Starting with Little Things: A Guide to Writing Poetry in the Classroom
from Starting with Little Things: A Guide to Writing Poetry in the Classroom
from Chapter 5, “Turning Abstractions into Concrete Images”
Exercise: Images of Feelings
Make a list of emotions on the board: love, hate, jealousy, embarrassment, fear, courage. More. Beginning each sentence with one of these words, write similes or metaphors so that these feelings appear as something you can see, hear, taste, touch or smell. Avoid comparing one feeling to another (love is like happiness). Write a poem about one feeling, using several similes. Or use a different feeling in each sentence. Another possibility of to begin each sentence with “When”; for example, “When (something happened), I was as (happy, sad, angry) as (image).”
When my goldfish died
Awbrey Park Elementary
from Chapter 6, “Self-Image”
Part of our self-image, the picture we have of ourselves, comes from our sense of place: where we were born, where we’ve grown up and explored, places we dream about. We feel comfortable in some places; in others, we don’t. Even within a fairly small place, such as a house, we may identify more with certain rooms, or corners, or objects – the individual parts of a scene. Such subjective feelings are important to our sense of individuality, as well as to our sense of community with people who share our feelings. Learning to recognize ourselves in the world around us is a step toward self-knowledge and maturity that has always been important in literature.
Thinking of your own “roots,” write a poem titled “Born in (California, New York, Chicago, Bend, Redmond).” Begin each sentence with “I am.” Pick out images that come first to mind. Expand sentences; let the reader see as much as possible. If you are the Golden Gate Bridge, what else can you say about yourself? The bridge boats pass under on their way to China? The bridge always choked with traffic? The bridge shining golden in fog? Tell exactly what you see.
Or make a list of different things you might be. If you re an animal, what are you doing? (If a cat, are you sleeping by the fire, chasing a bird, running from a dog, climbing a tree and getting stuck?) If you re an object, where are you – in a kitchen, a bedroom, street, hospital, factory, gutter, cave? What element of nature, time of day, or day of the week? Students should sense a wide variety of possibilities, and should try for different opening words: Yesterday I was, Today I am, Some days I am, Once I was.
Twin Oaks Elementary
I am the clock that is never wound.
You look at me
Exercise: Parts of the Body
If your heart were not a heart, what might it be? Could it be a lilypad? A basketball? A basketball bouncing in its dark chamber alone? What about your pomegranate head, your fingers rooted like grass, your knees? If something besides thought were in your head, what would be there? What is in your heart? What are you made of? When we are scientists, we say we are filled with blood; when we are poets we say more: instead of “blood” or “muscles,” you could be made of marbles and chalk dust, shoelaces and popcorn.
My head is made
My tongue is like a whip.
from Chapter 7: “Character Description; Irony”
Exercise: Direct Address
Imagine you are telling someone things that might be hard to say out loud. Tell them your sad, secret, irritated or angry feelings about something they’ve done, or you’ve done together. Use figures of speech, if possible. As with the self-portrait exercises, begin each sentence “You are” or “Your Voice,” “Your hair,” and so on. This assignment is doubly fun at special times of the year, and can be turned into birthday cars, Valentines, Mother’s or Father’s Day or even April Fools’ Day cards.
Dear Mr. Easley,
Exercise: Reverse Compliment: Irony
Students enjoy saying one thing but meaning another (irony). Write a letter to someone you don’t like. Pretend to pay them a compliment, but then take it away. Imagine you are writing a contemporary greeting card, the kind that is nice on the front and cutting inside. Use the first line of the poem to begin the compliment (“You are as beautiful”), and the second line to take it away (“as a muddy tire”). Avoid the direct insult (“You’re as dumb as ...”). Remember to start out with a compliment: “You’re as smart as” (“a rusty computer”). Try writing to a teacher, the dentist, the barber, or even a place or thing.
To a Teacher
from Chapter 12: “Musical Language”
Exercise: Harsh Sounds; Gentle Sounds
Make lists on the board of the harshest-sounding words students know, and another list of the gentlest. Notice that gentle things may have harsh sounds (“kitten”), and vice versa (“thorn”). Notice which consonants and vowel sounds appear regularly in each list. Write a sentence or two, using at least six harsh words, and not many additional words. Write another sentence from the “gentle” list.
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