Teaching Poetry, Week 1: The Five Senses – Srijanalaya
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    Teaching Poetry, Week 1: The Five Senses



    This is part 1 in a series of five workshops designed to be taught over a 5-week period to children in grades 6-8. The order of the workshops follows a sequence that builds in complexity as the workshops progress. The concepts introduced here can be applied to Nepali poetry in order to encourage creative writing in the students' native language.

    Each of the five workshops consists of two parts that can either be taught as two separate lessons (of about 40 minutes each) or as one longer lesson of roughly an hour and twenty minutes.

    These workshops have been taught at Lalitpur Madhayamik Vidyala (LMV) in Patan over the course of five weeks to grade 6. The photos and examples that you can see in the gallery have been taken with the students' permission, and will hopefully help provide context to the lesson plans.

    The goals of the workshop series include:

    • introducing students to poetry and providing them with a basic vocabulary for discussing poems

    • teaching students to use poetry as a lens for seeing the world around us

    • incorporating creative thinking and writing into the classroom

    • building student confidence as they start producing independent work

    • having fun!

    The Five Senses, Part 1: 40 minutes

    This week, we focus on exploring our five senses. What are they? What information can we gain from them? How do our senses help us experience the world around us? What kinds of words are associated with the senses, and what words do we use to describe things around us?

    It will be helpful to have a copy of Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends, however it is not necessary, and some of the poems will be linked in this module.


    Have the students take a minute to think about their favorite food, and brainstorm ways in which that food can be described. Helpful questions include: what does it smell like? look like? taste like? does it make a sound when touched? what is it's color/shape? is it big/small? etc.

    After no more than a minute, the teacher starts off by describing her favorite food and students should try to guess what it is. If the food can't be guessed after 3-5 tries, reveal it! The goal is to be able to guess it quickly just based on the description. This gets quite fun, but make sure to encourage the kids to be creative. Inevitably, many students will pick mo-mo, mango, or pizza.

    Example: My favorite food is small and red. It is soft, juicy, and sweet. It has many small seeds on it, and it has a triangular shape. What is my favorite food?


    After the warm-up, write a model sentence describing your favorite food on the board. Example starting points include: "My favorite food is [favorite food] because...," "I like [favorite food] because," "[Favorite food] is..." The rest of the sentence should use sensory details and imagery that describe the food in a creative manner.

    Example: I like strawberries because they are soft and juicy, and because they remind me of the summertime.


    Now, have the students write their own favorite food sentences using elements they used to describe their food in the warm-up activity.


    Food Poems, by Shel Silverstein

    As the students work on writing their sentences, write a food poem by Shel Silverstein on the board, and also draw the five senses nearby (mouth, hand, eye, nose, ear).

    Have the students copy down the poem.

    Some poems from Where the Sidewalk Ends include: "Sky Seasoning," "Pancake?," "Recipe for a Hippopotamus Sandwich," "Eighteen Flavors," "Me-Stew," and "Open-close." See this link for more examples of Silverstein's poetry.

    Below is Silverstein's "Eighteen Flavors":


    First, have students read the poem silently. Then, read it aloud, slowly. Next, have a volunteer read the poem aloud.

    Discuss the poem as a class. Ask the students to identify which sense (or senses) different words are associated with.

    For example: "flavor" has to do with taste, while "smooth" has to do with touch.

    What are some patterns in the poem? If students identify rhyming words, take a moment to define rhyme and have students write it down in their notebooks.

    A list of important poetic terms and definitions can be found here.

    Read together several more poems (e.g. the ones identified above) until there are about 8-10 minutes remaining. Discuss any sensory details and any patterns they can identify as you go.



    Return to your model food sentence from earlier. Demonstrate how you might transform/edit the sentence into a poem.

    For example: "I like strawberries because they are soft and juicy, and because they remind me of the summertime" becomes:


    Red strawberries

    soft and juicy

    reminding me of summer

    Now it's the students' turn. Walk around and help them turn their sentences into a short poem. Ta-da!


    The Five Senses, Part 2: 40 minutes

    If same day, skip part 1 of the warm-up.



    Part 1: Refresh

    Start by reviewing the five senses to refresh the students' memory of the previous lesson. It might be useful to quickly draw the five sensory organs up on the board. Ask questions like: what are the five senses? what can they help us do? what kinds of words are associated with them?

    Part 2: Rhyming Game

    Get in a circle, and explain that this is a rhyming game in which the students will have to pay close attention and think quickly. The teacher will start by naming a word, giving the students about 30 seconds to brainstorm words that rhyme with it. In clockwise direction, the students offer their word. If they get stuck, or repeat a word that has already been said, let them ask other students for help. If everyone gets stuck or the class gets distracted, move on to a new word.

    Sample starting words: bat, kiss, ball, night, new, red.


    Individual Brainstorming:

    Instruct students to list 3 specific places that you like to be in (for example, your bed, or the slide on the playground). The more specific, the better! Then, pick one, envision it, and write down 2 sights, 2 sounds, and 2 smells associated with that space (this should take about 5 minutes).


    Transform to writing:

    Now, the students will have about 10 minutes of silent writing describing their favorite places, using as many senses as you can to describe it. Before starting, have the students close their eyes and instruct them to imagine their place. Ask guiding questions like, "what does it smell like?" "Is anyone or anything there with you, or are you alone?" "What do you do there?"

    To start, encourage the students to write whatever comes to mind and to not stop writing until the time is up. The teacher should have a pre-written model about their own favorite place as an example.

    After 10 minutes, have them reread what they've written, and explain that they should underline the sentence that they think sounds the most interesting. At this point, the teacher can share her favorite sentence as well. Let them rewrite the sentence on its own, and make any desired revisions. Then, have them split up into pairs to share their sentences. Partners should feel free to comment, especially on any uses of the senses.

    Regather as a class and have volunteers read their "sentences" aloud. Some will already start to sound like poems, especially if students pay attention to the rhythm and cadence of their sentences.

    If there is time remaining, teachers can help transform these sentences into short poems, similar to day 1's activity with the food sentence (see above).



    At this point, ask the students to start collecting old magazines (in English) for next week's poetry lessons. Alternatively, your school may already have some from other arts and crafts activities. But the more, the better. For a class of 30, about 8-10 magazines works.