Poetry FriYay!

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Invention
Authenticity
Holding tight to values

These words have been grounding forces this year as I navigate teaching 5th grade in the age of COVID-19. Every time I feel overwhelmed as I strive to fit in another writing lesson I ask myself, am I holding true to my values? While I do my best to follow my school's writing pacing calendar, I keep coming back to my belief that I must carve out time for authentic experiences that engage and nurture my students as writers.

One of those experiences is Poetry FriYay. Not Friday, as my students are quick to point out, but FriYay because like the word “yay”, poetry inspires celebration. At its heart, it is about starting and publishing a poem in one sitting; a perfect way, in my opinion, to end the week.

Here’s how it works:

1. I offer a spark to get students thinking about possible poem topics.

2. Students write and revise keeping in mind the craft moves of poets whose poems we’ve read and studied together. They play with stanzas, word choice, beginnings and endings.

3. Students edit their writing and have their writing partner check it over.

4. Students copy their writing on a sheet of paper using a fun gel pen in a color of their choice. They glue their poem onto a piece of construction paper.

5. Students work together to arrange the poems on a bulletin board in the hallway.

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Writing poetry to support revision of drafts for core writing units

Though I am probably not the first person to try this idea, here is where invention comes in for me. After reading drafts of students' personal narratives I asked myself: “How can I support students in using sensory details?” I had already taught the mini-lessons on this craft move, modeled with my own writing and supported students in co-authoring a class narrative. It just wasn’t taking. Then one Thursday afternoon, I thought, “What if students wrote poems based on their personal narrative?” I grabbed my personal narrative, tried out the structure

I remember…
I remember…
But mostly I remember...

and brought it to my students that next morning. You know what? It took. They were able to think about their drafts differently and later incorporated more sensory images into their personal narratives.

Writing poetry to help generate ideas for core writing units

This past Friday, I invited students to write a list poem based on a topic they are exploring for our feature article unit. Inspired by kindergarten teacher and poet Christie Wyman’s lesson on list poems, I took my topic about DIY home improvement projects and wrote a poem. Click here to see her post. This experience helped students generate more ideas to include in their feature article entries. I am anxious to see how it informs their final products.

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Savoring the Sweet Accomplishment of Having Written

In the hallways outside our classroom sat 3 bulletin boards; mostly forgotten, they showcased a few weathered posters. After checking that they were not spoken for, my 5th grade poets began filling them with their poetry. We have now taken over 3 bulletin boards. My heart fills with joy each time we pass one and I see students smile as they see their writing on display. We have taken on a mission: to spread joy and poetry to our school community. I can’t think of a more important value to make time for than that.

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