Today I launched our poetry unit in my first grade classroom. Using an idea from the Two Writing Teachers, I decided to have my students write a poem prior to teaching the unit to determine what my students already knew about poetry. I read Zoe Ryder White's poem, The Pencil Sharpener, and we talked about looking at ordinary objects with poets' eyes. I also had my students close their eyes while they listened to me sharpen a pencil in our electric pencil sharpener. Immediately, I heard words like bees, point, stinger, sharpen, and buzzing. Excitement filled the room as the light bulbs began to turn on in their heads. It was truly an "aha moment". My first graders are beginning to understand what it means to look at ordinary things with poets' eyes.
I created new poetry folders for the unit. Inside the folder I placed ten sheets of paper with a box at the top for a picture and lines below. I asked my students to try their hands at writing a poem. It could be a poem about anything at all. "Can I write a poem about a poem?" asked Emily. "You sure can!" I responded with a bit too much enthusiasm. "Can I write a poem about a clock?" Aidan asked. "Yes." I responded. "You can write a poem about anything at all." Everyone was sent off to write. I started the music for Quiet Ten. (Ten minutes of absolute quiet writing time by everyone, including me.) Today however, it was more like Quiet 20. I wanted to give my poets enough time to illustrate and write a poem.
Everyone wrote a poem, including me. There was another pencil sharpener poem written. Several kids wrote poems about clocks. I was surprised and amazed at what my new little poets were able to do. Below is the poem I wrote during Quiet 20, and another poem written by one of my first graders.
(My district uses Units of Study for Primary Writing: A Yearlong Curriculum, Poetry: Powerful Thoughts in Tiny Packages by Lucy Calkins as a resource for teaching writing.)
First Grade Poets
by Valerie Ruckes
Pencils at the ready
eagerly preparing to write
a poem, a thought, a memory.
Heads bent in concentration
eyes focused on the paper
some looking up and into thought
imagining the possibilities
They dance awake
like a game.
Fireworks, Fireworks, Fireworks
Oh how beautiful
I love Fireworks