Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Inspiration for Student Poetry and Prose

As National Poetry Month comes to a close, inspire students to write original poems with help from other texts, creating their own found poems. NCTE’s best-selling book Getting the Knack: 20 Poetry Writing Exercises explains the process of writing “Found & Headline Poems.” To compose a found poem, the writer searches for meaningful words, phrases, and images from an original text and then shapes them into an original work. It’s a sort of “quick start” poem—the writer begins with a ready sample of ideas, and simply chooses and arranges the work into something new. If the writer is using words only, you might think of a found poem as a sort of word collage.

A new teacher resource from the Library of Congress, Making Connections through Poetry, includes a gallery of primary documents that students use to compose and illustrate their own poems. The collections range across the entire span of the nation’s history and include specific touchpoints on such topics as U.S. involvement in national and international wars, women’s suffrage, and civil rights. The new ReadWriteThink lesson plan Rummaging for Fiction: Using Found Photographs and Notes to Spark Story Ideas (S) uses the Library of Congress site as inspiration to help students identify subjects, settings, characters, and conflicts for pieces of creative writing.

This technique can be adapted to any historical period or content area. For instance, if you’re celebrating Shakespeare’s birthday this week, ask students to use Primary Sources on the Folger Shakespeare Museum site as inspiration for their poems. Any site that includes primary sources or literary texts can be a resource. You might tap the Treasures in Full from the British Library, The Online Library of Literature, Historical Minutes from the U.S. Senate, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, or Letters and Diaries Online.

For materials that explore found poetry with all grade levels, visit these additional ReadWriteThink resources:

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