Poetry Friday: Writing Poetry with Students

Several years ago, when I had writer’s circle, the students tried their hand at writing the several types of poems during our month long unit which ran from mid-February to mid-March. My favorites were the color poems and the haiku. I found poetry, using the forms below, helped the young student (third grade) to learn more about parts of speech, and then put the common forms (noun, verb, adverb, and adjectives) into practice with their poems. I’m proud of the fact, as I’ve mentioned before, that nearly all of my writer’s circle (33/36) students had their poetry published in the Young American Poetry Digest compilation which focuses on haiku.



Color Poems

Types of Poems in Writer’s Circle



These lessons formed my own basis for understanding and writing poetry, as I did so right along with my students. It was an expectation that they would share their work with me and I would, in turn, share my work with them. We collaborated each week for thirty minutes from October to May for six years.

My personal growth as a poet now depends on learning more about forms of poetry. I’ve pursued this by using some written texts and focusing on what forms interest me. Recently, I read a chapter on meter and rhyme from the The Poet’s Companion book I obtained earlier this year. The end of each chapter in this book gives practice exercises. Until today, I had not done any. Today, I decided to try to write a sonnet.

A Petrarchan (Italian) Sonnet has a rhyme scheme of ABBA ABBA CDE CDE (or a multitude of combinations of CDE) totaling 14 lines with ten syllables per line. It is written in iambic pentameter. Commonly, the first two stanzas (octave) ask a question or present a problem, the last two (sestet) present a solution. Sonnets are often written about love or nature. The English sonnet is most commonly exemplified by Shakespeare. The Petrarchan sonnet frequently employs enjambment, which I used to in free verse but had a hard time employing with the metered verse.

During the pandemic, I’ve been studying the Italian language using Duolingo as my learning platform. Since I had a choice on how to pursue my work on sonnets, I chose to try the Petrarchan form as opposed to English form. It seemed a good fit for what I was learning about the Italian language, providing some context with history and culture.

My sonnet has been drafted, and is still very much a work in progress. But, I thought I’d share with you my efforts thus far. The subject I chose is one close to my heart in which, as an environmental educator, I’ve had a great deal of involvement over the last twenty years.

The Monarch’s Journey

To where does the monarch fly in autumn? Leaving our colorful gardens of bloom When flowers die off with no nectar fume By spring my hopes always reach the bottom

A presence without is far too solemn Then the days lengthen, fresh cycles resume Fly north, hoping for flowers to consume Thankfully, this year holds less post mortem

From Mexico, my future monarchs hail   Journeying, the hopeful cycle renews Spring gardens await for colorful friends

Their bold return expected to not fail Along the way, new eggs are left as clues Monarchs live their journey as hope ascends

I feel like for a first ever attempt at a sonnet, I’ve done alright. I have the syllabic count and the rhyme in place but the actual words need some work. I need to work on the iambs and enjambment.

While I worked, my thoughts kept returning to my students. We, as educators, must keep in mind that sometimes what we ask of them is difficult. For example, it’s hard to include an adverb in your poem if you do not know what it means. I did a lot of quick review for my sonnet work, but as I become more comfortable with the sonnet’s requirements and the cadence of the metered schemata, my skill (hopefully) will increase. I like to think I was patient with my writer’s circle students only offering positive feedback, guidance and support. But, now I need to offer myself the same patience and grace.

Today is Poetry Friday. Unfortunately, I cannot find the host blog. I will post hoping that one of the other participants will direct me to the right host. Thanks!

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