I wanted something a little different for the beginning of the year. We had new students and sometimes new students find it difficult those first few days to introduce themselves and share something about themselves with others who are better established. We are an alternative school environment. Some students have been with us since Grade 1 and are now in junior high. Without realizing it, returnees form groups and new students are slightly intimidated by the tightness that has formed despite everyone’s best efforts. I tried a poetry activity and it worked very well.
1. I used a Kahlil Gibran quote from The Prophet:
“Say not, “I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.”
Say not, “I have found the path of the soul.” Say rather, “I have met the soul walking upon my path.”
For the soul walks upon all paths.
The soul walks not upon a line, neither does it grow like a reed.
The soul unfolds itself like a lotus of countless petals.”
The quote served as a conversational anchor. I read it out loud a couple of times. Students re-read it, highlighted words or questions that emerged, discussed their reflective findings in pairs, and finally we shared with the group. What did this passage mean? What was the theme? We talked about self-knowledge and truths. I refer to Parker Palmer in my classroom so students had discussed the idea of holding one’s own truth while respecting the truths of others.
2. Students prepared a small poster. I asked them to include two poems, some pictures of activities they enjoyed, some quotes they thought helped describe who they were, and their name proudly displayed in the centre of the poster.
3. Initially, I wanted a free verse poem and a cinquain poem. The former was too abstract for some students so changed allowing some flexibility with another formula poem i.e cinquain, diamond, or acrostic. This helped considerably. Even though I teach in a multi-grade setting, with three junior high grades, this struggle with abstraction was not based on grade level only. There were some older children who struggle with the free verse and younger children who did not.
4. Each child put their poster about who they were on the bulletin board and it has remained there all year. An interesting note is, when corners of posters have come loose on the bulletin board, students take time to tack them back up carefully even if it is not their poster.
For those unfamiliar with the pattern poems I referenced above, here are some instructions and examples.
How to Write a Cinquain
There are two methods:
Line 1 – a one word title
Line 2 – a 2 word phrase that describes your title or you can just use two words
Line 3 – a 3 word phrase that describes an action about your title or just actions words
Line 4 – a 4 word phrase that describes a feeling about your topic or just feeling words
Line 5 – one word that refers back to your title
Line 1 – two syllables
Line 2 – four syllables
Line 3 – six syllables
Line 4 – eight syllables
Line 5 – two syllables
teach, learn, enjoy
It is my calling
How to Write a Diamond Poem
Line 1 – a one word noun
Line 2 – 2 adjectives that describe the noun
Line 3 – 3 verbs that the noun does
Line 4 – 4 things (nouns) that the top noun and the bottom noun has
Line 5 – 3 verbs that the bottom noun does
Line 6 – 2 adjectives that the describes the bottom noun
Line 7 – a one word noun that is opposite the top noun
sleeping, purring, meowing
tail, fur, tongue, collar
barking, playing, licking
How to Write Acrostic Poems?
Acrostic is an easy poetry formats to use with young writers.
It can be about any subject, written in different ways, but the simplest form is to put the letters that spell your subject down the side of your page. When you have done this then you go back to each letter and think of a word , phrase or sentence that starts with that letter and describes your subject, and give out your hidden message that’s contained in this format, that can run forwards, or backwards.
O mniscient (or so students think)