that sound like what they represent, and record them on a chart.
The teacher will then do a shared reading of an appropriate poem, using a chart, a transparency, or a copy for each student.
Autos honk: Beep! Beep!
Doors slam: Bang! Bang!
People scream: Stop! Stop!
Lucia M. and James L. Hymes, Jr.
This poem makes a wonderful choral reading.
For other poems with onomatopoeia, see Appendix G. You may want to use these for students to
practice with a partner during independent reading. Students may look for examples of
onomatopoeia in their independent reading, or they may write an acrostic poem using
onomatopoeia. Students choose a word from the class chart and create an acrostic poem
describing that sound using the letters of the word. For example:
Introduce alliteration with this definition: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant or vowel
sounds at the beginning of words that are close enough together so that the reader is aware of
The teacher will share “Windy Nights” with the students on a transparency, chart, or individual
copies, and help them look for and mark examples of alliteration.
Rumbling in the chimneys,
Rattling at the doors,
Round the roofs and round the roads
The rude wind roars;
Raging through the darkness,
Raving through the trees,
Racing off again across
The great gray seas.
The teacher will then divide the class in small groups to read “The River” and highlight or mark
examples of alliteration. The students will share their group‟s discoveries with the whole class. The teacher may record students‟ sharing on an overlay or chart of the poem.
This slow river,
for sweet salmon
to run its course again,
greening grass banks
unstartled by spring.
to River Road,
over a millennium
of winding water
never getting wet.
In progress counted
In the distance
Or the distance
We still have to go?
As a follow-up, the class might make a bulletin board or chart of examples of alliteration they find in the media, advertising, and the names of well-known people and popular name brands.
Extension Writing Assignment:
Read aloud Night Sounds Morning Sounds by Rosemary Wells. As you read, encourage students
to write examples from the text of alliteration. From their list, students choose one example and use it as a starting off for a memoir poem or narrative.
Introduce personification with this definition: A personification gives an inanimate object, plant, or animal a human attribute or quality. It‟s helpful to point out that personification contains the word person.
The teacher will share “Summer Grass” with the whole class as a transparency, chart, or individual copies.
Summer grass aches and whispers.
It wants something;
it calls out and sings;
it pours out wishes to the overhead stars.
The rain hears;
the rain answers;
the rain is slow coming;
the rain wets the face of the grass.
The students should identify the two elements that are being personified and list the human characteristics or attributes the poet gives to summer grass and rain.
Next, the teacher will divide the class into groups of 3-5 and choose a poem for each group from Appendix H or other source. Students will read their poem together and highlight or mark the examples of personification and the human attributes the poet gives to the object, plant, or animal in the poem. Each group will share its group with the whole class.