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Scare Up Some Great Halloween
Poetry-Writing Activities!

Halloween is the perfect time for your students to scare up a humorous poem or epitaph! Check out these poetry-writing ideas from teacher Glori Chaika.

Here lies poetry that all children hated.
The last person who taught it, we decapitated.

Greg T.

Teaching poetry writing can be a lot of fun. I always make room for it in my curriculum. Often I use it as a reward for hard work, as a break-away day, as something special.

For the uninitiated, writing poetry need not be daunting. First select several humorous poems with a definite rhythm or beat. Many students love Shel Siverstein's work, so his poems are a great source. After reading several to the class, reread one, having the students clap each time they hear an accented syllable. Repeat this with several different poems. Those students who need additional help in feeling a poem's beat could march to its rhythm while other students clap.

THE 'SUZUKI METHOD' OF TEACHING POETRY WRITING?

When students are comfortable feeling the beat, write one of these poems on the board. Ask students to look at the rhyme scheme, choice of topic, choice of adjectives or verbs, etc., anything that makes the poem special. At other times, play rhyming games with the students. Read poetry to them often, and have poetry books around the classroom, many of them open. Continue these types of activities until the students seem ready and eager to write their own.

 

I compare this method a bit to the Suzuki Method of teaching music. In one, students have music in their minds before playing. In the other, students have poetry in their minds before writing.

I find beginning poetry writing with triplets and quatrains, three- and four- line poems, works well for me. I usually start with aaa or aba rhyme schemes for the triplets and aaaa or abcb rhyme schemes for the quatrains. Students who find that easy can experiment with alternate rhyme schemes like abba or abab while the others try for proficiency in just one or two rhyme schemes.

I move from desk to desk while the students are writing, reading their work, offering help, and appreciating their poetry. At the end of the lesson I read aloud some of the poems, pointing out what I felt made them special, and emphasizing that this might not be an easy poetry form for everyone. Just like some artists are better at using oils than pen and ink, a student must experiment with many types of poetry writing in order to find the forms in which he or she excels.

IT'S TIME TO WRITE EPITAPHS!

After several experiences with triplets and quatrains, I usually introduce my students to epitaphs. They are great poetry forms for October. Epitaphs, two-line poems in aa rhyme scheme, are fun, easy, and a great poetry form for beginners. First I read a few epitaphs by professionals and some written by students their own age. I write one of these on the board and then write another one with the class.

 

See some examples of students' epitaphs below. Also, see Plan Your Epitaph Day, a unique Web site that will provide examples and ideas.

I encourage students to try to keep both lines as equal in length as possible. Our first epitaph usually contains the words, "Here lies ---- , who ---- ." I ask children to choose an activity that they like to do and then look at all the words that rhyme with that word in their rhyming dictionaries. The child selects a rhyming word to go with the word at the end of the epitaph. Sometimes seeing the words at the end of the two lines makes it easier to write what comes before them. From here, the poem seems to write itself.

I ask students to envision bizarre, unusual ways of killing off someone, something that would never happen in real life and which is very silly. I ask students to think about activities they do and to visualize what bizarre thing could happen during this activity. For example, one girl who took ballet said she could leap into a blender and become frappe! I ask students to write their first epitaph about themselves. Afterward, as long as no one's feelings get hurt, students can write about anyone else in the classroom. As students warm up to this, they start sharing their epitaphs with others, and the student written about is usually anxious to write one back!

When students are finished, I ask them to write their best epitaphs in large print on white paper. Then they cut off the edges of the paper so that it looks like a tombstone. Students use black markers to make the words visible, decorate the tombstones, and then I display the epitaphs around the room.

Writing epitaphs is a fun activity to do near Halloween. They make terrific holiday decorations for the classroom. Happy writing!

SOME EXAMPLES FROM GLORI CHAIKA'S STUDENTS!

Here lies poetry that all children hated.
The last person who taught it, we decapitated.
Greg T.

Here lies my dad who loved the Internet
He got zapped in, now our computer won't reset!
Melissa M.

Here lies English who promised a vision
But all the kids decided to stick with division.
Jeanne J.

Here lies Amanda whose death was queer
She died when a telephone got stuck to her ear.
Mary P.

Here lies my brother who was young but not adorable
I'm really glad that he's not restorable.
Josh B.

Here lies James who had a real bad day
When he was run over by a fat man riding in a sleigh.
Kevin R.

Here lies Colby; he smoked a whole pack
The doctors could have saved him if his lungs weren't so black.
Kristen A.

Here lies Guy who of computers had no fright
Until the day he died from a computer megabyte.
Jarad T.

Here lies Katie who never could rhyme
She died working on an assignment that took a REAL long time.
Katie O.

Here lies Matt who really hated school
He fell asleep in class and drowned in his drool.
Will H.

Here lies Nathan who died at age seven
When he tried to eat school lunch, he went straight to heaven.
Nathan T.

Here lies Adam who really loved school soccer
He got in a fight and was stuffed in a locker.
Adam R.

Here lies Emily who was killed in the hall
She got run over by upperclassmen who didn't seem to care at all.
Emily G.

Here lies our new vice-principal who thought he was tough
But then he found out junior high kids are rough!
Melissa M.

MORE ABOUT GLORI CHAIKA

NOTE: Glori Chaika teaches gifted 6th, 7th, and 8th graders in a suburb of New Orleans, Louisiana. She is a published author who has won a Distinguished Teaching Award from Duke University. She was awarded a Fulbright Memorial Fund scholarship to study school systems and teacher training programs in Japan during the fall of 1997. Ms. Chaika was named the 1997 Elks Teacher of the year in her Louisiana parish.

Copyright © 2002 Education World®

 

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You can read other Education World stories that Ms. Chaika has written:

 

 

Originally Published 10/20/1997
Links last updated 03/30/2015