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Powerful Poetry Units Made Simple!

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Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about poetry- personally. I think I like it and I can appreciate how OTHER people appreciate it…but in all honestly? I’m not a huge fan. For the longest time, that also meant that I was AWFUL at teaching students how to write poetry. Turns out… I was just doing the absolute most. It didn’t need to be that difficult. Let me share what we do!

Getting Families and Caregivers on Board

I start by telling parents that their students will create a collection of poems that can be organized to build an anthology. Students will be taught how to create shape poems, freeform, and acrostic poems. They will be given strategies for getting inspiration for poems during this unit. Students will use imagery, tone, sensory, and descriptive words. Expect (and encourage) students to create lots of poems because they will be asked to organize and categorize them into an anthology at the end of the unit. Parents tend to think this is very fancy and exciting and I mean… it kind of is. I send home this half sheet that is a part of all of my writing units that looks like this:

Guess the Genre

I love to open my units with an inquiry exercise. Students will be asked to look at some writing samples and talk about what they notice. This is the first lesson in a poetry unit- but I don’t immediately tell this to the students. I want them to develop a conceptual understanding of poetry over the next few lessons. I like to open this lesson by telling the students that they are going to read some writing pieces and that it is their job to figure out the kind of writing that they will be doing based on what they hear and notice. I read a few examples and ask them to really focus on what is happening in the writing because they will be asked to share so that we can take notes. I each reading, I take a few minutes to record what they notice on the included chart (below). Then, I guide them to notice that it is: a poem. Only then will I state that poems are pieces of writing that bring on lots of pictures and feelings.

I also love to throw in a wildcard writing piece to see if they are really paying attention. So, we will study lots of poems, and then I’ll randomly throw in a narrative or an informational piece. I’ll ask the students to determine if that fits in the style of writing that we are going for. This is really helpful!

This narrative piece will throw students off. They’ll be able to say why it doesn’t fit the new style.

Assessment

I have big feelings about assessing in writing workshop, but in short- I assess daily alongside overarching unit goals. I use “Check for understanding” sheets as those will allow students to practice the teaching point or reinforce the learning of that specific lesson. This can be done together or assigned- but they are used to give me a pulse on who was able to grasp the concept of the lesson.

Vocabulary

It’s so important to make sure that we teach students some academic vocabulary that authors use. I love to teach explicit vocabulary in my writing units so that I can refer back to those words over and over and they’ll know exactly what I mean. Don’t overcomplicate it! Just show them the word, add some picture support, and a sentence that will provide context. (If you’d like a free set of my author-vocabulary cards, you can find those here).

Some of My Favorite Teaching Points

After the foundation is laid, and vocabulary is introduced, it’s time to expose and teach! I’m going to include some of my favorite teaching points from this unit. These slides come from my poetry unit which includes 20 lessons, quick checks, and tons of other bonus items.

I hope you feel inspired to knock out an awesome poetry unit! If you need it planned for you, click below to grab it!! Grab it on TpT here.

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LaNesha Tabb

LaNesha Tabb

Wife, Mama of 2, and apron wearing primary educator from Indianapolis.

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