Training: Poetry Lesson Plans Galore

Over the last few years, I’ve developed a number of poetry lesson plans and delivered them to schools all over the Chicago area. Here they are, for sharing and safe-keeping.

FOUND POEMS
Objective: Students will be introduced to the idea of found poetry– poetry that they find, isolate, and elevate.

–We start by talking about the idea of art in everyday lives– how easy it is, if you are looking, to find instances of art in the world
–Bridges, newspaper articles, a beautiful sign
–Then we talk about ideas of ownership– how the act of isolating and elevating a piece of art can be the act of ownership
–Then we use pieces of text from the classroom– journals, textbooks, posters, whatever– to create a new Found Poem on the board
–A somewhat manic and random exercise
–We write the poem on the board as we go along

Poetry Lesson Plan: Found Poetry

As usual, we copyright the poem at the end and talk about the fact that we made a new piece of art from stuff that already existed.

JOURNALING
Objective: Students will learn some concrete journaling skill and habits. We talk about the value of journaling over time, and introduce the idea that a piece of art may start off its life as a journal entry.

–We start by talking about the idea of art in everyday lives– how easy it is, if you are looking, to find instances of art in the world
–Bridges, newspaper articles, a beautiful sign
–Then we talk about ideas of ownership– how the act of isolating and elevating a piece of art can be the act of ownership
–Then we use pieces of text from the classroom– journals, textbooks, posters, whatever– to create a new Found Poem on the board
–A somewhat manic and random exercise
–We write the poem on the board as we go along

As usual, we copyright the poem at the end and talk about the fact that we made a new piece of art from stuff that already existed

CONCRETE POEMS
Objective: Students will be learn the principles of concrete poems; poems that form a picture of the topic or follows the contours of a shape that is suggested by the topic of the poem. Kids will be create a concrete poem at the end of the session.

–We start by explaining the concept of concrete poetry and provide some examples
— Talk about how letters can be more than just parts of language, but can have a language of itself
–Talk about modern typography and how different typefaces can transmit different feelings, meanings, etc.
–Then we talk about what they’d like to write a poems about
–Then get down to the business of the poems

CUT-UP POEMS
Objective: Students will understand that expressive, presonal poems can be made from existing materials and will create new poems

–We start by talking about recycling in our daily lives– blue bags, aluminum cans, etc.
–And talk about people who create new art from recycled materials– Mr. Imagination, for example
–And the idea that an artist can create highly personal statements from other stuff
–Then we pull out magazines, old books, and other materials that we’ve collected in preparation for the class
–Then the kids create poems new poems from all the stuff

POETRY OUT LOUD
Objective: Students will learn about the foundations of poetry read out loud in front of audience. At this level, the focus is on just “getting it out” and encouraging students to get up in front of the class.

–We start by making sure that the kids know they will not be forced to read in front of the class– remove fear and encourage joy
–The kids come up with a poem– they may already have one, or they write it on the spot
–Again, the focus is not really on the text/ meaning of the poems, as long as they have something to share
–I start off by reading one of my poems. Make it a dramatic one that makes them laugh and has lots of rising/ descending, voices, and so on
–Discuss the different elements of the poem that made it good to read out loud
–Kids are called up in order to read their poems. This makes certain that the more outgoing kids don’t dominate the session and everyone gets a turn in due course
Kids who don’t want to read their poem don’t have to. I will read them out loud for them, and point out the good parts as I go along.

Poetry Lesson Plan: Poetry Out Loud

THE BOOK OF YOU
Objective: Students will be learn some concrete journaling skill and habits. We talk about the value of journaling over time, and introduce the idea that a piece of art may start off its life as a journal entry.

–We start by talking about material– what things are made of. Paintings are made of paint and canvas, donuts are made of jelly and dough, and so on
–We read some poems from a book and talk about the paper, the binding, and the ink– the stuff it is made of
–Then we talk about the real thing that poems are made of– words.
–We show them a brown paper bag containing strips of words cut from magazines, newspapers, and discarded books
–We dump out the strips unceremoniously on a table and ask each child to pick out a strip in succession
–We write the poem on the board as we go along
As usual, we copyright the poem at the end and talk about the fact that we made a new piece of art from stuff that already existed

THE ANSWER TO THE QUESTION, “WHAT HAPPENED”?
Objective: Students will learn the universal importance of perspective and history and also have a greater understanding of defining their own histories.

–We start by talking about how many different professions and endeavors focus on the question, “what happened?”– lawyers, journalists, clerks of court, etc.
–Then we talk about their own answers– to the question– do they write in journals?
–Show them a box containing dozens of my own journals– sheer weight
–Then talk about the importance of honesty with yourself while writing in a journal– don’t fool a fool
–And move on to writing a poem expressing their version of “what happened” in something in their life
The kids are encouraged to read their poems out loud