Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Poetry: A Common Core Dilemma

Believe it or not, teaching kids to love to write poetry is easy. It's a matter of finding the right poetry books to share and providing time to write about things that matter. It always amazes me how students who seem to struggle in other areas are able to write the most beautiful and expressive poetry. There’s something about the way poets can break all the rules and write from the heart that appeals to kids. I experienced this myself, and I often observed it in my students.

My own love for poetry began in childhood as I shared special moments reading and writing poetry with my best friend, Aleka. Later, as a teen, I found poetry to be a lifesaver when my family moved from New Hampshire to North Carolina. I love living in the South now, but it was definitely culture shock at the time! Writing poetry enabled me to capture my feelings on paper and to cope with the changes in my life.

As a result, I’ve always found time to share poetry with my students; teaching kids to express themselves through poetry is a gift I enjoy giving them. My favorite book for introducing poetry is Poetry Matters by Ralph Fletcher. It's written in simple language and includes poems about real life experiences. The poems are short, and they touch kids deeply with their simplicity.

Inspired by Kristine O'Connell George
One of the chapters in Poetry Matters is an interview with children's author and poet, Kristine O'Connell George. I loved this chapter, so I went straight to our school library and was delighted to learn that we had several of her books on our shelves. I wasn't disappointed in her work; books like The Great Frog Race: And Other Poems and Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems were perfect for teaching students how simple poems can express everyday experiences through imagery and precise language.

About a month ago, Kristine and I connected online and I invited her to write a guest blog post here on Corkboard Connections. Kristine sent me a copy of one her newest poetry books, Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems, and I fell in love with it! It’s a delightful collection of poems about the dilemma of being a big sister. In fact, the book is perfect for inspiring students to love reading and writing poetry, so I set out to create a short teaching guide to go with it.

Poetry: A Common Core Dilemma
When I began to think of ways to use the book in the classroom, I turned to the Common Core State Standards. Lately I’ve been trying to align my resources to the CCSS, so I went online to do a little research about how poetry fits in with the standards.

Guess what I discovered? If you've studied the standards, you'll know what! While there are a few mentions of poetry in the reading standards, there's absolutely no mention of poetry in the writing standards! Even the reading standards were disappointing because they focused on poetry as a genre and there was nothing about appreciating poetry or making connections to one's own life. The writing standards were even worse. Everything was either about narrative writing or expository writing, but there was nothing about poetry.

At first I was baffled, but then I remembered that the Common Core State Standards were designed for college and career readiness; nowhere do they include life skills like personal goal setting, coping with emotions, or learning to appreciate the beauty of the written word.

With this realization came the awareness that poetry truly is a Common Core dilemma! Students need so much more than college and career skills to be successful in life, yet with the focus on the CCSS now, it’s easy to feel there’s no time for anything else. I'm not suggesting that we put aside the Common Core State Standards, but if we don’t find time to teach life skills, who will?

Free Emma Dilemma Teaching Guide
With this in mind, I took another look at Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems. I thought, "Why ruin a perfectly good poetry book by dissecting it and creating a CCSS-aligned lesson?" Instead, I decided to create a lesson based on reading it aloud for enjoyment and using it as a springboard for personal writing and reflection.

Download the free What a Dilemma! teaching guide to engage your students in some simple activities to explore the idea that we all face dilemmas in our relationships with others. Grab it now from my Poetry Page on Teaching Resources so you can refer to it as I explain the lesson.

Share the poem "Snooping," which is included in the freebie, and discuss Jessica's dilemma in using Emma to retrieve a mysterious box high on a shelf. Then have your students write their own “dilemma” poems in the same format as “Snooping.” In the packet, I've also included a set of discussion questions you can use for small group or whole class discussions about the book. The "talking sticks" strategy works well to promote active engagement by all students in the discussion group.

The lesson might not be Common Core aligned, but it will probably leave a lasting impression on your students and By using Emma Dilemma as the focus of discussion and personal writing activities, you'll enable your students to connect with the story and come to a deeper understanding of themselves.

If you are interested in more poetry lessons and activities, visit the Poetry Page on Teaching Resources. I have loads of free poetry lessons, links to great poetry websites, and two poetry ebooks that will make it easy to foster a love of poetry in your classroom.

As April wraps up, let's remember that poetry is too wonderful to limit to one month of the year. If you find just the right poems to inspire your students, they will enjoy reading and writing poetry all year long. Emma Dilemma is just one of the many poetry books written by Kristine O'Connell George that will inspire your students; visit her website to find this book and many more!




57 comments:

  1. I hope more users will get the information that i receive from you..

    ReplyDelete
  2. This was a great back to school (in Australia) activity for my class today, thank you so much! We are going to be delving a bit further into it tomorrow and the next day, wow! Thanks so much for sharing this.
    Tania
    Mrs Poultney's Ponderings

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for commenting! It's fun to hear that you are going back to school when students in the US will be ending the school year soon!

      Delete
  3. Remember that poetry can be used for complex text, strategy work, and writing craft lessons. CCSS cannot be achieved, in my opinion, if we leave out the joy of reading and writing; in order to get students to become readers w must first touch their hearts

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow, Laura! What a wonderful finish to National Poetry Month. Thank you!

    To further celebrate, I would like offer an autographed copy of Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems to your readers--along with a sassy Emma-Dilemma feather boa.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, Kristine! That's wonderful! Thank you so much! I'll set up a giveaway and add it to the blog post so people can find out how to enter.

      Delete
  5. I am so excited after reading this entry that I am planning to have a weekly poetry lesson in my fifth grade classroom next year. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love the Little Dog Poem books. Can't wait to check this title out.

    ReplyDelete
  7. One of my principals (I serve 6 different staffs), has three children, with the youngest a girl named Emma. I gave her this book as a gift, and she says her kids just love it! They say it certainly seems like Kristine O'Connell George must have known their Emma, because it sounds just like her!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I enjoy poems about real life so I cannot wait to check out Emma!
    Toni Nicholson

    ReplyDelete
  9. I enjoy poetry because it is a fun way to write!

    ReplyDelete
  10. This is a great lesson. I can't wait to use it! I also love the book "Love That Dog" by Sharon Creech for teaching poetry.

    ReplyDelete
  11. My students love poetry! Watching them giggle and enjoying literature is an ah ha moment for me. I love it when they tell me they can't think of anything to write, but when encouraged to write a poem they can quickly come up with an idea. We enjoy it so much we do poetry all year long!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Your post was exactly what I needed to hear. Instilling a love of reading and writing it so important and definitely a worthwhile reason to continue to include poetry in my lessons. I saw a teacher that uses poetry for all of her transitions and thought it was a clever way to introduce more poetry into a busy day( and make the classroom more joyful).

    ReplyDelete
  13. My students love poetry. Any form of it! I love that you are reminding everybody that Common Core should not disuade us from exposing students to the joy of reading and writing poetry.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I love reading poetry to my students. They all make connections to every poem. Reading and discussing a poem is a great lesson in inferencing and word choice. My students understand that every word counts, and this allows them to make better word choices in all their writing.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I love using poetry to expose my students to rich vocabulary. We often also do shared, expressive re-reads to help work on oral fluency. It is fun, light, and my students look forward to it. I try to do a poem a day, although I have never yet managed more than about half the days in a school year. I will be going looking for the Toasting Marshmallows book to read around the campfire - we are going camping for our end of year trip in June!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Toasting Marshmallows would be a great book to read on a camping trip. Have fun!

      Delete
  16. I am thinking of using this during standardized testing week as a way to allow students to take a break from testing formats and let their creativity come to the forefront. I know they will love these lessons. Thank you for bringing my attention to anothr great author!

    ReplyDelete
  17. I absolutely LOVE teaching my students poetry! We work on it all year long, and it's often integrated into my reading and writing lessons. We hold monthly poetry cafes where the parents come to watch their children read their original poems. We held our last poetry cafe last week, and after a little girl approached me to thank me. When I asked her why she was thanking me, she told me it was for letting them do the poetry cafes all year and because she loved them and poetry. My response..."Mission accomplished!"

    ReplyDelete
  18. We just discovered the missing Poetry link in the Common Core as well. We couldn't believe it. My students just finished free verse poems for their mothers as a present for Mother's Day. The boys blew me away with their loving poems. Poetry is such a fabulous way for kids to articulate their feelings, especially if they can't do it verbally. I will continue to teach poetry regardless of what the Common Core states. Sometimes as teachers we just have to use our Common Sense.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love your comment about using Common Sense! We do have to use Common Sense with the Common Core!

      Delete
  19. I love teaching poetry! Even my most challenging students find poems that they can enjoy!!

    ReplyDelete
  20. I am thinking of ending the year with a poetry unit for my 2nd/3rd graders. Right now I don't know where to start. I've taught acrostic, cinquain, and a few other "step-by-step" types, but am a little unsure about unleashing a free-wheeling poem! I think my 2nd graders will sit there and just stare at me! Any suggestions? I've exhausted Pinterest already.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't have experience with 2nd grade so I can't help you, but I'm hoping someone else with experience can answer your question. I will be checking to see if anyone has any ideas.

      Delete
  21. Teaching poetry is one of the highlights of my year, no matter what grade level. I have incorporated a lot of poetry throughout the year, including the composing of original poems. I cannot imagine not teaching it and we just need to be creative when using it to address common core standards - my reluctant writers are fluent poets, how could I not tap into that student's need?;-) Thanks for all that you do to keep us current and creative!

    ReplyDelete
  22. I too am dismayed at the lack of writing standards in poetry. It seems like even at the elementary level we are leaning much more towards expository writing. However, books like Emma's Dilemma could be used as inspiration for personal essay. The poem, Snooping, could be a great introduction to writing a thesis. In addition, poems are the perfect way to teach some of the literary elements that are still part of the standards, such as simile or metaphor. I know I am preaching to the choir when I say we are teaching children, not standards, so like you I will use whatever genres of books work best for my student's learning.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Always looking for a new book to introduce to my students and this would be perfect! Sounds like this would be a great read aloud and a great discussion starter on a variety of topics.
    Thanks for all your great tips and ideas you have shared.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I am eager to implement this book into my poetry unit! Thank you :)

    ReplyDelete
  25. Thank you so much for encouraging us to read and enjoy poetry with our students. The standards are important, but need to have life breathed into them. I thoroughly enjoyed the guest blog by Kristine O'Connell George a couple of weeks ago and shared it with my co-teacher. We realized that although we had taught them so much this year, we hadn't just read favorite poems to savor them. This is definitely in our plans for next year.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I am also disappointed that poetry is left out of the CCSS. I appreciate your point that we have to teach some things that aren't in the standards in order to truly prepare our students for life. I like the idea mentioned above that poetry is a great way to introduce rich vocabulary, and this book will add to my mentor texts as I do that!

    ReplyDelete
  27. Hi Laura
    We are starting a writing unit on Sisters this coming week and I was planning to teach how to write a recipe card on how to prepare the perfect Sister (or brother)which would include appropriate ingredients and a method (crosses creative and informational writing skills). So this would be a perfect mentor text to accompany the lesson as it delves into sibling relationships. Looking forward to winning a copy.

    ReplyDelete
  28. As a teacher, believe or not, I had a fear of teaching poetry to my students. However, after teaching my students how to write "I Am" poems, I realized they were itching to share their feelings using poetry. I can't wait to share this book and the writing activities with them!

    ReplyDelete
  29. Songs are just poetry on a melody, truly. And when a kid thinks up a lovely rhyme? It's like a present on their soul. Their heart smiles in delight. If I ask boys what they think and girls how they feel they are eager to rhyme all that. Add a little melody and they feel so empowered! Look what I did! Young kids will pull melodies out of the air effortlessly. They're too young to think that kind of thing is very complicated and box themselves in with any limitations like "I'm not a musician" the way adults often do. When kids don't share their feelings and thoughts they eventually explode. Explosive kids become bullies and certainly don't do as well at math. Poetry rocks. Teachers have the right to use common sense and their own creativity. Life skills is our common core as we all meet up at the heart :-)

    ReplyDelete
  30. Love, love, love this book! Discovered it last week and plan to use it in a mini lesson --- works well for RL.4.6! Students will love the simple tales of sisterly love, especially through rhythm and rhyme!

    ReplyDelete
  31. Honestly teaching poetry is one of my leat favorite things to do. I am excited to see your lesson and this book! I think that if I can find ways to make teaching poetry fun then my students and I would both enjoy it much more! Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  32. I first read this post last week. I immediately downloaded "Poetry: A COmmon Core Dilemma" (than you SO much!!!), and then went online to Barnes and Noble to reserve a copy of "Emma Dilemma" at my Barnes and Noble location. Unfortunately, they are out of stock! So this giveaway comes at a perfect time for me! :-) Thank you, Laura, and thank you, Kristine!!!

    I have found that poetry works wonders for my students who are very, VERY reluctant writers. Poetry takes away a lot of the pressure, demands, and expectations that come along with writing essays or paragraphs. I have been working with my students on one of the easiest poems to write -- the list poem! We have written list poems on the topics of: "What Bugs Me," "Things I Love," and "Things I Notice When I'm Outside." It has been great because my reluctant writers can start simply and just list things with very little detail -- for example, "trees." And then later, I can confer with them and work on crafting more detailed lines, such as, "Trees with their branches bending with the wind." I love poetry!!!

    ReplyDelete
  33. Thank you for sharing this lesson with me. I have many children in my class who have and are younger siblings and this will definitely spark some wonderful writing!

    ReplyDelete
  34. I love poetry and would never give up teaching it or reading it to my studnets

    ReplyDelete
  35. I can't wait to use these lessons and share the book with my students! I know they'll love it!

    ReplyDelete
  36. I used Love That Dog and Hate That Cat to really develop a strong understanding of figurative language and all the different forms of poetry for my 4th graders. The results were amazing!! Even my boys have really gotten into poetry and my students understand what figurative language is!

    ReplyDelete
  37. I love your site!! Thanks for the ideas for poetry. Will be ordering these books for next year.

    ReplyDelete
  38. I feel that poetry is the easiest way for young students to express themselves. They don't have to have perfect grammar and complete sentences. I teach poetry all year long. Thanks for your wonderful lesson ideas...I truly use them in my classroom and they make a difference! :)

    ReplyDelete
  39. Susie

    Thank you Laura for your perspective on the CCSS and poetry! I had not compared this particular area yet. Definitely food for yet more thought! Please know how much your lessons are appreciated out here on the front lines!

    ReplyDelete
  40. DianeC
    I love ending the year with lots of poetry fun. Students have a chance to hear lots of different kinds of poems, read all types and write LOTS of their own. They are so creative and come up with such unique and original ideas. Last year we also had a poetry cafe where parents got to come and enjoy a tea/coffee as well as some amazing poetry.
    Thanks for sharing all of your wonderful ideas. My students love them!

    ReplyDelete
  41. Thank you for the awesome lesson ideas. I can't wait to add this book to my library.

    ReplyDelete
  42. My kids do love poetry (mostly). I love the ideas you shared and can't wait to go to TpT site to find more.

    ReplyDelete
  43. I LOVE watching my students write poetry. It opens a whole new door to expression. Many get to share their thoughts and emotions through words. I remind them that poetry is like the lyrics of the songs they listen to. It helps to spark their interest. This week the kids are "wowing" me with their sensory poems.

    Jaime Tan

    ReplyDelete
  44. I love teaching poetry. I have a poetry unit every year and I love the zany and wacky poems my students create.

    ReplyDelete
  45. I LOVE teaching poetry and helping student find the joy in writing their own play on words. The students have made a collection of silly, fun, loving, heart wrenching, and creative poems all year. I teach 3rd Grade and love every minute! I'm soooo thankful God blessed me with the gift of teaching. Thank you for offering the giveaway too!!!

    ReplyDelete
  46. I was never much into poetry until I had a fantastic teacher in high school that introduced us to a whole new world of poetry. I truly enjoy doing the same with my own students!

    ReplyDelete
  47. I love teaching poetry no matter what grade level I have! Thank you for all of your wonderful ideas.

    ReplyDelete
  48. I liked poetry but since I discovered some titles and authors I like it much more... I love Bruce Lansky and his funny stories and thank you Laura to show me another great book to teach with and through...!!!

    ReplyDelete
  49. I am always looking for an interesting, new mentor text to use when introducing new units. This book is awesome. Thank you for the great find and all the amazing activities.

    ReplyDelete
  50. I realized the poetry dilemma after writing haikus with my fifth graders. I read Haiku Hike and then we take one. When I went to write the standard, I couldn't find one even in writing. I used a literary standard about syllables I think. Thank you for the download,I intend to use it.

    ReplyDelete