Thursday, September 2, 2010

On the Cusp of Poetry Immersion

This is my last prep day before the school year starts. Tuesday I get a fresh new group of 17 fourth graders. I plan to engage them in a two year (I will teach them for both fourth and fifth grades) program of poetry immersion. This will include the reading, analysis, and writing of poems.

I taught poetry for the first time in my career last year and it was by far my favorite part of the school year. I just looked back at my list of poems and finally got around to typing it up--would you believe I read 102 poems with my fifth graders last year? Not sure about you, but that seems like an impressive number to me. They also wrote and published over 30 of their own poems.

So I'm trying it again with fourth graders, but not without some tweaks, of course. I will, however, be reading the same poem on the first day as I did last year: "Alligator Pie" by Dennis Lee. It's definitely a nonsense poem and it's got great rhymes and rhythm, so kids love it. It's definitely more silly than most of the poems we'll read this year (most poems written for children, don't do much for me, sorry...I mean they have a place in the world and all when it comes to getting kids hooked on poetry, but...oh maybe that's a topic for another post.). But I do think it's a perfect first poem to read to students.

Here's the first stanza of the real poem (read it all here):

Alligator pie, alligator pie,
If I don't get some, I think I'm gonna die
Give away the green grass, give away the sky,
But don't give away my alligator pie.

After reading the poem a few times, I ask them some questions about it. Then they write their own version. Here are some stanzas written by my students in the past:

Alligator paint, alligator paint,
If I don't get some, surely I will faint.
Give away my ice cream, give away my cake,
But don't give away my alligator paint.

Alligator meat, alligator meat,
If I don't get some I think I'm going to eat.
Give away my arms, give away my feet,
But don't give away my alligator meat.

Alligator pajamas, alligator pajamas,
If I don't get some, I'm going to go to grandma's.
Give away my strawberries, give away my bananas,
But don't give away my Alligator Pajamas.

Alligator peas, alligator peas,
If I don't get some, I think I'm gonna sneeze.
Give away my crackers, give away my cheese.
But don't give away my alligator peas.

Stay tuned to see what my students come up with next week. And teachers, if you're out there, what is the first poem you share with your students each year?

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