25 April 2006

Teaching Poetry: Lesson 3

We made it to the oak grove circle today.

After missing recess to work on their Oregon Road Trip Project, the fourth graders welcomed the sun and fresh air. We started the lesson with a discussion of why people write poetry. Many of them offered dead-on answers which included "for fun," "to express feelings," and "because you feel inspired." This last answer hit on my focus for today's lesson: inspiration.

We explored the many sources of inspiration, especially how nature seemed to spark something creative in all of us. I read three poems that addressed natural inspiration —two haikus from Margaret Atwood and one series of couplets written by yours truly.

One of the Atwood poems used a comparison approach, and the other drew a connection between the shape of driftwood and the waves that shaped it. My poem worked with an interaction between wildlife and myself (an encounter with a cougar).

Next, I pointed out what poems do; they box a subject in so it's seen the way the poet wants it to be seen.

Finally, I sent them off to seek inspiration from nature. The result? Seven students stood poised to read their variations of the same natural occurence: ant infestation. The poems ranged from rhyming rap to a narrative about a confrontation between boy and the hive.

I ended the lesson with an invitation for all to share their poems, which nearly all did. The bell rang and I sent them on their way. As they walked off, many were overheard composing more poems. I lapsed into a rocking chair and bathed in the rhyme and meter poring from their mouths and pondered Thursday's lesson.

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