Found Poetry = Growing Confidence

I’ve seen different ways to do “Found Poetry” but today I decided to use it as part of my “launch” for our Writer’s Notebook and Workshop that we’ll officially begin next week.

I want my students to understand that yes, writing is HARD, but that there are a ton of strategies to use to help them begin writing.

Today we read Maya Angelou’s poem “Human Family”. I chose this poem specifically because of its recent use in an iPhone commercial. I had a feeling some students would recognize it and was happy that some of them did after we read and watched it.

We looked at Angelou’s use of language; my kids pointed out her repetition and that she uses the word “WE” for a reason.

After discussing the poem, I told my students how sometimes writers use the words of other writers to help them figure out what they want to write about. We talked about how sometimes other people’s words, like significant quotes or song lyrics, might encourage us think of something we want to explore in our Writer’s Notebooks.

Then I had them look at the poem again for words that stood out to them or just phrases they liked, and asked them to try to create their own poem using Angelou’s words. I asked them to put a square or circle around their chosen words and then use a marker to mark out the rest. Here is the example I gave them:

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After they picked their words, I then gave them a blank page and told them to write what was left in any way they wanted, because poetry doesn’t have to look a certain way.

Here are a couple of my favorites:

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The student who created the poem below said, “I don’t know if this means anything”, and I told him those five words hold more meaning than we could discuss in a class period:

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And finally, the product from my most reluctant participant, who told me he hates reading AND writing:

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When he handed me his paper he expected me to tell him it was wrong or to do it over; he said “here, I did it” and rolled his eyes. And I read it and looked him right in the eyes and said: “I LOVE THIS; I can’t wait to read this one for the class!” And it’s because I knew they would love it too; his choice of words are HILARIOUS and spunky and while they’re not “right” by Standard English, they definitely make sense.

When the class–which is 7 girls and 17 boys, heard it, laugher erupted. One of my girls said, “That’s what’s up! Spanish is sexy!” Some might think it inappropriate but the entire class said this new poem was a cool way to use the words from such a serious poem. Who knows, maybe I’ve got the next King of Comedy sitting in my classroom!

What I forgot to say is that at the end of class I read each of these anonymously, but I knew what poem belonged to which student. Watching each student silently beam with pride as they heard their classmates positively react to their chosen words was all the evidence I needed to know their confidence grew a little today, and I can’t wait to watch it flourish this year!

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