There are three parts to my year-long poetry unit:
- Connecting with poetry that we read
- Performing poetry
- Writing poetry
There are other parts of this unit that we explore outside of poetry class. One is examining poetic song lyrics for figurative language, and explaining what that means. But those are the main components of any poetry unit I do, regardless of the grade.
For the first one, I use the Favorite Poem Project as a way to show my students how to connect with poetry. We first look at the poem that is featured, then make predictions on the type of person who would connect with the poem, then we watch the featured video, and finally compare our predictions to the personality who actually chose the poem. I do it in this order to show that connecting to a poem doesn't have to be just on the surface. If someone decides to connect with the poem "I'm Nobody. Who Are You?" by Emily Dickinson, it doesn't necessarily mean the person feels they are nobody. It could be quite the opposite. In fact, in the Favorite Poem Project's case, it could be someone who is so involved in so many different ways, that they long to be 'nobody' for a period of time. In this order, these are the Favorite Poem Project poem connections that are discussed in class:
1) #288 ("I'm Nobody! Who are You?") by Emily Dickinson read by Yina Liang
2) The Sloth by Theodore Roethke read by a 5th Grade Student
3) We Real Cool by Gwendolyn Brooks read by John Ulrich
4) Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer read by Lee Samuel
Now it's true that with the last connection, Lee Samuel likes the poem because he likes baseball. But that is why I do this one last, because by that time the students are way more in-tune with digging deeper into connecting with a poem.
After we go through these poems and connections, it's the students' turn.They find poems that they can connect to, record the poems in their poetry journals, and write how thyey connect with them. Finally, we do our own version of the Favorite Poem Project. Here are the criteria:
1) You should introduce yourself.
2) You should explain why you connect with the poem
3) You should read the poem (but it doesn't have to be memorized)
4) And you should use at least 2 different backgrounds.
Not only are we demonstrating connections to poetry, but we are constantly building up our sense of what makes a visually appealing video.