Every year, my students enjoy studying haiku poetry in honor of Asian Pacific American History Month. We discuss the traditional form in terms of traditional meter and subject matter. Students read examples of haiku translations, as well as modern examples. In the past, I've always photocopied pages from origami books, or handed out pages from day-by-day origami calendars, but students always get a little confused somewhere around step 23, or they aren't sure how to do a pocket fold. Recently, I found the Origami Club website, which offers tons of origami options. You can search by theme, or browse the "easy origami" section. (Some of my students struggle with the basics, while others can fold a crane from memory, so differentiation is a must!) What I really REALLY love about this site is that it offers animations that show you step-by-step how to complete each of the origami projects. Below, I'm embedding one of their animations which I captured using Screenr. Personally, I would use this website in conjunction with my haiku lesson, but this website would work well with art classrooms, world cultures studies, or even geometry activities.
The Instant Poetry Forms website allows students to select the type of poems that they want to create, type in a few words, and generate poetry. Now, I know that this website doesn't give a complete overview of all that poetry can be (isn't that a daunting task?) but it does give reluctant writers a great starting point. These poems can be altered with the addition of figurative language, strong verbs, more imagery during the revision process, to make them sound less manufactured. This website would also be great for younger learners who are just starting out with poetry. This website also deserves some recognition for introducing students to a variety of poetic forms--not just standard rhymed couplets. I personally recommend the William Carlos Williams tribute that spoofs "This Is Just to Say."
Online Magnetic Poetry: http://play.magpogames.com/
Everyone has seen--and maybe even played with--the tin can of magnetic words that you can arrange to make poetry. Recently, my sister gave me her Office Magnetic Poetry and, after removing any words that could be put into compromising situations, I threw the words on my dry-erase board and waited. Now, my magnetic poetry seems to have a group of devoted followers who enjoy coming in at the beginning of the hour to arrange the magnets and have their words represented throughout the day. On a hunch, I searched for an online version and found that the makers of Magnetic Poetry will let you try before you buy on their website. You can also view submitted poems created by others. What a fun end-of-the-hour activity! Or an interactive writing prompt! Or a fun National Poetry Month activity! This would work really well with a Smart Board.
The Academy of American Poets has a fantastic database of poetry-inspired photography called the Free Verse Project. You can access the photos on the academy's website, or check out the "Free Verse" group on Flickr. This would be a wonderful way for students to find poems that they may enjoy. This year, I'm thinking about having students participate in the project by bringing in their own poetry-inspired photography and posting it in a highly-visible location at school in celebration of National Poetry Month (April). Of course, students' photos would also make a wonderful addition to a classroom webpage.
Note: While visiting the Academy of American Poet's homepage, check out their available lesson plans, searchable database of poetry and poets, and their audio recordings. Teachers can also request a free copy of the National Poetry Month poster, and find NPM activities for their classroom and community.
Update: As of March 2011, my students are currently working on their own Free Verse Project. Photos will continue to filter in until the April 8, 2011 deadline. http://pilgreenenglish.weebly.com/free-verse-project.html
Below, I'm embedding the handout that I distributed to my students. If you would like a copy as a Publisher file that you can edit and customize, please send me an e-mail.
PicLits calls itself "Inspired Picture Writing." I like it because it's great for visual learners, and it combined writing with grammar. Students can select from a wide collection of photos, and then drag-and-drop words from grammatical categories (nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs) to create sentences, poems, or to brainstorm words and phrases for a longer composition. I spent one whole day during the summer creating my own PicLits as story starters for descriptive writing practice. I dragged words from the adjective and adverbs columns (making sure that each picture contained a few words that I thought my freshmen would not be familiar with) and then I had students write descriptions of the photos using the descriptive words on their PicLit. It went so well that I laminated them for reuse. I was amazed at the compositions that developed out of this exercise and, while the words weren't completely of their own selection, most students eagerly turned to a dictionary in order to find the meaning and were able to use the words appropriately. I also have students return to this previous writing at times, when they feel uninspired by the descriptive writing muse.
Jessica Pilgreen is a high school English teacher, a Piasa Bluffs Writing Project fellow, and a technology enthusiast. The main purpose of this blog is to help her keep track of all of the fabulous tools out there that she has encountered, but if she can help a few others along the way, that's good, too.