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Poetry in Motion
A fun project for middle school students is to write poems to start a “poem chain." A poem chain is an unbroken chain of people who write a poem to give to a friend. One student creates a poem and gives it to a friend. Then that friend creates a new poem and gives it to another friend. Each time as the poem is presented the student tells the friend to write a new poem and continue the poem chain by passing the new poem to a friend.
The poem chain is a project that energizes students. Inform the class before they start writing that they may create any kind of poem, as long as it is appropriate for school. The poem may have any tone. Students seem to enjoy writing poems that are humorous, romantic, analytical, or whimsical, and they also like to write poems that discuss topics as varied as sports, history, current events, school news, friendship, cars, and dating.
Review literary techniques used in poems such as imagery, simile and metaphor, repetition, and personification. Read aloud several poems with examples of these techniques and discuss.
Since some students find it difficult to write poetry without some kind of writing prompt, pick twenty interesting words and list them on the blackboard to stimulate creativity. Tell students they may use as many of the words in their poem as they wish. Have dictionaries available for students to look up the meanings of words they are unfamiliar with.
Obtain special construction paper, poster board, and writing paper for students to use for the final draft of the poem. Poems used for a poem chain should be beautifully presented. Students may wish to add art or colors to the paper as well so have some Sharpie markers or crayons available for embellishment.
As students are writing, circulate the room to give feedback. Also ask students to have at least one other student peer edit their poem. Tell students to include a date at the bottom of the poem or on the back side of the paper so the recipient will always know the exact date he received the poem as a present.
A fun idea is to hang copies of some of the poems in a strand connected with links made of construction paper to make it look like a chain of poems. For another idea, if you are writing a haiku or other short poem, you may actually want to make chains out of construction paper and write one word of the haiku on each link of the chain.
To assess student work on this project grade the poem for writing skill and use of literary techniques. Also include credit for good teamwork and peer-editing participation.