I was given the delightful gift of being able to teach some bonus writing lessons in the week before spring break. Four lessons is not enough to tackle a full writing unit, but I thought it would be a great opportunity to talk about some different poetry forms with my 3rd graders. I'm a fiction writer through and through and don't consider myself a poet, but as it is a form I admire, I thought I'd give my students a chance to be poets. We ended up trying out three different types of poems: cinquains, triolets, and list poems. Not surprisingly, my talented young writing students blew me away with the work they produced. We ended our mini-unit with a poetry reading and their enthusiasm and pride in their work made it the best poetry reading I've ever attended. But the best result of this was that my most stubbornly reluctant writer produced more poems than any other student in the class and declared that this was the best writing unit he'd ever experienced. I realized how poetry is the perfect writing vehicle for writers of any age to enter in at their comfort level and still produce a piece they are proud to share. My students who tend to struggle didn't get overwhelmed because our final products were meant to be short. My students who crave extra challenge got to show off their flair for metaphors and their ability to think outside the box; most of them wrote more than the required number of poems. My teacher-self has been mentally planning out ways to incorporate far more poetry writing into my lesson plans for next year.
My writer-self gently reminded me that my inner poet should be allowed to come out and play again. If writing poetry helps open up my 3rd graders to new writing adventures, then it could surely do the same for me. I remind myself that when I let go of the need to make my work fit within a traditional narrative, I end up with pieces like Spearmint Tea that live somewhere between poetry and fiction, and that is a pretty cool place to hang out every once in a while for any writer.
So in honor of National Poetry Month, let me leave you with a link to my all-time favorite poem by a very talented poet and fiction writer. What It Feels Like by Alice Walker
Happy (Poetry) Writing!
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