Monday, August 23, 2010

Poetry Teaching Idea: Wordle Poems

It was a busy week last week. So, try as I might, I couldn't put together a poem for what I thought was an excellent prompt over at Big Tent Poetry. However, I will be using their idea as an activity for my students this coming school year. Here's how it works:
  1. Choose a favorite poem, preferably one filled with rich language.
  2. Select several words from that poem that someone else could use collectively as a prompt for writing their own poem. Their goal will be to use as many of these words as possible to create an original poem.
  3. Go to Wordle.Net to create a "Wordle" using these words.
  4. Share this Wordle with your friends or classmates and ask them to write a poem using as many of these words as possible. 
  5. Once they've written their poem, reveal the original poem to them, so they can see how it compares.
The Big Tent prompt used the amazing poem "Last August Hours Before the Year 2000" by Naomi Shihab Nye. Click here to see how their Wordle turned out. 

I like this idea a lot. I think I'll present it to my fourth graders with a Wordle prompt of my own, and have them all write from that prompt. Then, I'll have them each choose a poem that they like, select words from that poem, and create a Wordle of their own. Then they can trade Wordles with a partner, with that partner writing a poem from this prompt. Finally, at the end, students can reveal to each other and the class the poems that they chose. I don't think I'll try this early in the year, but definitely sometime this winter, once we've read a lot of poems and have developed our poetry writing "chops."

As an example, I made a Wordle using of which this blog is a namesake, "Psalm" by George Oppen. Check it out:
Wordle: Psalm
Not the easiest poem for this type of prompt, and not the one I'd choose for my elementary students, but I think you get the idea. Let me know if you try this with your students. I'd love to see how it turns out.

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