Writing workshop is one of the things I miss most about teaching third grade, and April’s National Poetry month was always one of my favorite writing units. As a class we learned about 17 different poetry styles, one each day. Then at the end of the unit each student published an individual poetry anthology, as well as their best piece in our larger class book. At the beginning of the unit, students often considered poetry boring and were convinced that all poems had to rhyme or be about love. By the end of the unit, students looked forward to learning new styles of poetry each day while writing their own unique creations. Here’s a look at the simple steps I took to make our unit such a success year after year.
- Blank poetry notebook for each student. We used spiral notebooks (or a section of our writing workshop ones). You could also staple together filler paper for this with construction paper covers to make them feel more special.
- Markers, colored pencils, crayons, glitter glue, stickers, stencils, etc. to decorate student notebooks.
- Lots of poetry examples. You can never have enough! I wrote a poem “on the spot” with my students each day, but extra examples were helpful in showing that there wasn’t just one way to do it. I’ve included a list of some favorite poetry books at the end of this post.
- Before beginning the unit, each student selected a topic for his/her entire poetry unit. I did this alongside my students each year to serve as a model. My topics were things like school, the beach, or my pets. It’s important for students to choose a topic that they know and love in order to write about it each day. Other popular topics included sports, family, etc. Students write this topic on the front of their notebook and decorate it, which I’ve found improves ownership. It also helps if they get “stuck” later during the unit because they can refer back to their decorations for ideas.
- Teach students 1-2 poems per day of the unit. On some of the earlier days when the poems were easier, we could knock out 2 types of poems per day. Later as the poems became more complicated, we switched to 1 style per day.
- I would show a few examples of the poem type each day at the beginning of the lesson. My goal was for students to identify what the poems had in common to begin making “rules” for each poetry style.
- Students would then take notes for the day’s poetry style in their notebook. This is great practice for third graders!
- I gave each student a photocopied example of one poem to glue into their notebooks below the day’s notes for future reference.
- Then it was time for creative writing! Each day, I asked students to write 2 of their own unique poems in the day’s style. These poems needed to be about their chosen theme for the entire unit.
- I would spend the first few minutes of independent writing time modeling in my own notebook on the projector.
- After that as students were writing independently, I would hold individual writing conferences to go over previous days of the unit, revise, proofread, etc.
- If you use all 17 poetry styles x 2 poems for each type, students will end with 34 pieces of poetry!
- At the end of our unit, student self-selected 10 of their best poems to publish in individual poetry anthologies. I specified 3 types of poems that must be included and let them select the other 7.
- Some years these poems were copied onto “pretty” writing paper I had photocopied. Other years students wrote them on blank computer paper layered over lined paper to help with straight lines. Some years we were even able to type the poems on our mobile computer lab.
- I had students alphabetize the pages by poetry type and create a table of contents before illustrating.
- I also compiled a class poetry anthology. Each student selected his/her very best poem for our class book. I typed all of these poems, printed them off, had students illustrate them, and then photocopied our book for each student. I also took a section of each student’s illustration to use for the front and back covers.
A Few Pictures
If you’d like a jumpstart on creating poetry anthologies with your students, I have this writing unit available in my TeachersPayTeachers store. It includes the 17 poetry styles, guidelines for each poem type, and an example I wrote for each type. It also includes very simple black/white student writing paper, in case you don’t want to use notebooks. I printed this out, bound it, and used it year after year. If students were absent, they were also able to use this to catch up on what they had missed.
You can see the full details in my TeachersPayTeachers Shop:
Here are a few of my favorite poetry resources and books to use in this unit.
I hope you enjoy National Poetry Month with your students!