Monday, November 24, 2014

Poetry as Mentor Texts for Writing

When I first started talking with my students about poetry, the response I got was not exactly what I had hoped for.  To say there were moans and groans when I announced that we would become poets is an understatement.

In the Common Core for fourth grade, students study poetry as a text, but nothing is stated about students having to write poetry.  As a writing teacher, I know that writing poetry is a excellent vehicle for growing students as writers, as well as working in many grammar and reading standards.

Last year, I came across this wonderful resource for introducing poetry using one poem per week:
You can read more about how I incorporated the lessons from this book here.

This year, I decided to add a writing component to our weekly poetry study.  Now, on Fridays we take the week's poem and use it as a mentor text to inspire us to try our hand at poetry.

Here is one of our recent Poems of the Week (from the Poetry Friday Anthology).
(The red papers you see are from our analysis lesson on using specific word choice.)

To use this poem as a mentor text, we first began by writing a class poem together.  Here is the poem we wrote.  Hopefully, you can see some of the inspiration we pulled from our mentor poem.
Next, students paired up and went to work.
It was exciting to see my students use resources like rhyming dictionaries and the online thesaurus.  There was a definite hum around the room as the teams worked together to write their poem.

Finally, it was time to share.  This can be one of the most powerful parts of the writing workshop, but I never force students to share.

However...these same students who previously grumbled about having to write poetry ALL shared their poem.  And let me tell you...they were pretty good!

Some poems make better mentor texts for writing inspiration than others, I will admit.  But if you make poetry a regular part of your classroom, you will come across some wonderful poems that can inspire your students to take chances and stretch in their writing routines.

How do you use poetry in your classroom to teach writing?

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