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Cool Collecting Strategies for Powerful Poetry by Emily Strang-Campbell

Cool Collecting Strategies for Powerful Poetry

Each April, poetry seems to explode in the air! Maybe it’s the blooming flowers, the sun shining through the rain, or the pollen putting allergies on high alert, but kids seem primed to read and write poems with energy, volume, and meaning. Below are some collecting strategies that can tap into kids writing passions, and build on the momentum of their poetic voices.

Turning Past Entries Into Poetry:

Kids don’t have to start their poems on a blank page. Many ideas are already living in past entries inside of their writing notebooks. Kids have been collecting entries for narratives, essays, news reports, and even informational books all year. Asking kids to mine through past entries for pieces that hold special significance, can be like asking them to go on a treasure hunt down memory lane. Even the act of rereading pieces from the beginning of the year can bring joy, laughter, and new insights to kids as they flag and highlight specific entries.

Simply ask students to zoom into an entry that feels extra special. Oftentimes, it’s usually a narrative, but any genre can work. Then, they can turn their entry into a poem by adding line breaks, or repeated lines, and even breaking up certain sections into stanzas. Kids are often delighted to see how a favorite piece of writing can easily be shaped into a poem by adding a few poetic devices.

Poetry Found In Pictures:

We’ve all heard the saying: pictures are worth a thousand words. This wise advice definitely applies to poetry. A great way to ignite generating ideas for poetry is to go on a picture gallery walk. These can be a combination of images (pictures, photographs, paintings, portraits, murals, etc.). You can literally turn your classroom into a gallery by gathering several powerful images and sticking each one on a piece of chart paper, that you display across your space. Kids then go and brainstorm around each image on the chart paper. They might jot words or connections that spring to mind from the image. Many kids write emotions, feelings, and even make comparisons by jotting metaphors and similes next to the picture. The sky’s the limit as they brainstorm ideas inspired by these images. Some students might benefit from prompts like:

*Words that come to mind are…

*This picture makes me feel…

*Connections I can make…

*This image is like…

Then, the teacher might ask the kids to return to an image that really made an impact on them and study it a bit longer. The teacher then might ask, if the students notice a story in the image, or other words, phrases, or comparisons. While the image and ideas are still fresh in their minds, the teacher can encourage kids to write long in their notebooks off of the image, pushing kids to write a poem about the picture. Many kids might actually use the words, phrases, emotions, and comparisons the other students brainstormed during the gallery walk. This is often just the inspirational springboard kids need to start writing a poem.

Big Topics Lead To Big Emotions, Ideas and Comparisons

Poets notice when big topics make them feel big emotions. They can list those emotions and ideas, make comparisons, and turn their words into a poem. Some questions they might ask themselves include:

What big emotions do I feel?

Can I compare those emotions to other things?

The collecting chart below was really helpful for both me and many of my students:

The steps we took:

*Kids started collecting topics that meant something to them.

*After listing the topics, they list as many emotions as they could.

*Then, they took it to the next level by making comparisons to their feelings. By doing this, they automatically created either a simile or metaphor. Some kids mentioned that they already felt like real poets as they were collecting, and they hadn’t even written the poem yet!

After collecting on their chart, kids were ready to start to shape their topics, emotions, and comparisons into poems by following the steps below.

Today you will:

1. Use your chart as a springboard to write a poem.

2. Remember, the similes and other comparisons you made can be carried over - these devices make your writing sound beautiful and poetic!

3. Think about line breaks, precise images, words, and punctuation to help communicate your ideas.

4. Try to draft 3-4 poems today!

See how I used my collecting chart as a launching pad into writing my poem.

Use the energy and beauty that the month of April gives us, as leverage to inspire poetry writing in your classroom. Poetry writing is an amazing way to get kids to write with meaning, voice, and power. Happy writing!

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