I wrote this a few years ago, and adapted it again recently in October, 2009. Since I don’t want to lose it, I’m posting it here!

How To Write a “Talking to Animals” Poem

Author/Facilitator: Miguel Guhlin
Copyright: CC-NC-SA-Attribution
Creation Date: 10/14/2009; Last Modified: 10/14/2009
Short Web URL for this Page: http://sn.im/mgpoetrylesson



UNIT TOPIC: Writing about a real or imaginary trip

From TEKS Grade 2

  1. 4A – Use vocabulary to describe ideas, feelings, and experiences
  2. 14B – Write to discover, develop and refine ideas
  3. 18A – Generate ideas for writing by using prewriting techniques such as drawing or listing
  4. 18E – Use technology for writing: word processing, spell checking, printing

1. Computers
2. Internet access
3. GoogleDocs

Some background info: The idea for this comes from Kenneth Koch’s Rose, Where Did You Get that Red?

Guiding Principle for students composing:
“Imagine you are talking to a mysterious and beautiful creature and you can speak its secret language, and you can ask it anything you want.”
Read more about this approach.

Day 1 – MiniLesson: Pre-Writing

  1. Share the following with students:
    In class, you’ve been working on a story about taking a trip. Today, we’re going to play with words to make a poem. Poems can tell a story using word pictures. Here are a few pictures of animals to get you thinking. We’re going to make a picture map of different animals. How would it feel to be one of these animals? Imagine you are talking to a mysterious and beautiful creature and you can speak its secret language, and you can ask it anything you want.What would it say?

    Example of The Tiger:
    external image 20091014-mw4drh1q355jwxpabhi4peaf7p.png
    Poem to Read – William Blake’s, The Tyger
    Read a student poem inspired by Blake’s poem.

    Slideshow #1:

    Slideshow #2:

  2. Run the slide shows above so they can see some of the animals. As a group, pick one of the images of animals that is shown. This will be the animal that you use for a collaborative writing workshop.
  3. Make a word map using Wordle.net as children describe the animal and then how the animal feels.

    For example, for a picture of a labrador retriever:
    external image Golden_Retriever.jpg

    Here are some of words that might come to mind: strong medium-sized hunter friendly soft furry enthusiastic healthy family energetic exercise retriever Labrador Labrador Labrador Labrador water dog dog Loving marley and me

Which results in a Wordle like this one (note that Labrador appears 4x above to make it the “central” word):
external image 20091014-c8rpjjwx8gbif5r61scg1ps6ku.png

4. Share the slide show with students and ask them to make a word map to describe a picture they choose. You might want to print out black-n-whites of the animal slides and let them do the word map next to the picture. You could also brainstorm words that describe, as well as feeling words, and list those on a whiteboard/blackboard so that students have a list to choose from when describing their animal of choice.
5. At the end of class, collect the graphic organizers students have made for next time.

Lesson 2: Writing the Poem

  1. Ask a student to summarize what the class did before.
  2. Using the word map you created as a class, write a “group poem.” Begin each poem with a question, then spend the rest of the poem telling what your animal said. For example:

    Labrador Retriever, why do you like to swim and hunt?
    So I can run and play in the grass and water all day long.
    I see my friends and sniff their noses
    I let my friends brush my fur
    I listen to the ants as they play on my paws

    Labrador Retriever, how come you frolic so much?
    I have a happy heart and every good lick comes from my spirit, free and strong.

    You can also add animals.

    Of course, you could “wordle” the poem, too! See the example below:
    external image 20091014-1quqq6ynk7hdu4e9cxuwjymn3y.png

  3. Make sure that the poem includes one line from each child in the class. Put that poem where all the children can see it as an example.
  4. Pass out their graphic organizer. Now, you are going to write your own I Wish poem about being an animal. You can’t change animals until after you’ve tried a new one.
  5. At the end of class, ask children to post their poems on the GoogleDocs (then share it as a web page). Some ground rules include:
    We are going to share our poems with each other.
    If you want to share a comment about something to the author of the poem, it has to be something nice about what they wrote.

Lesson 3: Publishing the Poems

  1. Use GoogleDocs Presentation to make a slideshow of the poems, having each student add the picture of their animal and the text.
  2. Model how to login to the GoogleDocs Presentation and type in the group poem.
  3. Publish the poem and show kids that it is on the Internet. Be sure to tell them that only other classes at the partner campus will be able to see it.
  4. If lab time is available, have students type their poems into the blog. You will want to log students in–or get them to login–so that they can get started. If not, divide them up into groups of 5. Ask them to vote on the best poem and make a list of why they think it should be published. Publish the 5 poems by typing them in yourself or getting students to type them in.

Lesson 4: Commenting on Other Class’ Poems

  1. Ask students in pairs to read one other poem written by a class member.
  2. Each dyad will make 3 points and include them as a comment to the author of the original poem.

1. Ask students in another class to assess the poems. They might use a simple rubric.

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