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Things you’ll need:
- Sugarless candies and other individually wrapped snacks
- A non-transparent bag
- Punch (or a natural vegetable/fruit juice passing for punch)
- Audio recording of poetry reading
Let students know ahead of time that, in honor of National Poetry Month, there will be “poet’s punch” and ”stress snacks” available all week, but that daily admission to the party is a password (or pass-phrase) that must have something to do with poetry. It can be the name of a poem and its author, a memorized line from a poem, the definition of rhyme, etc.
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1) PREPARATION: Make punch and pack sugarless treats/snacks. Record a playlist/CD of poetry readings. Once in your classroom, write on the board an example of a short Acrostic, a Haiku, a Limerick, a Sensory Poem and a Lies Poem (without giving away the form types). Compile a Genre Bag (a poetic take on the “grab bag”) composed of cut-up slivers of paper with one of the five aforementioned poem types written on them.
2) THE PASSWORD: Stand at the door when students are due to come in, holding the Genre Bag. As they approach, ask them for a password and upon their sharing their knowledge of meter or enjambment, allow them to draw from the bag. As each student is admitted to the party, instruct them not to look at their genre until they are directed to.
3) BRAINSTORM: As a class, free associate about poetry—what it is, what it does (i.e., does it Entertain? Soothe? Transform? Anger? Inspire?). Take notes on the board while brainstorming. Explain that just as poetry has many different functions, it has many different forms and that you will explore 5 of them with the class over the next week.
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4) FORMS: Introduce them to each form on the board, one by one:
LIMERICK: For the Limerick, you may use any time-tested example, such as “There was an Old Man of Peru…”
After reciting it yourself, invite the class to read the lines aloud along with you (one line at time) a couple of times and then ask for hands of those who can identify on which words the emphases are placed. Depending on how young your students are, you might ask them which words sound more forceful or “up.”
For the first correct identification of the stressed syllable, provide the appropriate student a “stress snack” and inform all that the stressed syllables are those which tend to sound more forceful or “up.” Repeat until you’ve given away at least 5 stress snacks.
ACROSTIC: Have students look at the Acrostic and invite them to identify the guiding form. Provide a treat/snack to whomever guesses that the Acrostic uses the first letter of a topic word to begin each of its lines and the content of the lines should all relate to the topic. Label the poem an Acrostic.
LIE: Share an example of a Lie Poem and provide treats for any students who can identify the elements that compose its form (i.e., every line is a lie). Once they have, label the poem a Lie Poem.
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HAIKU: Share an example of a Haiku and provide treats for any students who can identify the elements that compose the Haiku form (i.e., the three lines, the syllabic pattern of 5-7-5). Label the poem a Haiku.
SENSORY: Share an example of a Sensory poem and provide treats for any students who can identify the elements that compose its form. Label the form a Sensory Poem.
5) MIXING IT UP & PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER: Tell students to reveal the genre on their pieces of paper and break them up into groups per the type of poem they’ve drawn out of the bag. Instruct the students to write an example of that type of poem (give them no more than 7 minutes) and share it with others in their group. The only stipulation is that their poem must be about poetry. This is when they’ll have to refer back to the initial free association brainstorm with which you opened the class.
6) PRESENTATION: Either select yourself or have the group nominate one person’s poem to be read aloud to the class from each group and discuss. (NOTE: You may opt to reward each student who reads a poem aloud with a sugarless treat.)
7) LISTEN & REFLECT: Pour punch and provide a snack for all students, allowing them to drink and nibble while listening to audio of poetry readings you’ve compiled yourself. Afterwards, discuss the feelings it evoked. Collect slivers of paper before students exit for the day.
8) ROTATE: The next day, switch up the groups so that everyone is working on a different form than they did the day before, being sure to review the forms and repeat steps 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7. You may vary the snacks and types of audio recordings to keep things interesting.
As an alternative to holding this poetry lesson plan over one week, you might modify and hold the poetry parties every Friday of April.
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Image © Ingrid Perlstrom