April is Poetry Month throughout the nation and what an exciting and creative way to have your students write about the subject you teach! Their writing will help you “see” them more personally, too.
Depending on the grade you teach, you may have students write a traditional poem with rhyme and rhythm, one of the more contemporary styles of blank verse, or pattern a poem based on a poem you show them about your subject.
My students of all ages and grades enjoyed writing pantoum poems about all kinds of subjects. I’ve posted the formula on the resources page. Try one yourself and offer your students an opportunity to write theirs.
For example, those of you who teach social studies or science may have your students write a poem about a recent topic, incident, or person you’ve recently studied.
Those of you who teach foreign languages may have yours write about a country that speaks the language you teach. If they’re advanced enough, challenge them to write in their “new” language.
What about health and physical education? Again, depending on what you’ve taught recently, you may have students write about nutrition or exercise or the rules of playing a particular game.
Art teachers at both the elementary, middle and high school level probably will get fabulous poems from your students if you show them a painting and ask them to write as though they were a part of the painting.
You think writing poetry may not work in math? Think again. How about having students write a poem about their experience “doing” math! Or about a famous mathematician or scientist.
Each of these options is a wonderful way to “see” what students are thinking about your subject, what they’re feeling about their learning and will provide you with insight into what needs to be taught or re-taught before the school year ends. These poems do not need to be graded on anything other than having completed the assignment. They can serve as a celebration and no-stress assessment.
Of course, asking the students to illustrate or decorate their poems adds another dimension to the assignment. The colors and images they choose tell a lot about what they’re thinking, too. Finally, allow some time in class for students to read their poems aloud to small groups of their peers and invite those who wish to read them aloud to the class or permit you to post them on your class website, on the bulletin board or enter them into a poetry contest offered locally, regionally, or nationally.
NCTE has published a recent book, “Poetry of Place: Helping Students Write Their Worlds isn’t your typical book about teaching poetry. Sure, you’ll find plenty of information on helping students learn the fundamentals of writing poetry. But you’ll also find creative, innovative ways to engage students in poetry—even those students who may be initially resistant to poetry.” http://www1.ncte.org/store/books/130642.htm
I invite you to take a look at the http://www.readwritethink.org/lessons website for other ideas on ways to incorporate language arts into every subject you teach.