Acrostic poems aren’t as easy as they seem. At the end of my last garden club meeting in mid-January, I gave the students a mini-lesson on writing acrostic poems. We had just discussed and planted flower bulbs and I wanted to incorporate some language arts into are lesson. The directions were simple, as I used the word FLOWER to demonstrate how they should write the poem. I also gave them a word bank from which to choose a word for which to try this form of poetry. It surprised me that most of the students in this group were not familiar with acrostic poems. I only had one stipulation. They must choose a word that had to do with our lesson theme: flower bulbs. As I stated, I gave them a list from which to choose – bulbs, garlic, onions, tulips, daffodils, paperwhites (these were the bulbs that we used in our lesson), spring, and one or two others. But, the theme was flower bulbs, so their chosen word had to do something with that theme. I told them not to worry about spelling.
Shortly into the exercise, one of the students came up to me and asked how to spell Reindeer. Do you see a problem here? I did! Immediately! Firstly, I asked them not to worry about spelling. But, secondly and most importantly, what did Reindeer have to do with Flower Bulbs. When I asked why she needed to know how reindeer was spelled, she said that she was using it for the R in her acrostic on Christmas!
No, this was a great example of what happens when students don’t listen. I reminded the student of the directions, to which she pouted and returned to her seat. A few minutes later, her friend came up to me and said, “You said we could use any word!” Again, a couple of problems can be immediately identified. 1) not listening, and 2) worrying about someone else (she had come to defend her friend and as it turned out, herself, for she was also writing an acrostic on Christmas! They were working together. And, as you might guess, had not listened well enough to the directions.
What was meant to be a simple language arts enrichment activity turned into a frustrating battle of the wills. This has been a problem all year with a few of the garden club students. It is an after school club and while I want it to be fun, I also want them to learn. It is part of the purpose of the enrichment group. We are finally addressing it with parents this week. We meet again on the 7th of February.
Upon collection of the acrostic poems, I did find a few nice ones. Those that kept it simple did the best. Bear in mind that most of these students are in second or third grade, it was a mini-lesson following a science lesson on flower bulbs, and most of the students were unfamiliar with acrostics.
I also had a student, a second grade ELL student, write an acrostic using the word SPRING. It definitely fit the theme and he came up with the word on his own! When I told him he did a nice job, he smiled. But, when I asked if he’d like to share, he shook his head, no. I let him be, he seems shy and at the beginning of our meetings he made it known that he wasn’t sure he wanted to attend. But, he hasn’t missed a meeting! He must want to be part of our group. The best part of this meeting was that after several other students shared their acrostic poems, this young student raised his hand. I called on him and asked if he had a question. No, again he shook his head to indicate his desire. But, then he spoke and said, I’m ready to share now! Whoo-hoo! This was a great moment! I was thrilled he wanted to share his poem with our group!
I always try to write with my students, so I have examples, as well as mistakes, and they can “see” my process or metacognition about the words I chose and why I choose them. Last night, after a very odd week of subzero temperatures and four days of canceled school, I thought about what to write today for Poetry Friday. I came up with an acrostic that fit the theme of the week. I hope you enjoy it.
Frozen fingers fall from hands,
Rings of halos around the sun
that fail to warm.
Igloos of Icicles imported from Iceland,
Green gone, greatly missed in a sea of
Ignorance impedes us all,
Doomsday might look like this.
This post is my submission to Poetry Friday, a blog forum for writers of Poetry in all its forms. This week is hosted by Tabatha Yeatts: The Opposite of Indifference. Thank you!
I love how you incorporated writing into the garden club. While it sounds as though there were some challenges, your description of the ELL student’s participation warmed my heart. I haven’t written an acrostic in a long time, but I anticipate that several may end up in my writing notebook! Thank you for inspiring me!
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Thanks so much! I get to see this group again tomorrow. I am hoping he’ll join us at the “table” instead of sitting off to the side. My mini lesson was probably not enough to get across the intricacies of acrostics, but I like using an interdisciplinary style in my lessons for garden club. I’ve done it this way for years….incorporating social studies, lots of ELA, and even math. I don’t think I could teach with a siloed approach! Thanks for your kind words and support!
I feel your pain with students who don’t/won’t listen! I terminated my after school environmental club when I stopped having fun.
I always stipulate (and model) that acrostics need to actually SAY SOMETHING about the striking word — they can’t just be a list of random words that start with the acrostic’s letters. Acrostics are actually quite tricky! Avis Harley is a master at them, if you need a mentor text. And Steven Schnur wrote an acrostic volume for each season. He’s a good mentor for kids.
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I will check out that book. However, I learned that this is a better lesson for a writer’s circle where I could spend more time modeling and explaining my expectations. I reflect a lot on what I do and think that It was just too much of an add on at the end of a long day for young students. The behavior issues also distracted from my instructions. The poems I posted were not great but after little guidance and no former experience, they did alright. Thanks for your comments.
Good luck with getting folks to listen! That’s especially frustrating when you’re trying to do something special. So impressed with the ELL student who decided to share! 🙂
I did a post about acrostic limericks a while back. Here’s an example:
Perhaps you need a friendly welcome,
Unbridled joy, a tail never glum?
Please consider this —
Pooches love to kiss!
You’ll never lack a belly to rub.
Too complicated for wee poets, but fun for more experienced ones!
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Thank you for sharing. Yes, thinking about the ELL student still warms my heart. The principal and I put our heads together and came up with a behavior contract of sorts. We will see. I love the acrostic limerick – but much too complicated for this group! Love the idea of it though!
The one word acrostics are fabulous.
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