Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Is There Room For Poetry In A Informational Text World?

I become liquid

Conforming to any shape
I flow, I shift, change.


April is National Poetry Month. I challenge all of you to tie poetry into one lesson this month. One lesson. What, you say, you are not an ELA teacher? That's ok. Poetry is about taking content knowledge and interpreting it in a new way that someone hasn't thought of before. Take a look at my Haiku, is it about liquid as one of the 3 states of matter - science content OR is it about how I feel about what is being expected of teachers as they transition to the Common Core? Poetry is a way to condense key ideas, vocabulary, concepts down into something that is approachable or memorable. Poetry can be very structured and mathematically precise or it can wander and roam across a page mapping out thoughts and ideas. Poetry can be a bridge between fiction and non-fiction. Poetry requires the readers to really work at understanding the meaning of the poem - looking closely at what words the poet chose to create an impression or provoke an emotion.

But wait, the Common Core focus is very much on reading Informational Text and not poetry. Do the writers of the Common Core really expect the math department or the history department to teach reading? No, not directly. The writers do expect that all teachers will take responsibility for ensuring that students in their classrooms have the background knowledge experiences they will need to be successful readers of a wide variety of materials as they become adults. Don't you as teachers already teach them how to be thinkers? Stretch that thinking just a bit and you will realize that in order to be thinkers in your classroom, students must be able to read primary source information and draw their own conclusions. Readers need to spend time deciding what the author of a primary source document was trying to accomplish with the writing. What information did they choose to include or not include? What impression or emotion were they trying to elicit? What was going on in society at the time the piece was written? This is a shift away from the traditional textbook based content area reading assignment where the student reads p16-23, taking notes on bold faced words and answering the questions at the end of the section. It will require department and grade level teams to spend time reading the primary source material they will be using in their classrooms and having their own discussions. Lunch room conversations could become a lot more interesting!  

Are you up to this challenge... can you figure out how to add a little poetry to your classroom? And more importantly, can you help students to unlock the meaning of primary source materials that are relevant to your class?

Teaching Informational Text

Poetry Websites
Poetry Lesson

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