Sample Lessons and Student Work

Poetry Unit: First Grade

While student teaching in a first grade classroom, I introduced poetry into my writing workshop. I used three mini-lessons to help students understand the concept of poetry. During these lessons, I showed my students how to look at every day objects and events through the eyes of a poet. After the three mini-lessons, I gave students several poetry assignments in which they showcased their new skills. At the end of the unit, we celebrated with a “Poet Party” and students were able to share their very favorite pieces. I also published a poetry newsletter. Here are the three mini-lessons that I used as an introduction to the poetry unit:

Poetry Mini Lesson 1: Seeing with a Poet’s Eyes

Objectives:

  • Using a note outline, students will write descriptive notes on a given object.
  • Student’s notes will show evidence of an attempt to look at objects in a fresh new way.

Standards:

  • W.AT.02.01 Students will be enthusiastic about writing and learning to write.
  • W.GN.02.02 Students will approximate poetry based on reading a wide variety of grade-appropriate poetry.

Materials Needed:

  • A poetry folder for each student
  • Objects for poetry museum
  • Paper and pencils for each student
  • Copies of example poems to read (Ceiling, Pencil Sharpener, Bear in There)
  • Chart paper or a white board

Anticipatory Set: Read students the poem “Bear in There,” by Shel Silverstein and have them imagine a picture in their minds of what is happening in the poem.

Procedure:

  1. Announce to students that for the next couple of weeks, writing workshop will be turned into poetry work shop. Tell them that they will all learn to be poets and you can’t wait to see what they come up with.
  2. Explain that in order to write good poems ourselves, we’ve been reading poetry to see what good poets do. Ask students for examples of what poets do. “The first way we can start thinking like a poet is by looking at the world in a poetic way.”  Ask students to listen carefully to a poem. Read and visually display “Pencil Sharpener.” Ask students what they like about the poem and point out how the author saw something ordinary in a fresh new way.
  3. Next discuss ways to describe the ceiling in ordinary ways.  Read the poem “Ceiling” to the class and discuss the ways the poet describes ceiling of the classroom in unique ways; ways that we don’t usually think about.  Have this poem displayed by a document camera to aid visual learners.  Explain that the author could have described the ceiling in ordinary ways, but chose to look at it in a new, exciting way.  Tell students that this is why poetry is fun! We get to be creative.
  4. Discuss the difference between scientific observations and poetic observations and make a brief T-chart comparing the two.
  5. Next help students practice looking at their world in a different lens.  Tell them to put on their imaginary poet glasses and look at objects in a creative way.  Together, write a few notes about a pine cone. Make a list of students’ observations on the board.  Encourage students to describe the pine cone in a fresh new way.  (A miniature tree, A house for itty bitty bugs, a football for a fox)
  6. Tell students that they are doing a nice job of looking at things like a poet and you love that they are using their imaginations!
  7. Announce that you brought them a poetry museum to help them look at normal things like a poet would.  Tell the students that this museum includes things from nature.  Explain that they won’t begin writing poems today, but they are going to practice taking notes like a poet would.  Tell students that they don’t even have to write in full sentences. They can simply write in words and short phrases. Model this. Explain that once they feel like they’ve taken a good amount of notes on each object, they can move to a new object.
  8. Finally, have students come up to the museum to choose an object one at a time. Build this up to be very exciting and call the best listeners first. Give each student a poetry folder that they can use to store their brand-new notes and poems.

Assessment: Walk around the classroom to observe and confer with students about their observational notes.  Give students who struggle more attention.  If students say they are finished, encourage them to choose a new object from the museum to practice taking notes like a poet. Make notes of students that you will want to work with in the next few days.

Wrap-Up: Gather the students on the floor in the front of the classroom and discuss some of the observations students have made.  Talk about how poets often describe normal things in unique and interesting ways.  Invite a few students to share their work with the class.

Poetry Mini Lesson 2: Line Breaks

Objective:

  • Using their notes from the previous day, students will write a poem about an object from the poetry museum.
  • Students will use unique and purposeful line breaks to give their poems feeling and build reader anticipation.

Standards:

  • L.CN.02.01 Students will understand, restate and follow three- and four-step directions.
  • L.RP.02.01 Students will listen to or view knowledgeably and discuss a variety of genre.

Materials Needed:

  • Paper and pencils for each student
  • Copies of example poems to read
  • Chart paper or a white board
  • Poem written in prose and with line breaks (typed in strips that can be moved around)

Anticipatory Set: Tell students that you’re amazed with the fresh new ways they are looking at things. They really are poets! Today they will learn how to take their notes and turn them into poems. Tell them that they’re the boss of their poems, and they will put their words on paper to make readers say their poems in a certain way.

Procedure:

  1. Tell the students that they will listen to you read the poem “Aquarium.” Display and read the poem, “Aquarium” by Valerie Worth, written in both prose and in poem form. When reading the prose version, use a monotone voice. When reading the version with line breaks, read purposefully and with enthusiasm. Ask students which version was the best and why. Discuss what a line break is and show them that where you put line breaks changes the way a poem sounds.
  2. Select a student to be your poetry helper. Tell the class that he/she took fantastic notes and we’ll work as a class to turn these notes into a poem. Remind students that they are the boss of their poems and they decide how it looks on paper. Suggest that they draw words out down the page to build anticipation during the most exciting part! Allow students to give input and model how to look at notes to create a poem.
  3. Finally, pass out poetry folders and allow students to go back to their seats to work on turning their observational notes into poems.
  4. Remind them that this lesson will be important to remember throughout the rest of the poetry unit.  As poets, they are in charge of their poems and should write them to be read in a certain way.

Assessment: Walk around the classroom to observe and confer with students.  Look for line breaks in poems and make notes about how well students understand this concept in general.  Decide if this is something you will need to revisit in one of the upcoming lessons.  If students say that they are finished, encourage them to create another poem using an object from the poetry museum. Make notes of students that you want to be sure to work with in the next few days.

Wrap-Up: Gather the students on the floor in the front of the classroom and have a few students share the poems they have written.  Point out aspects of the lesson that they caught on to and how students effectively used line breaks.

Poetry Lesson 3: My Poet Heart

Objectives:

  • With a graphic organizer, students will list topics that they have strong feelings about. (This will serve as a resource for students who struggle to think of topics for future poems.)
  • Students will use their senses, and descriptive language, as they begin to write poems about places that are special to them.

Standards:

  • W.AT.02.01 Students will be enthusiastic about writing and learning to write.
  • W.GN.02.02 Students will approximate poetry based on reading a wide variety of grade-appropriate poetry
  • W.PS.02.01 Students will develop personal style in oral, written, and visual messages in both narrative (e.g., descriptive language, use of imagination, varying sentence beginnings) and informational writing (e.g., facts, effective conclusions).

Materials:

  • My Poetry Heart Graphic Organizer
  • White Board and Markers
  • Paper and pencil for each student
  • Letter From an Older Student
  • Bass Lake Poem

*Prior to the lesson: Show students the Bass Lake poem with the five senses pictures. Talk about how you used all five senses and wrote in descriptive phrases. Have students participate in writing a five senses poem about the playground as a group.

Anticipatory Set: Tell students that you’re so proud of them for writing their very first poems. “You did such a fantastic job! You’re ready to start choosing your own topics.” The best poems that you write will be about people, places, or things that you have strong feelings about.” “Listen to this poem that I wrote about one of my favorite places, Bass Lake. I go there every summer. If I close my eyes, and pretend I’m there, I get a big smile on my face!”

Bass Lake

Clear blue water,

Slimy fish,

Freshly picked blueberries,

Prickly grass under bare toes,

Click, Click, Click from my fishing pole.

Procedure:

  1. Tell students that before they decide to write about a topic, they have to ask themselves, “Do I have strong feelings about this?”  “Is this something that I really care about?
  2. Read “Letter from a Fifth Grader,” to show them that it really is important to write about things that they have strong feelings about.
  3. Show students “My Poet Heart,” a graphic organizer that they can use as a poetry writing resource. Tell them that they will fill their heart with the people, places, and things that they care the most about. To model filling out the graphic organizer for students, ask several students to share people, places, or things that they have big feelings about.
  4. Tell them that when their very own Poet Heart is complete, they will tuck it into their folders to use whenever they need an idea for a new poem.
  5. Tell students that when they are finished with their first job, they may use poetry workshop time to work on a five senses poem about a place that is special to them. Review the senses and refer to how they were used in the Bass Lake poem. Remind students that they created a five senses poem about the cafeteria earlier, and now they have the chance to work on their own on a poem that’s special to them.
  6. Before sending students back to their seats, have a student tell the class what their first job is, and what their second job is. Show students where to pick up their poetry paper to start their poem about a special place.

Assessment: Walk around the classroom to observe and confer with students. Check that students have completed their Poet’s Hearts and they are beginning a poem about a special place of their choice. Make notes of students that you want to be sure to work with in the next few days. Leave Post-it notes to give feedback on poems or to prompt students with questions.

Wrap-Up: Gather the students on the floor in the front of the classroom and invite students to share their Poet Hearts or their poetry.

Student Poems Written During the Unit

Poetry Notes and Poems with Line Breaks:

Color Poem Assignment:

Hello-Goodbye Assignment:

Our Poetry Newsletter (Places Poems):