When my mentor teacher and I discussed what subjects I should teach, we both agreed that poetry would be a good unit to work on. It also ties into a language arts assignment I have in once of my courses at the university, which requires me to create a unit consisting of three lessen with a writing, reading, and oral language focus in each lesson. In order to start planning, I've been reading through an amazing book which my professor has recommended to me. I'd like to share this highly practical resource with you, which I feel would benefit both new and experienced teachers.
The book is called Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School by poet Georgia Heard. I'm sure many of you have heard of it, since it seems to be a quite famous book in the field of education. The book is divided into chapters which explore how to effectively teach different elements of poetry, such as "Making a Poetry Environment", "Reading Poetry", "Writing Poetry", "Crafting Poetry", and "Sharpening Our Outer and Inner Visions". I found that many of the ideas mentioned are easily adaptable to many of the grade levels in both elementary and middle school settings. What I really like about this book is its focus on teaching in a way that helps students open their hearts and develop personal relationships with the world they live in through poetry.
Here are some of the ideas that stood out for me:
- The Heart Map
This is my favourite! Children start by each drawing a shape of a heart, and inside it illustrate important memories and things that they care deeply about. This activity is a great tool to help children develop ideas on different topics they can write on. An example of a heart map can be seen on the cover of the book.
- The Living Anthology Project
Students post poems in various areas of the school to create a learning environment where poetry becomes part of their daily lives, and hence more accessible. The students try to choose poems which relate to the specific location where it will be posted. (i.e. A poem about water, or waiting, would be posted beside the water fountain. )
- Poems on Desks
As a way to introduce middle school students to poetry, the teacher tapes poems to the students desks while the students are out for lunch or recess. When the students come in, they are encouraged to silently walk around the class to read the poems on the desks and to sit down at a desk that has a poem which they like or are able to relate to.
*As an extension to this activity, I thought that it would be a good idea to have two or three copies of the same poem taped on different desks, so that once everyone has sat down the students who choose the same poem can get together and discuss their thoughts afterwards.
- Six-room Image-poem
Students are instructed to take out a blank sheet of paper, and divide it into six squares. These squares will be labelled into the following categories: Image, Light, Sound, Questions, Feelings, Repeating Word(s). Students are encouraged to close their eyes, and visualize an image or a particular memory and write down the words you come up to describe each category. The author further notes that the number of these boxes can be adjusted according to the grade level. Moreover, she also states that students can rearrange or substitute the labels with other categories such as smell, voice, touch, ...etc
Needless to say, I've almost finished reading the book and it's FULL of post-its all over! I'm so excited to use some of the ideas for my poetry unit!