Saturday, April 16, 2016

Diving Deep into POETRY!

Ahhhh...spring! April is here and with it, we got SNOW! Not exactly the fresh face of spring here in Wisconsin that we were hoping for! Still wearing hats and mittens after spring break was a bit of a shocker, but the weather is starting to look up!

In addition to the hopes of spring weather, April also brings us state TESTING month! In 4th grade, we have 7 and a half hours of testing to work around! YIKES! We did not want to lose too much momentum with our instruction, so it was a perfect time for our reading and writing poetry units!

Poetry units are so great, because kids can pick up a new poem or anthology at any time, without losing plot or character development. So, this unit has been a wonderful thing, as we lose blocks at a time of different subjects due to our state testing schedule.

We always launch our poetry studies in reading. We blogged about how we did this last year in 5th grade, as well! This year, we are fortunate, because the Teacher's College released new curricular calendars for poetry! We are Teacher's College district, and we were so excited to dive in and see what TC had to offer! We were pleased to see that their ideas did match up with what we already believed for poetry. We combined their ideas with some that we felt our kiddos needed and developed a rich, creative unit!

Teaching kids how to read poetry is so much fun! Poetry is full of inferences, imagery, and creative sentence structures. So many kids try to tackle it the same way they tackle a chapter book! And they run into trouble! To start this work, we spent two reading blocks just immersing ourselves in poetry. What did we notice? What did we like? What stood out to us? What confused us? We had a grand conversation about our initial thinking. We logged in on an anchor chart.
After our immersion, we teach them how to annotate and read a poem right away. We chose a Langston Hughes poem for this work ("Dream Variations"). When Kate and I were planning it out, we were a little hesitant on choosing it. We were worried that they wouldn't "get it." We questioned our choice and had a more literal poem on standby ("Since Hanna Moved Away" by Judith Viorst).

We read the poem all together, and we only told them that Langston Hughes was a famous author. Then we sent them off, independently, to try to capture their thoughts. After about 5-7 minutes (or when they started to get squirrely), we had them get into groups of about 3 to compare their ideas. Kate and I moved between groups and kept catching each other's eye...we couldn't believe what they were discussing! 
Following this group share, we came back together for a final grand conversation. I kid you not, this was one of those "goosebump moments" in teaching for me. Their interpretation of this poem left me speechless. I was even on the verge of tears at one point. #unbelievable #proudteacher #loveourstudents
If you follow us on Twitter, Kate periscoped this conversation. All of these were THEIR words! I still can't believe how well they did! It really helped us to reflect on when we doubt their capabilities...DON'T! They will always surprise you with what they can do and handle! Give them the challenges! They will RISE to the occasion! 

After this, we created a new anchor chart of all the different things we can think about or look for when studying poetry.
We did this, initially, but then went back and revisited each of these skills (and more) in our mini-lessons.

We give our kids a lot of choice in our room. One of the ways we try to incorporate their voice, choice, and personal learning styles, is how the respond during independent time. We have a lot of kids that struggle with organization. For them, we have a packet full of templates that they can use to track their thinking. Many of our kids know their own learning style and preferences so well that they create their own. They use everything from Google Slides, to Docs, to Google Keep, to regular old sticky notes or journals.

So, we continue to support them as they explore mood, tone, themes, and speaker point of view! We absolutely LOVE conferring with kids during this type of exploration. Each kid approaches a poem differently and interprets it in their own way. We also find that "share time" is incredibly crucial during a poetry unit. Kids not only want to discuss their poems with others, but they need to! They have theses ideas swirling around in their head or they found the most perfectly hilarious poem and they absolutely MUST share it with a friend!

We are going to be using all of these skills in analyzing poetry to help them write their own poetry anthology tied to a theme! Check back later for a future blog post! :)

In the meantime, we hope your April is sunny, and that your room is filled with the sweet sound of engagement and LOVE of poetry! Happy Poetry Month!
Happy Teaching,



  1. My students still struggle with poetry so this is a very helpful post. I will be using a variation of your chart for studying a poem in the next few days. Great idea and thanks for sharing.

    1. Glad it was helpful! The unit has been going well! It connected so seamlessly to writing! Even some of our more reluctant writers have succumbed to the fun of poetry! :)