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“YOU CAN’T ORDER A POEM LIKE YOU ORDER A TACO”: AN INTRODUCTION TO POETRY
by Brandy Lynn Stredder
University of Idaho Student

GRADE: 7 to 10

SUBJECT MATTER: English; Language Arts

OVERVIEW
Poetry is an exciting and engaging form of literature through which students can express ideas and emotions. However, for students unfamiliar with poetry, the mere idea of it can be intimidating and ambiguous. Students need to build on a foundation of knowledge, expanding through research and exploration. In order for students to be able to successfully read and write poetry, they should be introduced to it through others perspectives.

Through this lesson's activities, students will explore what poetry is and certain aspects within it. They will write their own knowledge and perceptions of poetry and the expand that knowledge and experience through listening to, reading, and writing poetry and exploring poetic terminology.


LEARNING OBJECTIVES

Students will be able to:

  • Describe their own experiences with and knowledge of poetry locate other definitions and meanings of poetry, tone, imagery, scene, meter, and rhyme
  • Apply new poetry perceptions to their own prior knowledge compare and contrast differing definitions and perspectives of poetic terminology create their own poem describing what poetry is.

STANDARDS

STANDARDS From the IRA/NCTE Standards for the English Language Arts http://www.ncte.org/standards

Students will:

  • Read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment.
  • Read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions of human experience.
  • Apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts.
  • Draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meanings and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features.
  • Employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for different purposes.
  • Use a variety of technological and informational resources to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

MATERIALS

Per student:

For class: Computers

MEDIA COMPONENTS

Video
Naomi Shibab Nye. The Dodge Poetry Festival Video Congerence.

WEB SITES

Glossary of Poetic Terms: A Unique Guide for the Study of Poetry. Bob’s Byway: A Poetic Diversion.
http://www.poeticbyway.com
/glossary.html

Robert Harris. A Glossary of Literary Terms. http://www.virtualsalt.com
/litterms.htm

Steve Lane. Literary Terms. Department of English Malaspina University-College. www.mala.bc.ca/~lanes
/english/literms.htm

Ann Woodlief. LITWEB: An Online Companion to the Norton Introduction to Literature, Seventh Edition. http://www.wwnorton.com/
introlit/welcome.htm


PREP FOR TEACHER

Before beginning this lesson, bookmark the four web sites listed. The video should be set to run approximately ten minutes into the video when Nye gets out of her chair and begins to address the audience. The video runs for approximately ten additional minutes until Nye completes her reading and sits down. A definitions handout that lists all the terms to be researched on the web sites should be prepared so that students know for what terms they are responsible for (poetry, poem, tone, imagery, scene, meter, and rhyme).

PREVIEWING ACTIVITIES

The following activities will allow students to solidify their prior knowledge of and experiences with poetry through written reflection.

Step 1: What Do I Know About Poetry
Ask students to think about what comes to mind when you say "poetry" and spend five minutes writing student responses on the board and casually discussing those responses. Explain to students that poetry is a genre that they will come across throughout their lives, and it is highly personal.

Give students fifteen minutes to complete a one-page Quickwrite in which they answer the question "What is Poetry?" Explain that their answers will most likely be specific to the individual; students may include examples, personal experiences, emotions, and reactions.

 

FOCUS FOR VIEWING

There are four video viewings. The first and third viewing is without sound. The second and fourth viewing has sound.

To give students a specific responsibility while viewing, when there is no sound, the students are to focus on

  • "What sounds do you think they should be hearing."
  • "Why do you think those sounds should be there?"
  • "What cues do you have?"

When there is sound, the students are to determine if they were right. "Why and Why not."


LEARNING ACTIVITIES

The following activities will expand the students' knowledge of poetry and poetry terms in a way that accepts and acknowledges the students' prior knowledge, making students more comfortable with poetry and increasing their willingness to participate.

Step 1: Parts of Poetry.
Because the students will have had at least minimal contact with poetry or poetic forms, all students have some kind of knowledge base on which they can expand, a knowledge base discussed in the introductory Quickwrite assignment. Before students share what they know, in small groups, they will build onto that knowledge base some basic terminology that will make discussing, analyzing, and writing poetry more clear and less ambiguous.

Give each student an introduction to poetic terminology handout that has three columns, one that lists the vocabulary words (poetry, poem, imagery, scene, tone, meter, rhyme), another labeled "Predictions," and the third labeled "Research."

Give students two to three minutes to jot down in the predictions column what they think each vocabulary term in the first column might mean, what they know about each word, how each word relates to things other than poetry. Put students into small groups of three to five students; each group is assigned a particular web site to use in researching the different vocabulary words.

The "Research" column serves as the FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION when students go to the computers. As students find the definitions for the terminology on the web sites, they will write the definitions in the research column next to the words and their predictions. If possible, each student should have his own computer, but an entire group can be assigned to a single computer if necessary. Students should find definitions and examples of the vocabulary on the web sites; each group looks on a different page (more pages may be needed or print materials could supplement depending on the size of the class).

Step 2: What Didn't I Know About Poetry. Each group will finish the above task at different times; allow at least fifteen minutes for students to complete the Internet search. However, as individual groups complete the assignment, students can complete the day's closing activity which can be explained on an overhead, the board, or orally. Each student, using the knowledge gained from the Internet search, will return to the Quickwrite from the beginning of class and complete a Quickwrite Extension. Students need to add half a page describing what they learned from the research: how accurate or thorough was your prior knowledge? What surprised you about what you found? Did the search remind you of any other experiences with poetry? Etc. The following activities will further increase student knowledge about and comfort with poetry. Students will also explore alternative definitions of poetry and poetic terminology.

Step 3: What Didn't I Know About Poetry. In order to create a continuity from day to day, it is necessary to link directly back to the activities of the day before. Students spend the first two to three minutes of class "Pair Sharing" what new information they learned from the Internet search of poetry terminology.

Bring students together as a class to share the information learned from the web sites, focusing and guiding the discussion on comparing and contrasting the different ideas presented on each web site and student perception. Students should refer to the completed vocabulary terms handout as they participate in discussion.

Step 4: What is Poetry and Where Does it Come From. Because all students experience is going to be different and not all the information on the web sites is exactly alike, students may feel that they have taken a step back in defining poetry. Reassure students that all perspectives on poetry are useful and important. Explain to students that the terminology is not the only way to approach poetry. What better source is there to find out about poetry than a poet?

Step 5: Naomi Shihab Nye Video. Insert the video of Naomi Shihab Nye's presentation from The Dodge Poetry Festival Videoconference and give a brief introduction to Nye, her work, and The Dodge Poetry Festival, all available at the beginning of the videoconference.

Give students a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION by having them answer the following questions: How does Naomi Shihab Nye define poetry? Where does she think poetry comes from? Etc. Students watch and listen to the three poems (approximately 10 minutes); PAUSE after each poem, so students can answer the questions in writing and share impressions orally after viewing each poem on the video: "Travel Alarm," "Valentine for Ernest Mann," and "Wedding Cake."

In the video, Nye reads and comments on three of her poems and the process and inspiration for each individual piece. She briefly discusses the importance of the moment, specific images, emotions, and the passion of poetry. These ideas will add to the foundation established with the Quickwrite, Quickwrite Extension, and the Internet search. After the video, as a class, discuss the students' question responses and impressions.

 

POST VIEWING ACTIVITIES

CULMINATING ACTIVITY
Through the following activity, students will solidify and express through their own poetry their ideas and conceptions about poetry and the aspects that may or may not define it.

Step 1: Define Poetry through Poems Nye's poem "Valentine for Ernest Mann," second poem viewed on the video, is a poem that attempts to define poetry. View that poem again and give students a written copy. Talk about how Nye establishes her idea of poetry in her poem. Explain the importance of reading as well as writing poetry.

Using the Quickwrite, the terminology information, and the knowledge gained from Naomi Shihab Nye's presentation, students will write a poem in which they attempt to define poetry from their personal perspective, experience, and knowledge base.

The eventual use of this assessment is up to the discretion of the teacher. The poems about poetry can be handed in for evaluation, presented orally to the class, used in future projects and writing workshop, etc. The activities chosen to follow this media-rich lesson may or may not determine the ultimate use of the culminating activity.

EXTENSIONS

Language Arts/Literature:
Explore other poetry and poetic genres in order to expand the poetic experience. Use anthologies, children's poetry books, Shakespeare, contemporary work, sample student work, etc. to increase students' knowledge of poetry. Culminating activity can serve as the introduction to a Writing Workshop in which students explore all genre forms, especially their own poetry.

History:
Focus on the definition of poetry through time and how that definition changes over time, culture, geography, etc. How does the poetry reflect the history and culture of a particular time and place?

Drama:
Explore the different effects that oral interpretation can have on the meaning of poetry. Use Nye's video presentation as a jumping off a point for exploring the many aspects of oral interpretation. Introduce Shakespeare and other poetic dramatic forms, focusing on meaning and expression.

Community Connections:
Guest poets can visit the classroom, present poetry, and talk about what poetry means to them. Teachers, community members, and local published poets can all provide new and diverse insight into the study of poetry.

Students can plan public poetry readings for their community or school, schedule readers, write their own poetry to present, and present others' poetry, especially during April, National Poetry Month. Students can start their own poetry publication at your school to be distributed to the class, school, and/or community.


For additional lesson plans and ideas relating to this topic and many others try TeacherSource at PBS Online! You will find activities, lesson plans, teacher guides and links to other great educational web sites! Search the database by keyword, grade level or subject area! Mathline and Scienceline are also great resources for teachers seeking teaching tips, lesson plans, assessment methods, professional development, and much more!


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