Trying New Poetic forms for Poetry Month!

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Poetry has held a steady place in our class all year. As with Black and Women’s history month and Latinx heritage month, we feel strongly that poetry’s rightful place is at the foundation of our curriculum and therefore, do not limit it to a single month of the year. Nevertheless, since our school recognizes April as poetry month, my fifth graders and I decided that we would use this time to celebrate poetry. The blog posts in this series will name some of the ways that we have celebrated poetry so far.

One way we celebrate is by exploring new forms of poetry. While I tend to steer students towards free verse because I find that with form poetry, such as haiku and limerick, students' focus rests more on the form than the poem’s meaning or message, the reality is that they love the challenge of a good form poem. I also discovered that form poetry gets students to think deeply about word choice. It encourages vocabulary exploration especially when students search for synonyms or rhyming words that fit the form. So I reframed my teaching around form poetry in the following ways:

1. We selected a type of poem we’d like to try. In this case, we chose a roundel. Because of its challenging nature, we decided to write one together. The form goes like this:
11 lines
3 stanzas
Rhyme scheme: abab bab abab
Line 4 repeats as line 11

2. We brainstormed topics that ALL of us could write about. Something we all relate to and know well. Both my morning and afternoon classes decided on poems about school and Covid.

3. We named our message: While Covid is tough, we have overcome the ways in which it has impacted our lives.

4. We started writing. I used a shared writing approach I’ve learned from my good friend Leah Mermelstein where we plan, draft and check. For more on shared and orchestrated writing and write aloud check out her new book, We do Writing: Maximizing Practice to Develop Independent Writers.

5. Students wrote a few lines in their notebooks with their turn and talk partner while I listened and coached in.

6. Students shared out their lines and we put them together.

7. We reread, tweaked, and edited our poem.

8. We printed it out and shared it on our bulletin board.

Our Class Roundel Poems

School

School makes us smart
Our days are filled with learning
When we open up our heart
Our ideas just keep on turning.

Our minds are distracted and burning
When we learn at home far apart
That we are alone is concerning.

Back together we push our learning like a cart
Good grades we are earning
Group discussion we will start
Our ideas just keep on turning.

-Ms. Senatore’s Morning Group

School in the Time of Covid

School in the time of Covid
Is challenging in many ways
To safety we are devoted
Hours can feel like days.

We are going through a tough phase
Positive cases have exploded
Sometimes we feel lost in a maze

But together we can overcome the obstacles we’ve noted
Class outside is like a donut with extra glaze
We are grateful we are not remote-ed
Hours can feel like days.
- Ms. Senatore’s Afternoon Group

Writing these poems together made for a special shared experience. We laughed, we talked about how poetry can break rules, hence “remote-ed” and we experienced the power of working with something challenging together. Stay tuned for more poetry celebrations in the next few weeks!

5 thoughts on “Trying New Poetic forms for Poetry Month!”

  1. I appreciate you did shared writing with your 5th grade class. What a wonderful way to practice this tricky poetic form! They did a great job capturing these pertinent topics. And thank you for the new poetry form – I must try the roundel.

  2. I enjoyed learning about the form and your process. It’s really valuable to hear exactly how you approached this challenge as a group and reached such satisfying results. I love the line in the second poem: “Class outside is like a donut with extra glaze”

  3. Krista, this is great! I share your idea that poetry doesn’t just belong in a specific month, and it’s always been a part of my class’s reading and writing routine. It just has so much to offer!
    I think the shared writing aspect of what you’re doing is so important. So many teachers aren’t writers, and as a result aren’t even comfortable enough to go beyond assigning and grading. Finally, I agree with Sherri: The “extra glaze” line is fantastic!

  4. What a fun activity. I think there are positives and negatives to both free verse and form poetry. And that even works for me. Some days I want the restriction and some days I want to fly free. I love the glazed donut simile and the word “remote-ed”! Just as good as all of the -ings tonight!

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