April is National Poetry Month, and I love celebrating it in the library. Poetry can be used for all ages to develop research skills and practice the writing process.
Writing Free Verse with K-2
In my primary classes, I read the book Daniel Finds a Poem by Micha Archer. This beautiful picture book follows a young boy as he wonders, “What is poetry?” On each page, he comes across something beautiful in nature and is provided a poetic line that eventually becomes part of a poem he creates at the end of the book.
After reading this book, I take my students outside with the direction to use their five senses to discover poetry. We take a small nature walk and listen to the sounds of the bees buzzing on the breeze, or the wind whispering through the leaves. When we return to the library, I write down all the things the students have experienced on chart paper. As a group, we choose our favorite lines and turn it into a free verse poem. The students decorate the chart paper and get to take the poem back to their classroom.
Haiku and Revision with 3-5
With the upper grades, I like to use Haiku to introduce them to poetry. I start by reading some classic Haiku from Basho, Buson, and Issa. I use the book Haiku: Classic Japanese Short Poems translated by Hart Larrabee. This book provides a beautiful collection of classic Haiku. The book itself is stunning because it is published using traditional Chinese book binding. Each poem is represented in English, Romanized Japanese, and Japanese script. We discuss the Japanese art of Haiku and how it has changed over the centuries
Then I read the picture book Hi, Koo! A Year of Seasons by Jon J. Muth. The author’s note at the beginning of Hi, Koo! A Year of Seasons has great information about Haiku and why Jon J. Muth does not stick to the strict 5-7-5 syllable format of the Haiku.
Ready to Write
First, we go over the directions for How to Write a Haiku. Then we choose a topic in nature and the students help me write a Haiku on the white board. Before we start, I ask them to close their eyes and picture a scene in nature. I play Japanese instrumental music while they do this. Next, I write down on the white board various ideas the students come up with. Finally, we decide which scene we want to turn into a Haiku and write our first draft.
Ready to Revise
Now, we are ready for the revision process. Haiku is perfect for teaching the revision step in the writing process. Because Haiku is made up of only 3 lines, it allows the students to completely revise a piece in a short amount of time. We start at one end of the white board with the first draft and 4 drafts later, on the other side of the board, we end up with a completely different Haiku. One that is dramatically better than the first.
Ready to “Haiku”
The students then work alone or with a partner and go through the same process. When they come to me with the first draft and ask if it’s good, I always say, “It’s the first draft, it’s never good, but it’s a good start.” If the weather permits, we do this step outside to get further inspiration.
This year, I would like to have the students try traditional book binding. It would be a great way to display their poetry. All of the students in a class could have one poem in the book. I could even let the students check the book out to take home.
National Poetry Month is a great time for your students to practice the research skills they have been using all year. Pebble Go Biography has a couple of poets for younger researchers. Older researchers can try Poetry Foundation or Poets.org. My 5th-grade students use guidelines to create a poet biography.
I hope this month you are inspired to try a bit of poetry in your library.
Library Poets: A Haiku by Colleen R. Lee Students scribbling poetry in library. Writers are born.
Author: Colleen R. Lee
Colleen R. Lee is a former middle school English teacher and Elementary Teacher. She is currently the Elementary Librarian at Greenfield Elementary School in Chesterfield County, VA. Follow her on Twitter @MrsLeesLibrary.