I will never forget Cloë’s response after reading a passage about the Library of Congress. Cloe was a budding poet from the time she could hold a pencil and has grown into a teenager who poetically describes the value of cultivating imagination, “boldness fuels creativity/longing for its sweet honey/dreaming of liberation/imagination/drowned in a stagnant pool/is a prisoner of war.” Here was the third grader who recited Emily Dickenson barefoot to a mesmerized classroom of boys and went on to receive national recognition for her own poetry five years later. Cloe was a contemplative student most content inside a great story. So when I read her response to the following standardized test question I burst out laughing:
According to the passage, how would you best describe the Library of Congress?
To Cloë, the correct description of the 200-year-old federal cultural institution, an enormous library shelter to shelf upon shelf of rare books, was, of course, c. cozy. Was Cloë’s answer incorrect? While b. austere was the desired answer on this vocabulary development exam, because the environment resonated with her imagination, causing her to fill in an unexpected bubble with her number 2 pencil, I was reminded that subjectivity has creative value. For Cloë, the description of the austere Library of Congress was pleasant, inviting. As a writer, after re-reading the passage, I had to agree.
Quite simply, reading and writing poetry expands the boundaries of the imagination and the intellect. Students who engage in writing poetry will develop a broader understanding of the power of vocabulary, increase confidence in their voice, and strengthen their ability to communicate new ideas and observations about their world. When students recognize that their ideas are not only personally meaningful, but are relevant for the world at large, digging into the work of writing becomes meaningful. Students who are encouraged to engage in the process of writing poetry will discover that some things can only be said through a great poem.
Writing A Song
Easton, grade 10
Is like that nail that won’t bust through the wall
Takes the small hand on the clock and spins it around 6 times
Squeezes your lungs till blood pours out
Sucks your heart out
Receives your best-kept secrets then tells everyone
Tells you to keep going when your conscience says stop!
Is the neighbor’s dog running into the street
Is that narrow path at the end of the street
Is that double overhead wave that sneaks in
Will make you struggle
Will make you take a breather
And make you think twice
Is ready to burst into life
Self Portrait of a Poet
Evelyn Evans, grade 12
I used to be afraid of the keyboard
beneath my fingers,
daunted by the blank white screen, terrified
Four years ago I couldn’t imagine
this point in time.
Tears splashing onto scribbled paper
blotchy and damp,
I tossed them away and gripped the pencil
so tight my nails dug in.
Sneering voices whispered,
“You’ll never make it.”
Weak willed I listened, believed,
and pressed on regardless.
Four years ago I couldn’t imagine this point
in time, I was the girl
who stood numb on the shore
watching the waves
in terror, the girl who dove in headfirst
through roaring whitewater words.
Thrashing through the sea,
I reached beyond waves, through thick
walls of glass, I slid
into undulating ocean, finding my rhythm,
I wrote a poem.
“What we need is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out... To begin, begin.”
Spring poetry special: the following guides are discounted 10% now through the end of march!
Our Exploring Poetry guide gives students an opportunity to delight in the reading of great poetry and discover the craft of writing poems, incorporating both analytic and creative exercises to spark the poet inside of your student.
Created for middle and high school students, Exploring Poetry is appropriate for 5th grade and beyond and is designed to work for a range of writing abilities. The bundle includes a seven-week poetry guide that can be expanded to 14 weeks, a personal journal, art cards and required books.
Our Earlybird Douglas Florian Author Unit takes students through five illustrated books of educational and delightful animal poetry. This guide follows the same format as our other Earlybirds while providing opportnities for your youngest students to explore writing poetry on their own.
Books included with the Douglas Florian bundle include In the Swim (water creatures), Lizards, Frogs, and Polliwogs (reptiles), Mammalabilia (mammals), Insectlopedia (insects), and On the Wing (birds).
For older students, another great way to introduce poetic forms and the power of poetry to tell stories is through our Love That Dog and Locomotion guides.
Love That Dog, by Sharon Creech is a poignant and masterfully crafted story written entirely in verse, through the eyes of Jack, a boy who reluctantly discovers the poet within himself.
Although this guide is a Level 1 (grades 1-3) title, it can be used through 4th grade when appropriate for the student's reading/writing level. Love That Dog includes many of the same elements as our other Level 1 guides, such as vocabulary, comprehension and discussion questions, but each week, students will be encouraged and guided to write poems in the same style and form that Jack is writing.
Locomotion, by Jaqueline Woodson, also written in verse, is about Lonnie C. Motion, a boy who has had some tough breaks in his life. As Lonnie’s fifth grade class is learning to write poetry, suddenly, he is finding the words to tell about his family, the fire that took his parents away, his little sister, and his world.
In this Level 3 (grades 5-8) guide, students will work though exercises on charcter study and comprehension, as well as poetic devices such as simile, metaphor and personification. Students will read and make observations on Lonnie’s poems, while also writing their own that mirror the forms and topics that the story introduces.