Teaching Poetry, Week 2: Found Poems
This is part 2 in a series of five workshops designed to be taught over a 5-week period to children in grades 6-8 (see Week 1 for a more complete introduction).
Goals for this week's workshop include:
- Building on the students' confidence as they start/continue to create their own poetry, while still providing guidance and inspiration
- Building students' vocabulary by introducing and defining poetic terms and devices
- Identifying poetry and inspiration in unconventional places
- and, as always: having fun!
Exquisite Corpses: 40 minutes
Before starting the lesson, make sure that students either have blank sheets of paper (lined or unlined) or that there are sheets of paper in the classroom, one per student.
This week's workshops are about discovering poetry in unconventional ways, and today's lesson is an adaptation of the surrealist art form called exquisite corpse. Haven't heard of it before? Check out examples here.
Essentially, it's an art form in which different artists each draw a different section of a "body", but connecting it to the previous section by keeping just enough visible to go off of. Similarly, we can do this in poetry by keeping visible the last line written, but hiding everything else.
The result is an almost-nonsensical poem that makes just enough sense because each line is connected to the one before it. And it's great fun, besides!
Start off with an activity that gets the students' minds flowing. In our workshop, we did an alliteration name game to get started and also to start reviewing a few poetic devices more formally.
The teacher should instruct her students to think of an adjective that 1) describes them and 2) starts with the same letter as their first name.
For example: helpful Helena.
Give them about 30 seconds to a minute to think of their word, then let them share their name and adjective to the person sitting next to them. Then, go around the room letting everyone share their name with the rest of the classroom.
After this activity, ask the students if there is any particular pattern to this activity. What is repeated? Write the word "alliteration" on the board and instruct the students to do the same. Together, brainstorm a definition.
If time permits, and if your students are ready for more poetic terms, brainstorm more to write down. At LMV, we started a "poetry term list" in their notebooks. See our list of poetic terms here.
Be careful! If students are more unfamiliar with poetry, introduce these terms slowly and with plenty of examples.
Writing Activity: creating exquisite corpse poems
With about twenty minutes of class remaining, explain the exquisite corpse poem activity. Instruct students to take out a sheet of paper and write their name on the back. That way it will be easier to identify who to give the poems back to at the end (though they can also remain entirely anonymous).
Students will start by writing two lines of poetry (they do not have to rhyme, but they do have to be a single thought and follow logically from each other).
Then, they will fold one of the lines, so that only the last one remains visible. In groups of about 4-6, students will pass their sheets around in a clockwise fashion, each time adding two lines to the visible one, and folding over two so that only one remains visible. Continue for about 10 minutes.
Encourage students not to talk and to focus on creating something... exquisite! At the end of the activity, return the sheets to their original owners, unfold, read, and enjoy! See our gallery for some of our students' examples.
For the second half of this week's workshop, we will need a number of colored magazines (in English or the language you are teaching in). Remind students to bring them to class for next time. You should have about 10 for a group of 30 kids, though more might be even better. Any kind of magazine (or similar glossy papers/ads) should work fine.
Found Poems: 40 minutes
Since today's activity will take up most of the class-time, the warm-up will be kept short, and mostly to giving out instructions.
The teacher should either have her own pre-made example of a found poem ready, or have some words ready to demonstrate the process together with the students.
- sheets of blank paper (white or colored)
Split up students in groups of 3-4 for the sake of sharing materials. Provide each group with at least one magazine, scissors, and glue-stick. Each student should have their own piece of paper.
- cut out words that are especially interesting (short phrases of 2 or 3 words, OK, but no longer!)
- decide on a theme (nature, culture, sport, etc.)
- find more words related to that theme
- start laying out the words on your paper, finding & adding connector words if necessary
- play around, rearrange, add, and cut out words as you like
- once you are absolutely satisfied, glue down the words in the desired order
As students finish, start cleaning up and asking them about the experience/what they learned. Let students share with their friends without disrupting those who are still working. The results will be varied and expressive, and can be hung up around the room! See our gallery for some examples.