For the elementary groups, I created a poetry book called POEMS OF PRAISE, which had examples and explanations of six different kinds of poetry. Following the poems, I included pages that took the kids through the process of brainstorming, drafting, and creating the final copy of their own poetic “Masterpieces.” The children’s assignment was to contemplate 2 Corinthians 3:12—Since, then, we have such a hope, we act with great boldness (NRSV)—and then to think about they could be bold in their lives—at home, at church, at school, or at play—and write a poem about it. OR they could create a poem about someone they know of who acts with great boldness in his or her life.
I was a bit nervous about how the kids would react to learning about poetry during a “fun” summer activity, so I was thrilled to see their enthusiasm during our discussion and reading of different types of poetry. When they started writing their own poems, many of the children jumped wholeheartedly into the process. But, predictably, there were a few that needed some help getting started and weren’t really into it. By the next day, however, even the most reluctant writers were engaged and excited about their poems, and I was simply stunned by some of the poetry that the group came up with. Those kids are amazing!
For the preschool-aged group, I had originally planned a more basic approach—I'd selected some books related to their curriculum and planned to talk with them about writing stories and then write a cooperative story together. However, after I met this super smart group of precocious cuties, I switched gears. We talked about words and rhyming, and I shared with them some of the simpler poetic forms and poetry that I'd discussed with the older children. Eventually, I decided to introduce the concept of rhyme scheme to the group. I know this seems like it might be a bit over their heads, but the children really seemed to get it, and they were excited about it, too!
Things were going so well that when it came time to write our cooperative story together, I decided to throw caution to the wind and try writing a rhyming poem with them instead. The preschoolers had been talking about growing things and gardens, so their first task was to pick a topic—what did they want the poem to be about? “A SEED!” came the enthusiastic reply. Then we had to figure out our topic sentence. Here I gave a tiny prompt: “Maybe something like, Once there was a little seed…?” The kids went with this, added to it, and we were off!
Throughout this process, I tried very hard not to insert too much “grown up” into the poem or to say too much—I wanted this to be their poem, not mine. There were a few places where I had to steer them back on course, but for the most part, it IS their poem. And I love the way it turned out! Below you can see our drafting pages:And here is the final copy of the poem, complete with illustrations!
Here is the full text, in case you have trouble seeing the ink on the chart paper.
THE SUNFLOWER AND THE PUP
Once there was a tiny seed
Resting in the ground.
Rain fell upon it,
And the sun shone all around.
Soon the seed began to grow--
A tiny stem popped up!
Bees buzzed all around it,
Then along came a tiny pup.
The puppy watched it grow and grow
through sun and stormy shower.
Soon its petals popped right up--
It was a tall sunflower!
The puppy and the sunflower
Became the best of friends.
The sunflower watched the puppy grow
And that's how our poem ends!
What I learned from this experience is that kids—even the youngest ones—are capable of SO MUCH MORE than we adults think! I see this every time I read a Young Reader Review that has been submitted for my blog, I saw it often as a teacher, and I saw it again a few weeks ago. As writers, parents, grandparents, teachers, volunteers, etc., we should never forget this!
Here is my sweet pup, Gracie, chillin' in the hammock on our camping trip last week!