As I mentioned last week, I'm in the middle of a small poetry unit with my 7th graders. For the past two days, we've been playing around with a poetry format that I'm not sure is even a real format. I called them chain poems, but when I Googled chain poems, it didn't seem like it's the same thing. So maybe I invented a new type of poetry and pretended like it was a real thing. I guess that happens sometimes, right? Or maybe this is definitely a type of poetry that actually exists and I just don't know what it's called. Whatever. It's fun and we had a blast.
First, I labeled 1-8 going down on the board. Didn't tell the kids what we were doing, and asked a volunteer for a word. Any word. Just had to be something common that everyone knew. Then another word from another kid, and so on until we had a full list of eight. The rules for this type of poem: write an 8-line poem, using the word in the correct line, and have a clear focus (not just random listing to try to squeeze the words in). Then we share, to see how completely different our poems can be, using the same words.
As you can imagine, the 7th grade words lists were interesting:
Period 2 played it pretty safe. They knew their key to success was picking a few simple words that wouldn't be too difficult to wrangle into a poem.
Period 6 wanted none of that easy nonsense:
I mean, those guys even wanted to dictate the context of "orange" as a color and not a fruit. When the girl for number eight said dragon, you could hear the collective head explosion around the room.
Period 4 might have had my favorite combination ever, though:
I mean, isn't "gold teeth truck chicken" just kind of the best image on its own? It doesn't really even need a poem.
Here's a student poem written by a girl in fourth period. The underlined words were the list they were working on for that round:
A dish of pineapple lay on a table
By the bed.
A tank of fish bubbled softly.
This man had money
With his fancy bowties,
With information galore,
and his thick, round glasses.
We did these poems as kind of a speed game, too. The first person to finish with something that made sense and stayed focused while using all words won a "prize" from my mysterious prop cupboard (have I ever mentioned that I have a borderline hoarding problem?). Prizes yesterday included a snowman stuffed animal, a miniature clay flowerpot, a Rapunzel hand puppet, and a faux fur arm cuff. The winners were all delighted, let me tell you.
For the next few days, we're moving on to something a little more serious. I like to expose my students to as many literature analysis opportunities as possible, even though they're young and this is just scratching the surface most of the time. We'll work on annotating a poem and how to use questioning to create meaning on a complex text (more on that in a few days).
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.