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Find more Classroom Connections
The short, focused writing of personal narrative poetry makes it ideal for teaching the trait of word choice. Ask students to create a list of words about something they did at school or with their friends. The next step in writing a poem is to stretch those words into short phrases to describe what happened.
Younger students often feel their poems must rhyme, but that can make writing more difficult. Ask them to focus on describing the event they are remembering first, and then look for words that rhyme.
The four-line stanza, called a quatrain, often has words that rhyme with each other at the end of the second and fourth lines. This means that students only have to find two words that rhyme. They will have to rewrite quite a bit to make this work, but that is the goal of this mini-lesson, making word choices.
A four-line stanza can be created and edited in a single class period. Keep a copy of these six poetry books for young readers or the six poetry books for teens in your writing center for reference. If you have a class blog, students can post their edited poems on Poetry Friday, when bloggers everywhere post their poems online.
The School Day
Write about the school day with Almost Late to School by Carol Diggory Shields. Go on a field trip with Mrs. Brown on Exhibit by Susan Katz.
For New Readers
Explore a variety of school topics in Hamsters, Shells, and Spelling Bees, edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Look at the lighter side in The Bug in Teacher’s Coffee and Other School Poems by Kalli Dakos.
Two for Her
Swimming Upstream by Kristine O’Connell George captures a girl’s up-and-down year in middle school. Words and design retell a 15-year-old girl’s life in Blue Lipstick by John Grandits.
Two for Him
A boy learns to cope when his father leaves in The Way a Door Closes by Hope Anita Smith. For older teens, a raw and bittersweet collection of poems about urban life can be found in Tough Boy Sonatas by Curtis L. Crisler.
Behind the Wheel by Janet S. Wong covers a major life passage—learning to drive, something teens love to talk about. Talking and not talking can be found in More than Friends by Sara Holbrook and Allan Wolf.
For poetry written by children themselves, use Come and Play, edited by Ayana Lowe, and Jump, edited by Valerie Chow Bush.
Almost Late to School: And More School Poems. By Carol Diggory Shields. Illus. by Paul Meisel. 2003. 48p. Puffin, paper, $6.99 (9780142403280) Gr. 1–3.
The Bug in Teacher’s Coffee and Other School Poems. By Kalli Dakos. Illus. by Mike Reed. 1999. 48p. HarperTrophy, paper $3.99 (9780064443050). K–Gr. 2.
Come and Play: Children of Our World Having Fun. Edited by Ayana Lowe. 2008. 64p. illus. Bloomsbury, $16.95 (9781599902456). K–Gr. 3.
Hamsters, Shells, and Spelling Bees: School Poems. Edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins. Illus. by Sachiko Yoshikawa. 2008. 48p. HarperCollins. $16.99 (9780060741129); lib. ed., $17.89 (9780060741136). Preschool–Gr. 3.
Jump: Poetry and Prose by WritersCorps Youth. Edited by Valerie Chow Bush. Illus. by Ed Kashi. 2001. 192p. WritersCorps, paper, $12.95 (9781888048063). Gr. 3–up.
Mrs. Brown on Exhibit: And Other Museum Poems. By Susan Katz. Illus. by R. W. Alley. 2002. 40p. Simon & Schuster, $16.95 (9780689829703). Gr. 2–4.
Behind the Wheel: Poems about Driving. By Janet S. Wong. 1999. 48p. Simon & Schuster/Margaret K. McElderry, $16.99 (9780689825316). Gr. 7–up.
Blue Lipstick: Concrete Poems. By John Grandits. 2007. 48p. Clarion, $15 (9780618568604); paper, $5.95 (9780618851324) Gr. 6–up.
More than Friends: Poems from Him and Her. By Sara Holbrook and Allan Wolf. 2008. 64p. Boyds Mills/Wordsong, $16.95 (9781590785874). Gr. 6–9.
Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems. By Kristine O’Connell George. Illus. by Debbie Tilley. 2002. 80p. Clarion, $14 (9780618152506). Gr. 5–8.
Tough Boy Sonatas. By Curtis L. Crisler. Illus. by Floyd Cooper. 2007. 88p. Boyds Mills/Wordsong, $19.95 (9781932425772). Gr. 7–up.
The Way a Door Closes. By Hope Anita Smith. Illus. by Shane W. Evans. 2003. 64p. Holt, $19.95 (9780805064773). Gr. 5–8.
Anastasia Suen is a former K–1 teacher who has written dozens of children’s books and is the author of the Picture Book of the Day blog, devoted to the Six Traits of Writing.
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