Lesson Plans and Poetry Slams

The Problems with Poems 

Kids too often shy away from poetry with groans of annoyance over tired lesson plans that stress syllable count, rhyme schemes, and in-depth analyses above all else.  So yesterday I sought to reawaken the inherent language ability children possess and sometimes feel too stuck to let out.  Bringing children to play with language is far from reinventing the wheel, but we all need a little help, and my best resource in energizing our TTP kids to actually enjoy writing and reading all things poetic was a book by the name of Open the Door: How to Excite Young People About Poetry.  A series of essays about how teachers and poets across the country sparked students’ interest in poetry with engaging, relatable exercises, made my job as the creative writing specialist here at TT Patton far less daunting.  If you’re interesting in writing with the kids in your life, consider picking up a copy of the book here.

We hit the streets of Barrington to practice translating sensory details into our poems!

Yesterday, pulling lots of short, fresh prompts and exercises from my trusty book, the campers and I wrote verses on paint chips, blacked out news columns into a pleasing combination of lines, and took a stroll around Barrington, stopping at every corner to write for exactly 60 seconds.  The results floored me.  We closed Day 3 of camp with a mini slam-poetry session in which students were encouraged to choose a favorite piece and present it for the others, who would generously provide snaps of encouragement when a line of poetry hit home for them.

Hard at work--only 60 seconds per line!
Hard at work–only 60 seconds per line!

My students vastly exceeded my expectations, and I’m certain your young writer(s) will too with the right combination of creative activities.  If you’re stumped for how to get started, take a look here for instructions on writing blackout poems with old books, magazines, or newspapers. Or, follow the directions below on our paint chip poem activity from camp:

1. Head to your local home improvement store and pick a variety of paint chips (the ones with four blocks of color, rather than three, work best).

2. Begin by asking your writers, “What color are you feeling today?”

3. Ask them what feeling best embodies the color they have chosen.

4. Encourage writers to begin their poem in block one with that emotion word.  They may continue to begin each block (or stanza) with the same word, or may simply use the word as a jumping-off point.

Yesterday’s poetry walk yielded fantastic poems like this one, by one of our 5th-grade students:

“The Forgotten Store

They rush around, the big buzz in the air, pushing strollers, ignoring the forgotten store

They run in the more popular store with the higher prices, ignoring the forgotten store  

They walk ahead, not smelling the roses, frowning at the waving cashier, ignoring the forgotten store

They take their iPhone out, texting galore, ignoring the forgotten store

They buy expensive coffee, ignoring the better deal, picking popularity, ignoring the forgotten store

They go into the new store, ignoring stuff from their golden past, ignoring the forgotten store

They smell the noxious air, that should be replaced by the merry smell of home, ignoring the forgotten store

They never shop their own closet, only shop the stores, ignoring prices.

Ignoring the forgotten store”  -Olivia

Get out, get writing, and come join us for our summer programs here at TT Patton.

Stay tuned for more updates on our 2015 camp happenings,



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