Poems often tell stories. So why not utilize previous writings your students have generated when teaching your next poetry unit? Whether it’s a structured poem with certain elements or a free-verse poem, students can pull the content and language from writing they’ve already crafted.

Have students find a previous writing (narratives work well for this activity) they’d like to experiment with. Then have them read the piece entirely through to review it. After they’ve read it over once, they should read it again, this time looking for the most powerful images, feelings, and words. Have students underline these best-sounding parts. (TIP: Encourage them to reread the piece a third time. It’s not uncommon that students underline more words and phrases or even decide to erase some parts they’d initially underlined.)

Now, with a new piece of paper, have students string together the underlined words and phrases to begin developing a poem. Add in more words as needed to help the fluency and continuity.

Great Teacher comments:
Ruth Lavery, teacher at Union Township Schools (Valparaiso, IN) shared:

During the month of April, as many teachers do, I have a poetry unit. The students end up with a booklet of over 25 poems. Interestingly, my Persona Poem is the Bio-Poem you use for Science and Social Studies! I have them do one about themselves and one about a loved one. This is one of my favorite assignments, as the students share some really intimate information.

The culminating event we do is really cool. The students decorate the room in “retro beatnik” and dress up as in the famed Dobie Gillis days. They bring in blow chairs, bean-bags, lava lights, etc. We then have a Poetry Slam, coffee house style. They bring in snacks and beverages.

The best part is they dress in 60’s style beatnik wear (all black, berets, etc. I give the boys mascara goatees and sideburns. Instead of clapping, the students snap and make statements such as: “Whoa! Now I understand the meaning of life!” It is an absolute riot, and we are covering several standards without the students even realizing it! The students love sharing their writing in this dark, intimate setting. The best part is I learn SO much about them via their poems.

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