Have students create content with a poem about their favorite place
Many of my students are reading poetry. On Instagram. Okay, okay… I know. But whether or not you take verse found on Instagram seriously, poetry is experiencing a resurgence in popularity… thanks to social media, where many poets, including Rupi Kaur and others, gain exposure. That exposure is fueling a new audience seeking out poetry volumes in stores and online. According to this October 2018 article in The Atlantic,
“This year, according to a survey conducted by the National Endowment for the Arts and the U.S. Census Bureau, 28 million Americans are reading poetry—the highest percentage of poetry readership in almost two decades. Kaur’s publisher, Kirsty Melville, has seen it happen firsthand: ‘It used to be that poetry was down in the back of the store next to the bathrooms, and now it’s out front,’ she told us. ‘And that naturally helps sales of all poets. The classics and other contemporary poets are selling.’ “How Instagram Saved Poetry | The Atlantic | Faith Hill, Karen Yuan | Oct 2018
Chances are many of your students are familiar with Kaur. They are also probably familiar with Atticus. Go ahead and drop these well-known names into your class discussions. Trust me, if you don’t know these two celebrity-poets, several of your students do.
And then, invite your students to not only consume content, but to create some as well.
One way to start: write a favorite place poem.
Whether you call them favorite place poems or sacred place poems, getting students to focus on and write a poem about a place they enjoy has many benefits. For example, favorite place poems let students:
- Spend time thinking about a positive topic.
- Recall a pleasant memory.
- Practice their descriptive writing skills.
- Reveal something new about themselves.
Favorite place poems were one of the options among several writing projects in my high school Writer’s Workshop schedule last fall. Here are the basic guidelines I offered to students:
- Choose a special place to write about. This could be either a physical space or a figurative place, as in the mentor poem on the PDF printable.
- In a free verse poem, describe the place and how it makes you feel when you’re there. Students should challenge themselves to generate as much sensory language as possible by focusing on sounds, smells, textures, and tastes, and sharp visual descriptions.
- Use figures of speech. Include metaphor, simile, hyperbole, onomatopoeia, personification, repetition, and alliteration.
- Length: 20-24 lines. Use your judgment when assigning a certain number of lines. Some students need the structure; many don’t.
You’ll find a PDF file of these instructions after the two student-written examples that appear next.
Two student examples:
Madison, one of my junior English students last year, wrote about her favorite place in the poem below. After two revisions, she submitted this as part of her writer’s studio portfolio.
My Favorite Place to Be "Madison Ponder on deck!" As I hear my name, I burst up onto my feet and stretch. Preparing myself to throw, I concentrate on my muscles. "Madison Ponder is up, Emma Bloom on deck, And Amy Matthews in the hole!" I take a deep breath and enter the ring from the back. I touch the toeboard with the tip of my feet, Turn around, And take two strides to the back of the ring. I feel the heat radiating on me I take a deep breath and move into position, When I throw my shot, I watch it fo far and high. I then hear it land with a big thump. "38 feet and 10 inches." I smile and xit the back of the ring. Two hours later "With the first place in shot put, From Southwest Missour, Madison Ponderrrr!" I smile proudly and say to myself, This is my favorite place to be.
Another student, Grady, wrote a favorite place poem about working at a cattle auction sale barn.
The Sale Barn The smell of sweat and cigarettes fill the air. The clink of the gates rattles and The sound of cows bawling surrounds me. The horses stomp their feet And pin their ears back As the rider pulls the gate. The cows just sold by the auctioneer Come running down the alley. Dust flies in the air and the riders take off. The gates slam behind the cows as they run in. Everyone returns to their spot. Twelve hours a day. This is home. This is the sale barn.
The 2019-2020 school year was my first year teaching high school at a new-to-me rural school district. Being “the new teacher” last year was really hard at times. However, assigning, reading, and otherwise working on these poems with my new students opened up conversations for us to get to know each other better. After all, a novel study doesn’t regularly reveal the after school or weekend lives our students know.
I’m positive you’ll experience the same opportunities when your students write their own favorite place poems.
Download this favorite place poem assignment sheet:
And I use the term “assignment sheet” loosely. It’s more of a list of guidelines. Adjust them to fit your teaching style and students.
Of course, distance learning could (and should!) involve some creative writing. Students could post and share their poems on a Padlet, for example. Then host a virtual gallery walk where students post feedback on a few. Some students may wish to post their poem on social media or enter it in a contest. In other words, let your students’ words about their favorite places circulate beyond your desk. Get them out into the real world.
Thanks for reading! Have you used favorite place poems in your classes? Got any ideas other readers (including me!) should know about? Share away in the comments below! Also… for more ELA teaching ideas and lesson plans, add your name to my mailing list below: