April is National Poetry Month.
One classroom of third graders kicked off the celebration by reading and discussing William Blake’s 1794 poem The Tyger
They read it aloud together, then discussed it in small groups.
The students considered it in terms of some of the poetry techniques they knew: alliteration, repetition, rhyme and rhythm.
Their teacher encouraged them to try a little inference as well.
“I heard a lot of you talk about the tiger, but many of you also wondered who else was in this poem? There’s somebody else in this poem. What can we infer about them?”
Then the students took out their copies of Sharon Creech’s novel-length poem, Love That Dog.
The protagonist of Love That Dog had written a response to the Blake poem.
The third graders worked in silence, writing their own responses to Creech responding to Blake, in poetry journals that contained homages to Robert Frost and William Carlos Williams from earlier in the year.
When they finished polishing their poems, they each went to the teacher for a quick one-on-one conference.
These supposedly private conferences took place in an otherwise quiet room, though, and all the students felt free to good-naturedly eavesdrop and chime in with their own thoughts and ideas.
In Young Kindergarten, a student shared her work much more formally, beginning morning circle by reciting her own composition from memory.
She had whispered it to her teacher the day before.
In the circle, she heard it out loud for the first time.
Later that day, she and her teacher transcribed it.
Each time, it changed a little.
It was an early introduction to the revision process, which she will get to know very well during her years at Gordon.
In seventh grade, there’s a poetry assignment - "POW," or "Poem of the Week" - every week.
National Poetry Month is business as usual.
This class started their discussion of this week’s poem, Naomi Shihab Nye’s Famous with a video of a high school student performing the poem.
Next, they read it out loud to one another.
Then class took a few minutes to read it silently, and make notes.
Finally, a student-led discussion began.
For the Poem of the Week, students sit in a circle.
They call on one another, and facilitate their own conversation.
This far into the year, they have learned to take responsibility for the direction of the conversation.
As one finishes making a point, they might ask about process: “Who has something to build on what I said? And who has something completely new to say?”
And, later: “I know I tried to make this point earlier, but I think I found a better way to say it.”
Outside of the circle, their teacher makes notes.
She’s drawn a diagram of the conversation, with lines crisscrossing the circle, showing how they are sharing the floor.
When she gives them her feedback, she’ll review the themes of their conversation.
She’ll also assess how they listened, and responded to one other.
Each Poem of the Week lesson ends with a prompt for a written response as homework. Students will review their portfolio of weekly assignments as they decide what they wish to perform at May’s Night of Words event.
The poems mentioned above were posted to Gordon’s Facebook
accounts earlier this week:
Monday: third grade reads The Tyger
Tuesday: a Young Kindergartener’s original poem
Check back throughout the month for more poetry.