When I was in college, I had to do an independent study course because of scheduling issues. The professor and I sort of made up our own class, and it was really great. One of the books she had me read was Rose, Where Did You Get That Red? by Kenneth Koch. When I taught middle school, I did my entire poetry unit using this book. My favorite poem and activity from it was “The Tyger” by William Blake. I thought I’d give it a shot with my 2nd/3rd graders. It’s a pretty intimidating poem, but I approached it in a simple way so it could make sense to the students. First, we viewed this reading on YouTube:
Then, I used the picture book of “The Tyger” illustrated by Neil Waldman and we broke it down line by line. We talked about how Blake is actually talking to the tiger and asking him questions about how he was created. We talked about the language and the meanings of a lot of the difficult words. They really got into the discussion, especially after I told them when they interpret poetry, there is no wrong answer.
Then, they have a chance to write their own poem, with the following instructions:
“Write a poem in which you are talking to a mysterious and beautiful creature. You can ask or tell that animal anything, because you are able to speak its language.”
Nearly all of the students got really excited and dove right into writing. Some were hesitant and needed coaxing. They really came up with some great stuff! In one class, some students wanted to share. When they read their poems, it gave me chills! Their innocent minds can come up with some incredible things. Next week, I plan to use Photostory and have each student record their poem. I plan to use Creative Commons to have pictures of their animals, which will be quite an undertaking with 500 students. I’m really looking forward to next week and creating some finished products! Watch for it, I plan to share some of their work.
Here’s another video I’d like to use:
Sharing the link between music and poetry really brings it home to many students, and I think using this video would do that so well.