I have to admit, I've never been a huge poetry fan. Sure, I love Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky but beyond them I probably couldn't have named another contemporary poet before teaching this poetry writing unit to my first graders.
Nevertheless, I learned to love poetry when I saw how my kiddos blossomed as writers during this genre. The kiddos love this unit because it is very multi-sensory. I began the unit by introducing the idea that poets use descriptive words. In order to illustrate this point, we prepared numbered bags with different items inside and had the kiddos use their senses to describe what they heard, smelled, and felt. They came up with some great words like "earthy," "klanging," "bumpy," and "squishy"!
After that the kiddos made lists of special people and special places because poets often use their friends, family, or favorite places as inspiration for their poems. One of our mentor texts for these types of poems is Honey I Love, by Eloise Greenfield. I love Greenfield's poems! (My favorite is Lessie). She writes with feeling and rhythm which the kiddos really learn to emulate.
Throughout this unit, the kiddos kept a poetry journal where they could record and recopy their poems. They replicated the styles of poets including Valerie Babbit (All the Small Poems) and Joan Bransfield Graham (Splish Splash). The best thing about writing poetry is that it really seems to bring out the best in some of most reluctant writers. They especially love taking the perspective of inanimate objects, like Paul Janeczko poems in the Dirty Laundry Pile.
When it came time for publishing, the kiddos selected their favorite poems to revise and edit. We focused on reading our poems out loud to listen for the "rhythm" and "beat" of the poem. Although some of the kiddos wrote rhyming poems, I also encouraged free verse. We learned about leaving "line breaks" and using space on the page to bring the poem to life!
The kiddos loved copying their poems onto poetry paper and adding illustrations. I compiled all of the poems into a class book, organized book by topic. We ended up with fabulous, creative, illustrative poems about family members, friends, favorite places, and ordinary objects.