Thursday, January 6, 2011

More with Poetry Moves

In the fall, I posted about poetry "moves." This is the phrase I use (borrowed from teacher/author/poet Joseph Tsujimoto) for poetic techniques that make poems enjoyable to read.

I'm talking about moves constantly while I'm reading poems with my fourth grade students. My goal is to get them to notice how poets use moves so that they can incorporate moves into poems they write themselves.

When we talk about writing poems and using moves, I'll generally zoom in on one or two moves. They're young so I don't want them worrying about trying too many things. I don't want their poems to sound forced. By focusing on one or two, I think their poems become infinitely more pleasurable to read.

Another thing that helps is a model--we do a lot of patterning. I find a poem I like that I think they'll like AND that exhibits the move I want them to practice. We read and discuss it and then I basically say: "Write like that."

And for the most part it works.

This week we read "Things to Do If You are the Sun" by Bobbi Katz. This poem appears in one of my favorite anthologies: Falling Down the Page. (If you want to read more "Things to Do..." poems and read more about Bobbi Katz, check out this post by Elaine Magliaro at Wild Rose Reader. Elaine regularly posts her own "Things to Do..." poems and, like Ms. Katz's, hers are terrific!)

I can't find a published version of the Sun poem, but here are a couple of lines from "Things to Do if You Are the Subway," that Elaine shares the aforementioned post:

Pretend you are a dragon.
Live in underground caves.
Roar about underneath the city.

The moves I wanted students to practice with this kind of poem are: Surprise and Personification. When I say "surprise" what I'm really talking about is getting my students to write lines that are unexpected, lines that make me think "Wow, I never would have thought of that myself." As far as personification goes, I think these types of poems are great vehicles for bringing inanimate objects to life. 

One final note--this poem is a great example of a "list poem"(also called "catalog poems"), which are one of my favorites to read and have students write. I'll have to post more on these at a later date, I think.

I will say, in a final final note, that this writing activity provided one of the few instances where I wish I taught secondary school. I think older students could come up with much more poetic and creative lines for "Things to Do..." poems than my students have so far. We're still working on it, though, and maybe they'll surprise me. They've been known to do that. If they turn out, maybe I'll even share a few with you. And if you try them with your class, please let me know how it goes.

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