Attack poetry from a new angle! After students have tried their hands at writing traditional poetry, invite them to invent their own poetry forms. Included: Some results from my students!
My students spend months studying and writing not just prose but also different types of poetry. They study poetry forms from Shakespearean sonnets to villanelles. At the end of the school year I ask them to incorporate their best writing into a finished product, a writing book.
See The Culminating Project: Students Put Together a Book of Their Best Writing, published last August on Education World.
Although it varies from year to year, this year each student's book included a sample of their own prose and a sample of more than a dozen forms of poetry including a triolet, a limerick, an acrostic, a haiku, and an English or Spenserian sonnet.
But -- this year -- I included something different in their writing books! I attacked poetry from a new angle!
As the end of the school year came closer, I found my students needed a change of pace to help them stay focused, so I asked them to invent a new poetry form. My main criterion for the original poetry form was that the result had to be a quality product. I did not want students spending so much effort creating such an elaborate poetry form that no one could write it. Shakespearean sonnets are still written today because beautiful poetry can be created using this form!
I encouraged students to be outlandish and original. As an example, I shared with them a sample of a type of a new poetry form I'd created. (I don't know how excellent this was!) Since my name is Chaika, and since we had studied haikus, I decided to call my poetry form a "Chaiku." Chaiku, I told them, changes form each day of the week. ("When you write chaiku no one form will do!") I provided several samples. I kept my samples VERY simple so no student would feel the task ahead too difficult. For example, this was Tuesday's Chaiku:
Count a bit
Past four, then writing
Chaikus will be no chore
One word then
Two, until all can
See how your Chaiku grew
This it's easy
To view just how
One writes a new Chaiku.
I then asked my students to create a Chaiku form for another day or to create their own form of poetry, give it a name, and describe its form so others might be able to write it. (Note: Their poem could be on any subject; it needn't describe their poetry form as my example does above.)
Students created poetry forms, wrote samples, and shared their completed work with others in the class so they could see how well their "directions" could be followed. If others could not follow the directions for writing the new poetry form, students needed to revise their form until others could imitate it.
Technical writing, my students grew to understand, is not an intuitively easy task!
My students added their original poetry to their writing books.
I asked my students to create their own poetry form because I thought they could use a little something to help them stay focused at the end of the school year, but when finished, I discovered there had been an unexpected benefit!
During the year we had studied poetry forms with rigid structures and others with little structure. We had studied poetry forms in which the syllable count was essential. We studied poetry in which the rhyme schemes were the significant features. And we had studied line repetition poetry such as villanelles and triolets. Creating one's own poetry form served as a review lesson for my students, helping them assess what features of poetry forms were their favorites (and least favorites). Writing their own poetry form helped my students assimilate their previously acquired knowledge.
When I assigned this project to my students, their first reaction was to say, "I can't do this," but after awhile I saw small smiles start to appear on their faces as they began to create. Here are some of my students' new poetry forms. Who knows, maybe in twenty or thirty years English teachers will be teaching one of these poetry forms in their classrooms!
Rosette by Erin Radigan, 7th grade
Rosettes have no rhyme scheme. They start with nine words and go down to one word then go up to nine again. The two nine-word lines are the same. The poem has seventeen lines in all. It should look like two triangles connected when finished.
I guess there is someone to blame for everything
Everything that can sometimes go wrong in life
Then you realize there's nobody to blame
No one to blame for anything
Have you figured it out?
Who is to blame?
There's no one
You're the one
You are to blame
No one can help you
Nobody can help what you did
You did everything on your own
There is no one to blame but yourself
I guess there is someone to blame for everything
Omniscopic by Ryan Campbell, 8th grade
The Omniscopic can be written many ways as long as it has something to do with the number seven. It can have seven lines, seven syllables in the lines, seven words in each line, or even an acrostic of the word seven. The pattern has to be consistent and flowing, not choppy. It usually rhymes but does not have to. It can be creative; it has a broad range, but it can't be stupid. It usually tells a story. The prefix "omni" was chosen because seven is the number of completion. (In Ryan's example he used lines with seven syllables.)
BOOKS Books are a companion They are there at any hour Read as many as you can for knowledge holds much power They're a friend to the lonely A window to the outside Each one of them a theme park With countless beautiful rides.
Question Poem by Ashley Robbins, 6th grade
A question poem consists of 6 to 8 questions on the same subject.
Why do my parents expect so much of me?
Or am I wrong?
Is it what I think they expect of me?
Or am I trying to prove myself better than everyone, even my sister?
Why do my expectations keep getting higher?
Are they so high I can never meet them?
Sam I Am by Sam Keim, 8th grade
Sam I Am is a 5-line poem, 5 words on each line, and the first word of each line starts with I.
I see his precious face
I feel his warm touch
I hear his soft cry
I cradle him with care
I will love him forever
Penteverse by Aaron Ryan, 8th grade
An unrhymed poetry form with at least five lines. The last word of one line is the first word of the next. The last word of the last line is the first word of the first line.
Ignorance brings prejudice
Prejudice brings hate
Hate brings war
War brings segregation
Segregation brings ignorance
Jenelle by Jennifer Terre, 7th grade
A Jennelle is a 5-line poem written on any theme rhyming abbcc. It has no set syllable count.
THE JOY OF LIFE
I ran up to the mountains
I ran up to the sky
Then I wondered if this is what it's like to die
Is this what it's like to die? No pain?
If you can't enjoy the spirit of life, you must be insane
Paulivelle by Paul Slocum, 7th grade
This is a 6-line poem with no rhyme scheme. Each line is 6 syllables. It's on any subject.
He is so disabled
People make fun of him
I've gotten used to it
But it still hurts a lot
People are made different
But he's still my brother
Guyku by Guy Sirkes, 7th grade
This is a three-line poem. It should be about a person. The first line is Hi, my name is (first name). Then you describe a characteristic of that person. All lines must rhyme with the person's name.
Hi, my name is Guy
I am a short fry
In size I need to multipy
Elven Orkler by Billy McCann, 8th grade This poetry form, handed down from generation to generation as a yodle, is either one line or eight. The first line is always the word "BINK." This way if it's one-lined, it's just "BINK." The title is an action performed by objects in the poem. The last line has an opposite and ending action. Also, you must read it upside down on Labor Day, sideways on Arbor Day, and with two sticks in your mouth on July 4th.
Cat thrown in a lake drowns.
The Growing Tree by Adam Riehlmann, 6th grade
I am here to tell you about The Growing Tree, the poetry form made by Adam Riehlmann. It has a great shape to it and as many lines as you want
Mayo by Chris May, 6th grade
Mayo is a poetry form that goes great with lunch. It's an American four-lined poem rhyming aabb. Like haikus it usually tells about nature.
Stars that fill the sky at night
Bless the earth with heavenly light
How dark and lonely the night would be
Without the stars for company
Yo Quito by Shane Singletary, 7th grade
My original poem is made up of 5 lines that have a rhyme scheme of aa. The first has any number of syllables, and then you add two more syllables for the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th lines.
THE FIRST YO QUITO
This is my Yo Quito
It isn't very bonito
If it were a bill, it would be vetoed
I don't advise eating it like a burrito
But instead put it on something using a magnito.
Jordanelle by Jeanne Jordan, 8th grade
Sometimes things happen that really upset or confuse you. Sometimes things don't go as planned. You might feel confused or mixed-up. The Jordanelle is supposed to help you explain how you feel. Each line can be either backwards or mixed-up in any order. You write it the way you feel.
well very along get don't We
me to special something away took She
talk never I and father my Now
tell never can I feel I way The
see never can he feel I pain The
lock I'll feelings my inside; be to him want I Happy
Glori Chaika teaches gifted sixth, seventh, and eighth 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 is a regular contributor to Education World. Previous stories include Seventh Graders Writing Italian Sonnets? You Bet! and A Teacher's Guide to Getting Students' Work Published.
Article by Glori Chaika
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