Poetry Project Part 2: Choosing a Topic

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If you don’t already know a little bit about my poetry project, I’d suggest reading a general overview here. Before students choose a topic, I introduce the project first.

Choosing a Topic

Since poetry is so near and dear to the soul, I wanted to make sure students were allowed a choice of topics. In order to do that, students needed a list of topics to choose from, therefore… another paper chat! This time, I had students brainstorm possible poem topics. I gave them these prompts on different posters:

  1. What makes you angry or upset?
  2. What worries you? What are you scared or afraid of?
  3. What makes you sad?
  4. What do you love?
  5. What do you find beautiful?

Once we finished “chatting”, I handed out the Topic Proposal Paragraph handout. I told them we already came up with ideas on the posters, so they did not have to fill out the column on the right. (I included it as an alternate activity for brainstorming other than the paper chat.) Poetry Project Part 2- Topic Proposal Paragraph.jpg

I told the students to think carefully when narrowing down their topic choices! It is a lot easier to write about a topic that you are passionate and know a lot about.

Topic Proposal Paragraph

In sixth grade, we are still focusing a lot on improving our paragraphs, so I provided an example for students to use as a guide. I had them write two paragraphs using the template on the back, one about their first choice and one about their second choice. 

Poetry Project Part 2: Topic Proposal Paragraph Example

Afterwards, I collected the paragraphs and sorted students into teams of 3 to 5. I quickly realized that some students chose topics that no one else was interested in, or I had a lot of students choosing the same topics. Here are some suggestions for those issues:

  • If there are no matches for a student’s first or second choice, I offered the student a choice: work independently or choose a different topic. Although…
  • I tried to avoid groups of one or two in case of absences. (Collaboration is a huge part of the project.)
  • Groups of 5 worked fine enough, however, it was hard for them to share resources at times.
  • For popular topics such as bullying, I broke up students into several smaller groups which seemed to work pretty well. (I had three groups of three).

Next up in my Poetry Project series, I’ll explain how teams met and began the next step of the design process… imagining! In the meantime, stay tuned!

Here are the resources for my Poetry Project Part 2:

Poetry Project Part 2 – Lesson Plan (Google Slides)

Poetry Project Part 2- Topic Proposal Paragraph (PDF handout)

Poetry Project Part 2

Poetry Project Part 1: Introducing the Project

Standard

If you don’t already know a little bit about my poetry project, I’d suggest reading a general overview here.

Where to begin?

Part of STEM is understanding the design process. Most of my projects follow the same sequence of steps, the first being to ask8f2522dbc4ec7c57fcd4ca80a2b7fe9f_picture-engineering-design-process-clipart_831-642

Ask. Define the problem.

With this project, the problem is figuring out how students can use powerful language to inspire others. I introduce this problem through an Introduction Letter I copy and send home with students. First, we read it together in class. It outlines the task, the process, and the standards that will be covered. Poetry Project Part 1- Introduction Letter

The next step is to acknowledge the common misconception with students that powerful language is not just in poetry. However, poetry is the easiest and most common place to find powerful language. Poetry Project Part 1

After discussing that for a few minutes, I have students do a paper chat. If you’ve never done one before, I highly recommend it. I learned about this strategy from my Discovery Ed STEM coach.Poetry Project Part 1 (1)

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For this activity, I had students walk around the room for about ten minutes, reading and writing their answers to questions such as:

  1. How can language be powerful?
  2. Why does language need to be powerful?
  3. Who uses powerful language?
  4. Where is powerful language found?
  5. What specific things (devices and techniques) make language powerful?

After returning to their seats, we discussed their ideas for each question. A lot of students made the connection to advertising, commercials, political speeches, etc. Being in middle school, most of my students were able to name at least a few of the devices uses (imagery, symbolism, similes, metaphors, etc.) On a side note, one of my classes is co-taught with several students below grade-level. I did provide that class with some scaffolding in the form of giving a few examples and writing them down on each poster before we began the paper chat. That seemed to help immensely.

Poetry Project Part 1: ExamplesOnce students watched one or two, I had them record some observations on a piece of paper as an exit ticket. They told me what the poet did to make the poem “powerful”. To challenge the students (eventually I did this for all my classes), I had them divide the paper into four and categorize their observations into the following sections:

Sound Devices:

What do you hear? (rhyme, music, alliteration, volume, rhythm, etc.)

Word Choice:

What is being said? (similes, metaphors, imagery, hyperbole, etc.)

Presentation:

What do you see? (visuals, camera angle, words, font, colors, gestures, etc.)

Organization:

How does it begin and end? (introduce with a title, pausing between stanzas, ends with a challenge as music fades, etc.)

Because of time, we usually end up watching only a few poems the first day. Later on, the other examples are used as part of our warm up on work days (I’ll explain those in my next few posts.) In the meantime, stay tuned!

Here are the resources for my Poetry Project Part 1:

Poetry Project Part 1 – Lesson Plan (Google Slides)

Poetry Project Part 1- Introduction Letter (PPT handout)

Next up, Poetry Project Part 2: Choosing a Topic

Poetry Project Part 1

This includes an introduction letter, a paper chat activity, and example videos to kick start the project.