My students enjoy poetry. They like when I read poems aloud, and they like to write poems. They especially enjoy a quick poetry “Do Now” once in a while. The problem is that the 5 minute “Do Now” poems they wrote left a lot to be desired.
I found that by requiring students to write a poem without giving them some guidance, I was guaranteed to end up with a stack of pitiful rhyming poems about puppies. Not that there’s anything wrong with puppies. Or rhyming. But the forced rhyming that students do? Ugh. “I love my puppy as much as my guppy.” Double Ugh.
So I would give them a topic or a form and then hope for the best. But my students complained about that. And they still ended up working puppies into the mix.
Then someone suggested that I start giving students specific words that they had to work into their poem. The idea was for me to ask them to write a free verse poem, in which the given words were included. The first time I proposed it the reaction was not promising. In fact, I thought a rebellion was brewing. I positioned myself near the door in case things got ugly for me really fast. But we all survived. And even flourished. The kids know it forces to do something that initially feels uncomfortable, so that they have to expand their "vision." And their vocabulary!
To make it quick and easy for me, I make an entire list of words, cut them out, and put them in a box. Then I can let a student choose the words randomly. It’s great! I call it Outside of the Box Quickwrite Poetry.
Through trial and error, I found out that some words work and some don’t. For instance:
• Words that are strictly adjectives have to be used sparingly, because the kids just hook them up to modify one of the nouns they were given, no matter how weird the combination is. I once ended up with an entire class writing about turquoise babies and evil pillows.
•Nouns and verbs work best.
• And I always present an extra challenge, like "include a metaphor" or something, in order to differentiate instruction a little.
So the four word might be
1)smoke 2) bridge 3) include 4) suppress
The best part is that now my scholars beg me to give them words to include. And none of them is ever “puppy.”
Poetry meatballs to you!