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What is Poetry? is designed to be both an introduction to poetry and an introduction to figurative language. This assignment starts by having students create a personal definition of poetry. This helps them begin thinking about poetry, and transitions to the next part of the assignment, describing poetry using common types of figurative language. This assignment help students better understand their connection to poetry. It also teaches them figurative language and its impact on language, how to better recognize and understand it in literature, and how to utilize it in their own writing. And because the work is broken into chunks, students have a positive experience and better retain or reinforce this new or existing knowledge.
What is Poetry? is a great way to introduce or reinforce common types of figurative language. Students are given simple definitions for each figure of speech, and an example to model what is expected of them. Then they practice by describing poetry in some way using each provided figure of speech.
This assignment is designed for classes with a diversity of ability or skill levels, and for students who typically need a lot of 1-on-1 help. Low level and advanced students alike have given me positive responses and create meaningful work. Lower level students are capable of doing the work and often produce wonderful poetry that they enjoyed writing. Very low level students can have the assignment modified by having them do only 1 poem. The advanced students enjoy the challenge and will often agonize over each poem, trying to be incredibly profound or poignant.
In the end nearly every student has at least a few lines that are well written and they can be proud of.
My students are required to "Posterize" their 2 favorite descriptions of poetry and post them in the halls of the school. Often students will place them in bathrooms on mirrors, stall doors, and over urinals. Students "Posterize" by designing a small poster that displays the story in a complementary way. "Posterizing" lets students take ownership of their writing, instills pride, and celebrates their work for everyone in the school to see. We encourage they take the posterizing seriously by having plenty of basic art supplies on hand, and to make use of their technology to type, design, or print things. I encourage them to "zazz-up" up their posters.
The lesson consists of simple definitions, directions for writing the descriptions, and work spaces for writing. My students are encouraged to use the internet while writing, or a word processor for their "Posterized" drafts if they have poor handwriting. This lesson can be done in 50 minutes time, but for some classes I will take up to 150 minutes for this assignment. Understanding the figures of speech is the main objective, and poetry is the tool to help them. Student satisfaction and motivation are the bonus.
This is designed to work as both a standalone assignment, or as the first part of the Poetry Party: Figurative Language package (coming soon to the NLL TPT store!)