We have been studying all things poetry in my classroom recently. It is always a fun unit of study for me. I like to start the unit with Tanny McGregor's lessons from Genre Connections which suggest introducing poetry with a concrete object like a glass jar. The students learn that the jar is a place for holding things, like their thoughts and feelings. This year, we decided to give them examples of various forms of poetry with space on the page for the students to use to create. Having that model right in front of them has been a tremendous benefit for my students. Before setting them free to create, we look at mentor texts with great examples, pour through poetry books seeking out examples and identifying what makes it fit into one form or another. Our literacy block is filled with rich conversation about rhyme and stanzas, about word choice and structure, and most importantly about how they would choose to attack each form of poetry. Finally, they are ready. Coming up with ideas is never a problem for poetry (unlike their "prompt writing"). The most amazing part for me is when my students grasp the idea that poetry is a place where they are encouraged to express themselves in a way that is much more free than other genres of writing. Sometimes children crack themselves up with their own words, while other times the power of the writing brings them to tears. Often they want to share their poems with their peers, but there is always one young poet who asks for only me to read their tender words on the page. I always feel honored to be the one with whom they choose to share those deep thoughts and feelings.
My students' love of poetry is such a contradiction to my own feelings. I love reading the beautiful words and carefully crafted text, but I am scared to death at the thought of writing it myself. I think I have too many years under my belt to approach it with the same wild abandon that I see when my students give it a try. What happened? When did I become so guarded and worried about how my words would be received? I am so thankful for this blog opportunity. It is already giving me more confidence in my ability to write. Who knows, maybe someday I will jump in with my students and give it a try...maybe.