During my practicum, I will be trying out some of these ideas in my poetry unit.
The goal of the unit is for each student to create a great book of poetry that they have made, written, and illustrated. The three tasks are:
To create the paper that the book is made of.
To write poems that they are satisfied with and proud of.
To create illustrations for the poems that they love.
Each task will have a series of mini-games that will give them the materials they need to accomplish them.
To make the paper, which ties in to their Social Studies unit on Egypt, they will need to solve puzzles that will lead them to the paper screens and other equipment, and the instructions online.
Great poetry, for the purposes of this lesson, consist of a strong connection to what you are writing about, great words, and cadence.
To write the poetry, we will be playing games and doing voluntary activities that will lead to deeper connections to what the students chose to write about. We will do some initial activities that will bring out the students’ interests and connections, and the games will build on those. The students will solve puzzles that will lead them to things (library books, websites, materials from the DRC, materials brought in by me, perhaps animals brought in for the day from a rescue agency, anything that sparks the students’ interest) that might inspire their poetry.
They will also go on word hunt. Games will lead them to particularly descriptive, savoury, beautiful words in the library, online, around the school, and from other people. We will display our favourite words on a word wall in the classroom.
We will be reading many poems out loud to connect to how a good poem sounds, poetry with a rhythm that supports the ideas in the poem. There will be games to lead students to spoken word poetry and music online that will help illustrate this idea.
After writing a poem or creating an illustration, a student can decide to improve it through collaborating with someone whose work they admire. For the students who want it, we will have a leveling up system, and when a student reaches a certain level they become a consultant, coach, or mentor for other students.
Throughout this lesson, the students will be working toward a goal (and it is my job to help each student connect to the goal in a way that is meaningful to them), working within constraints (rules of the games), getting feedback (I will have feedback systems for many of the games, and we will work together to create feedback systems for others), and choosing activities to participate in voluntarily. It will be my job to observe and talk to students who do not seem to be engaging in the process. I expect that some students will take time to get used to the idea of voluntary participation in school.
Every class of this ten week unit will start with a poem read out loud, a brainstorming session, and a simple game. Student will then be free to explore the options for games and activities that will move them through the project. In the initial weeks, I will spend my time checking in with students to see who needs help connecting and beginning. In the final weeks I will be checking in with where each student is and facilitating collaboration so each student can finish.
Update (What actually happened):
In practice, I chose three big ideas to focus on.
Great poetry uses great words. While there are poems that achieve great things through the use of ordinary words, I wanted to focus on finding and working with great words.
Poetry is written about topics that the poet connects to deeply, or that is deeply meaningful to many people.
Poetry sounds different from prose. Poetry has a cadence, rhythm or flow that relates to the meaning of the poem.
We began each class with two poems. At the beginning, I read each one aloud or we watched videos of the poems being read aloud. The poems were up on the wall. After listening, each student put a sticky note on the poem that they thought had a rhythm that best suited the poem. They could also chose BOTH or NEITHER.
We put up a word wall. Each table group of 4-5 students put up at least 3 words on each of the first 3 classes. After that, students could add to the wall as they came across great words.
We created a mind map of topics that the students connected deeply to. These included such topics as family, nature, sports, friends, science, and art. I brought in pictures, objects, and short videos for inspiration. At the end of the unit we had a large map with many topics.
The first classes involved these three activities and one game to get started writing.
The middle set of classes included listening to two poems and spending the rest of the class on writing games. Students were also free to add to the Word Wall and Mind Map at any time.
The final classes were made up of reading two poems aloud, then working time to write and illustrate their poems, or practice reciting them. Rather that create a book, each student wrote three poems and made an illustrated poster of one or read it aloud at a Poetry Cafe.
The games and activities included:
A team poetry game. The purpose of this game was to get started writing in a fun and easy way. The poems were not expected to be good.
I divided that class into two teams. Each team wrote poems and were awarded points according to a set of criteria that I gave them. I had a list of poems such as: Write a four line poem about one of the topics on the mind map. Write an eight line poem about two of the topics on the mind map. Extra points were given for rhyming poems.
This was not a turn-based game. Each team could write as many poems as they could. They could strategize about whether it was better to write more shorter poems, or few longer ones. They could write and submit individual poems for their team, or work in groups. This allowed everyone to participate and contribute to their team regardless of their confidence and experience levels as writers.
This was an active and rather noisy activity. All students appeared to be participating and many poems were written.
I used Entry and exit slips with the question How much do you enjoy writing poetry to gauge the effectiveness to the game to help students become comfortable with writing poetry. The results indicated that most students were unchanged or enjoyed writing poetry more after the game. Notable, one ELL student wrote that he still did not enjoy writing poetry as an individual activity, but enjoyed is as a shared activity much more.
This activity achieved the purpose I had for it. All students participated and seemed to be enjoying it. The only aspect that needs more planning is the scoring. It was difficult to keep track of the score as quickly as the teams turned in poems.
Literary Devices. The Teacher Librarian presented various literary devices during library time and offered an activity to practice using several of them.
A Picture Prompt Writing Session. I brought in envelopes with pictures that related to the main topics on the mind map. Each student chose a topic and drew out a picture from the envelope. They could draw again, but were encouraged to work with the original picture they pulled out.
A Word Prompt Writing Session. I chose a word for each student and asked them to find out what the word means and use it in a poem, or use the word’s meaning as inspiration for a poem. I chose a word for each individual student that I hoped would be a new word for them, and related to a concept that would be inspiring for them. The words ranged from downy to petrichor. The class created a mind map with one of the words, to learn one way to get started and to help the student who had that word.
Every student produced three poems. A few poems were collaborations. The students organized a poetry cafe and invited their parents. They decorated a bulletin board displayed their posters on it.
This unit was pared down considerably from the unit I had planned. I see that I would need many more weeks to implement the unit as I had planned it. It was, however, very successful in getting students writing poems that they were proud of in an enjoyable way.
The Curriculum Big Ideas (Grade 6 and 7 English Language Arts) that I was focused on were Language and text can be a source of creativity and joy and Exploring and sharing multiple perspectives extends our thinking.
The Curricular Competencies covered by this unit included:
Comprehend and Connect:
Synthesize ideas from a variety of sources to build understanding
Construct meaningful personal connections between self, text, and world
Respond to text in personal, creative and critical ways
Create and Communicate:
Assess and refine texts to improve their clarity, effectiveness, and impact according to purpose, audience, and message
Transform ideas and information to create original texts
Content covered included:
forms, functions, and genres of text:
Strategies and processes:
Language features, structures, conventions: