Study group discussion: Of Primary Importance – Part III

April 6th, 2009

Lynsey, a third-grade teacher at Riverside Elementary School in Dublin, Ohio, is part of the book study group that is discussing Ann Marie Corgill’s new title, Of Primary Importance. This month, Lynsey shares how Ann Marie’s chapter on teaching poetry showed her new strategies for moving her students from discussing poetry to writing their own poems.

You can read about previous group discussions here and here.

I’ve always had a love hate relationship with teaching poetry. Right before teaching it I get this feeling inside; it kind of feels like the feeling you get just before you work out. So when our group talked about the chapters we were reading next my ears perked up when I saw there was a chapter on teaching poetry.

In the past, I’ve tried many different teaching methods with poetry. I always get stuck when it comes to having the children write their own poetry. I love the part when we read poetry and discuss authors’ crafts and poems that inspire us, but making that leap to having children begin writing their own poetry kills me every time.

I’ve reflected numerous times on where the breakdown happens. The children are all excited and love reading the poems and talking about them, even recording poems in their reading notebook that they can’t live without, but as soon as I say, “Okay boys and girls lets write!” it happens, faces drop and the momentum has left the room.

So, understandably I’ve been searching for a way that children in my classroom can love to read and write poetry. I will be honest and admit that writing poetry for me is not a day in the park. I have never been quite comfortable with my own poetry writing so when I teach it I stick to formulas and that is not working for my students.

Reading Corgill’s chapter on poetry helped me see that formulas are not the way to go and I don’t have to be a poet myself to help engage children in writing poetry. There are many highlights of her chapter that helped me to rethink and restructure how I will teach poetry this year.

I loved how students took time to name and group poems. This is a great way to get children thinking about what they possibly write. She also writes about children making poetry observations and sharing them each day. This is where teachers introduce craft and hopefully students will take elements of these crafts to produce their own poems.

Most importantly, I feel her poetry writing process makes a lot of sense. Her process begins with reading and talking about poetry and moves to organizing and designing. I noticed how she never said, “Boys and girls today we are going to write a haiku.” She writes about organizing your thoughts and designing your poem kind of like when you are building something tangible. The she moves to word choice and voice, hard to teach but a very critical step. Once the children have engaged in this process they have had multiple times to feel good and successful about their writing. There is no pressure to get the formula right and make sure your words rhyme and everything is nice and pretty.

In our group discussion there was a lot of talk about the importance of using good mentor texts. We all liked her booklist and realized that without mentor texts that appeal to children, the excitement of poetry somewhat diminishes. We also spent time sharing great ways to showcase students poetry and collections. It was very helpful to hear how other teachers do this in their classrooms.

For me, I’m hoping that my love hate relationship turns this year to a love, love relationship. I’m excited to try some new things this year and watch my students fall in love with reading and writing poetry.

Entry Filed under: Literacy

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