Slice of Life: Poetry Thoughts


National Poetry Month came late to my students. Spring Break and a field trip conspired to make yesterday our first classroom school day of April. Poetry had to wait too. Or did it?

We’ve  been reading Locomotion by Jackie Woodson a page at a time. Students annotate  their copy with what they notice, know, and wonder. I read it aloud, they write, we share, I write their thoughts on my copy.  Poetry has engulfed us daily — the sound, the structure. We’ve been looking closely.

To  begin our “official” poetry unit, I started out with an inquiry. I asked students to complete this:


describes feelings in an easier way

can tell something about yourself

expresses things around yo

sometimes hymes

sometimes tells a story

sometimes has a form like haiku

sometimes has a rhythm  like rap

helps you imagine

shorter slices of life

words from the heart

The power of their thoughts. Unfiltered. All from the word poetry.

They know so much. Little snippets of poetry snuck up on them with The One and Only Ivan.  Then Woodson’s beautiful words showed the many ways poetry could go. Students have read May B, Brown Girl Dreaming, and The Crossover and begged for more. Poetry has been with us all along.

* * *

What follows is some erasure poetry from this post. Last year Dana introduced this writing to me. I took my post copied it and started deleting words that didn’t contribute to what I thought was the essence. I don’t allow myself to change the order. I can just erase and change line breaks.


Thanks to Anna, Beth, Betsy, Dana, Stacey, and Tara at Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life Tuesdays. Read more slices here.

12 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Poetry Thoughts

  1. Poetry is a fun and easy way to enter fiction writing. Once I wrote a sequel to a popular song in short story form. It was “The Trooper 2.” Like Lord Tennyson’s, “The Charge of the Light Bri9gade,” “The Trooper” was about The Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War: the British and Ottoman empires vs. Russia in the mid 1850’s.

  2. Thank you for sharing how you begin your unit. I am trying poetry for the first time and you gave me two good ideas! I am just realizing that poetry can be “Slicey.”

  3. Love your erasure poem. I was testing yesterday and picked up Locomotion and couldn’t put it down. Wow! This has been on my shelf all along. Poetry has been with us all along.

  4. “Poetry has been with us all along.” Yes, it has and what a discovery that is. Your kids get poetry because the sounds of language has been woven into their being. Powerful poem that is the essence of your message.

  5. We’ve been trying to do NaPoWriMo, but testing has interrupted. Fortunately, the groans I heard when I introduced it have now been turned into groans of disappointment when we don’t get to write a poem a day.

  6. AWESOME!!!
    It is true that poetry is around us and as teachers, we just simply need to provide the space to honor it as you did with your students so well. You remind me that, yes during April I honor poetry but really, it is apart of us all year long!! Thanks for the reminder and for teaching me about erasure!

  7. Somehow I have the feeling poetry doesn’t really have to wait in your room each you. You strike me as the kind of teacher who infuses it during the year. (I could be wrong.)

    Would love to see some of your students’ annotations of Locomotion (if you’re willing to share). I used to read that book to my 4th and 5th graders, but it was as a read aloud. (You do know about Peace, Locomotion, right?)

    • Yes! I have Peace Locomotion ready and waiting for a book club. The students’ annotations are a goldmine of info about how they think. I will share soon! Thanks for the push to do so.

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