Immersing Ourselves in Poems with a POETRY FLOOD

Last Wednesday and Thursday, my students engaged in a “poetry flood”, a gallery walk designed to give students to immerse themselves in 50 different poems.  The activity design was fairly simple:

  1.  I chose close to 50 unique poems of varying styles, poets, topics, and time periods for students to browse and read.
  2.  During the poetry flood, students walked about quietly and read poems.  As they came across ones of interest that they liked or enjoyed or thought would be a good choice for their poetry project, they jotted down the poem title and author.  I do play soft music through the overhead projector/ceiling speakers during the gallery walk; this selection is one of my favs for the 2018-19 school year!
  3. Students could revisit and re-read the poems at any time, including the online voting.
  4. The activity took two class periods; our first day was a bit short since we were on a modified afternoon schedule due to state testing.  We completed the flood on Day 2 and did our online voting so that I could have time to compile the responses and have enough copies of the poems for each student in each class.
  5. Once they completed their reading (roughly 20-25 minutes for most), they went online to a Google Form in our Canvas course and voted for their top three poem choices and explained each choice.  They also voted for whether they wanted to do a FSLL poster or Sketchnoted Poetry Analysis for their project; we reviewed project options and requirements Wednesday and Thursday.  Students turned in the hard copy of their “poetry flood” notetaking/jot sheet form once they finished voting.  You can see a breakdown of project choices below.

5.  Note:  I definitely recommend using Google Forms to collect student votes so you can download responses into a spreadsheet and quickly sort the top choices and give students one of their top three choices while avoiding replication of poems within a class period for project work.  Click here to see a PDF version of my form.  I actually downloaded one master spreadsheet and then did some cut/paste to separate into my four different class sections to make voting easier.

Below are videos and photos to help you see our poetry flood unfolded over two days:

{Note:  please pardon the mess with items covered up to preserve our testing environment in my classroom last week and the week before!}

With the exception of my first period class (I did not get to see them Thursday because of our testing schedule, so they picked up on Friday with completing the poetry flood), my other three classes received their poems on Friday.  I made copies on neon paper, and we spent most of the period annotating the poems.  Each student was required to do five high quality annotations and could use their poetry terms and FSLL question stems (install this font for the download to format correctly) to nudge their thinking.

Once they finished the first round of annotations, students showed me their work and we conferenced for next steps to polish or finalize their annotations.  Most needed a 2nd pass at going beyond some connecting and summarizing of stanzas and a little coaching to help them focus on some literary or poetic elements.   In addition, I encouraged some students to further elaborate on their notes if that was needed.  The majority of students responded really well to the conferences and set about their work in a positive and earnest manner.  I was quite impressed with their efforts, especially with the final product after our annotation conferences.

Those who finished their annotation work a little early used scratch paper to begin planning a mockup and notes for their project.  We’ll actually craft the posters on Thursday and Friday of this week.

Given our limitations of time with the two week state testing session that just ended plus end of the year events, I feel these activities are a meaningful way to give my students a personal and positive experience with poetry at the end of the year.  What kinds of activities do you like to do to immerse students in poetry?  What are your favorite poetry projects, especially when time is short?

Building Community with Collaborative Class “Where We’re From” Poems

This year I wanted to start the school year with an activity that infused reading, writing, and critical thinking while building classroom community and some personal connections.  Inspired by an Instagram post from the Ohio Writing Project at Miami University, I decided to work with my students to craft a collaborative “Where I’m From” class poem from each of my four sections of 8th Language Arts at Chestatee Academy.

We began by looking at a mentor text; for two of my classes, we used the original “Where I’m From” poem by George Ella Lyon; for two of my other sections, I used student created poems.  We gathered at the carpet in the front of the room and I did a read aloud of the mentor text poem for students as I projected it on the board.

Next, I asked students to look at the poem individually and record his/her noticings in their notebooks using the following chart as a guide:

Students took about 10-12 minutes to record their noticings.  We then had a large group share out and discussion of what we noticed as a class.

Next, students participated in a gallery walk of 10 additional mentor “Where I’m From” poem texts by middle and high school writers.  I gathered my mentor texts from here and here; after printing and number the poems, I placed them in my ever faithful neon pouch holders and hung them on small hooks around the room.   Students were instructed to participate in the gallery walk quietly as they:

  1. Read each poem closely and carefully.
  2. Recorded any three favorite sentences from the poems into their literacy notebook.  Students could record more than four, but our goal was to collect at least three mentor text sentences we loved that we could use as inspiration for writing our own lines/sentences.



Once we had completed the gallery walk, students worked independently to draft their three very best sentences that they felt best represented themselves.  Students could use the mentor sentences they had copied into their notebooks as a template; they could also free-write or do a combination of both techniques.    After completing our drafts, we did some variations of peer feedback using the praise/question/polish technique, a strategy I learned from fellow teacher Glenn Rhoades last year.  Fortunately, I had plenty of PQP slips leftover from last year to use with my students.  I was sure to take time and model/explain each part of the PQP feedback process.


Once students had received peer feedback from at least two classmates, they completed any revisions they felt were needed and then drafted the sentence onto a neon sentence strip.  Once students were satisfied with their work, they traced over their draft with a black or blue Sharpie.

This activity gave provided the following:

  • Students got to deconstruct a text together in a “safe” space.  Looking at text structure is something we will do regularly all year, so I was happy to begin with this practice in a meaningful context.
  • Students got to participate in a gallery walk, one of my favorite active learning strategies.
  • Students got to choose their own mentor texts; in this case, favorite lines/sentences for their own writing.
  • Students were using their literacy notebooks.
  • Students had opportunities to draft, engage in accessible peer feedback, and revise.

In addition, this activity that took place over 2.5 class periods served as a series of formative assessments as I observed and listened to student participation/thinking and read their drafts.

I also incorporated a writing reflection activity to help us think about the power of story and how stories don’t necessarily come from a book:

Here are the finished products that I put together Friday afternoon; students will get to enjoy the collaborative class poems this week!

Remembering Mama: “A Dandelion for My Mother”–Poetry as Solace

Four years ago today, I lost my beloved mother to stage four pancreatic cancer.  She was my best friend, my confidant, my cheerleader, and my heroine.  As always, I find poetry a source of solace, and today I discovered one of the most gorgeous poems I’ve ever read that is fitting for today as I reflect on our love, our times together, and the void her passing has left in my life.  “A Dandelion for My Mother” is written by Jean Nordhaus, mother of one of my favorite nonfiction writers, Hannah Nordhaus.  I hope you will take time to read the words in this poignant and incredibly beautiful poem.