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"Show it Like a Poet" Saves You Grading Time

If you’re getting ready to teach your “yearly” poetry unit, give me three minutes, and I’ll show you how poetry can be incorporated into your lesson plans all year to engage students, provide higher-level thinking opportunities, and cut down your grading time.

The number one concern I hear from ELA teachers is they can't keep up with all the grading. I say choose your assignments wisely and stop giving so many lengthy writing assessments and quizzes that take a ton of time to evaluate. Poetry is an option I use to assess student knowledge while creating unique learning experiences and choices for my students.

I’m a big proponent of the constructivist approach to teaching which is the idea that the best learning happens when students are actively involved in the process of creating meaning and knowledge instead of passively receiving information. So, it just makes sense that my students benefit from writing poetry throughout the year to demonstrate their understanding of skills and concepts.

Middle school students don’t need to be taught an entire unit on elements of poetry and analysis before they can craft a poem on their own. They’ve learned enough about figurative language, rhyming, and basic line format in previous grades to get started. Teach a mini lesson on a specific poem format, throw in a quick review of the skill you want to test, and together with a writer’s tools notebook, your students have everything they need to successfully complete the task.

Ready to learn more? The basic concept is students show what they know through poetry. This works especially well for reading and vocabulary. I choose short poem formats and have students highlight the focus skills which make it easy for me to quickly evaluate their work. It's important to create a rubric of skills, so students know what to expect.

Here are two examples you can use in your classroom tomorrow!

ACROSTIC: Use with a reading or literature selection

Focus Skills: Theme topic (could also be used for character analysis) and vocabulary

Students select a theme topic (not statement) of the reading and choose two vocabulary words from our list. They write an acrostic poem providing evidence to support their theme choice and spell/use the vocabulary words correctly.

Example: Reading - HATCHET; theme - HOPE; vocabulary - massive, brilliantly

Holding on to memories and dreams

Overcoming massive odds

Pushed to his limits

Everything works out brilliantly for Brian in the end

From the poem, I'm able to see that the student chose an accurate theme from the novel, was able to support the choice, used the two vocabulary words correctly, and wrote an acrostic poem in correct form. It is evident the student clearly understands what a theme is and was able to demonstrate his learning. If I wanted to take the assignment one step further, I could ask him to write a second poem using the same theme as it applies to his life to get a text-to-self connection.

HAIKU: (American version)

Focus Skill: Inference

Students make inferences from text or images. They write a Haiku that expresses their inference about a specific text, paragraph, etc.

Example: Nonfiction selection - Yellow King Penguin Found on Island; Inference - King penguins can have color mutations.

Yellow King Penguins

Might not all be black and white

Some can be yellow

In this Haiku, I can determine the student made an accurate inference from the reading and followed Haiku format. This is a fun way to assess inference and provides you with student work samples to display on your classroom or virtual bulletin board.

I'll be sharing more about creating rubrics and how this idea eliminates copy/paste plagiarizing in the next blog post with even more examples of poem formats you can use. Be sure to subscribe to the weekly Cheat Sheet to get freebies and more teaching tips and ideas like this. If you're looking for digital poetry options, then check out the Digital Poetry Unit and Activities bundle. What are some of your favorite ways to use poetry in the classroom?


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