Friday, February 12, 2010

Poetry Friday: A Poem a Day

I was first introduced to the work and writing of Nancie Atwell this summer when I started my Master's Program.  After reading several of her books and applying her ideas to my classroom, I can't believe that I taught for four years without ever coming across her ideas.  I have completely changed my language arts program based on her books and I am thrilled with the results.  My students this year developing into fluent, passionate readers and are as excited about books as I am.

Which in a round about way brings me to this week's poetry Friday topic: 'A poem a day.'

My students all have a poetry duotang and most mornings when my students arrive I have a copy of a poem waiting for them on their desk.  While I am taking attendance in the morning they read over the poem and mark up what they notice, what they like, what they think it means, etc. on their copy.  Often we read it together and sometimes I read it with expression and have them listen and sometimes I let them read.  I have been astounded with the deep discussions that have arisen and they have constantly surprise me with their ability to understand the big ideas in the poems.

A lot of the poems I use come from Nancie Atwell's book Naming the World: A Year of Poems and Lessons.  Each poem has an explanation and discussion ideas, and they are poems that she has used with her middle school students.  We have laughed at some, and discussed global issues with others.  Teaching a poem a day takes about 15 minutes each morning, but I believe it builds reading comprehension, oral language and written response skills all at the same time.

My favourite poem so far has been Autobiography in Five Short Chapters by Portia Nelson.  I thought it would be too obsure for my students, but everyone of them could talk about how it personally applied to their own lives.  Here it is - a quick google search finds many many links, so maybe it is just new to me...

Autobiography In Five Short Chapters
by Portia Nelson
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost ... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place
but, it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in ... it's a habit.
my eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.
I walk down another street.

On February 12th, the Poetry Friday roundup takes place at the blog I'm Here. I'm Queer. What the Hell Do I Read?


  1. Hi breannep,

    Thanks for posting about Nancy's book. If you are interested in a simple way to analyze a metric line of poetry, I just posted "Iamb What I Am" under "Poetry Tips" at my website.

    Laura Evans

  2. Thanks for the nudge -- for a variety of reasons, Poetry Friday has evaporated from my schedule. A poem a day in the morning might work, though...

    (Love the autobiography! Sounds like me...except I'm still falling in the hole!!!)

  3. yeah - it sounds like me too...except for as soon as I stop falling in one hole I find another one on another street...