“The pen is the tongue of the mind.” Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote.
I teach writing to sixty-three fifth graders, and I’m sure they would all agree with this quote. Last week, we began our poetry unit. There were grumbles and sighs. Eye-rolling and waving arms.
“I hate poetry.”
“It’s too hard.”
Because I’m a teacher, I ignored them. And I started with a difficult assignment. Some educators would call this the wrong move. But I like challenges, and I learned a long time ago, if I have lofty expectations for my fifth graders, they meet them. Each and every time.
The poem we started with is a Color Poem. Criteria for the poem is fairly straightforward. Pick a color. Write five stanzas, six lines each. Each stanza is devoted to one of the five senses: smell, sight, sound, touch/feel, and taste. Oh, and I forgot‚Ä¶use metaphors.
THERE’S MORE THAN ONE WAY TO THINK ABOUT BLUE!
We brainstormed the obvious first. Things that are the color red. For example: roses, strawberries, a sunset, a fire truck, firecrackers, etc. Using their chosen color,each student thought of ten items as it applied to each sense. Better to have too many ideas than too few. Then, we set about incorporating our ideas into a stanza relating to one of the senses. The only rule was, when you use an idea, it can appear only once in the poem. If we see a fire-engine screaming down the street, then we can’t hear it again in the stanza about sound. Of course, each student began with the sense they had the most ideas for, or their ideas which they loved the most.
Some students struggled. Some are naturals. When we shared our rough drafts today, I was struck, as well as my students, by the talent of our fifth grade group. Startling images were presented.
- gray is the bitter soul
- red is anger raging inside
- or the heartbreak of a child
- blue is the feel of a dolphin‚Äôs smooth fin
- orange is the splashing fizz of soda on your tongue
- a salute to the red, white and blue
This is rough draft stage. Because kid’s know more than we think, more than they think, we spent several long moments contemplating how to make a good poem even better. Solution: make every line as amazing as your favorite line. Of course, this means that each student along with their revision partner, must decide what made the best line great. They are sleeping on it tonight. Letting their subconscious stew a bit before we get back to work tomorrow.
I can’t wait to share more of their poems with you soon! STAY TUNED!