Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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Write in the Middle
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Workshop 3: Teaching Poetry

Vivian Johnson's Lesson on Line Breaks

Vivian Johnson teaches a lesson on the power of using line breaks in writing poetry.
Vivian Johnson teaches about the power of line breaks in poetry.

For Vivian Johnson, poetry is not a stand-alone unit. Instead, it's a yearlong effort to "marinate" her students in the beauty and power of poetic writing. At the beginning of the school year, the first thing her eighth-graders hear her say is a poem. It's also the final thing they hear when school ends.

About midway through the year, after the students have read a great deal of poetry and developed opinions about poems that resonate with them, Vivian spends five weeks formally teaching the writing of poetry. Throughout the unit, Vivian engages her students in a rich mixture of mini-lessons, reading, discussion, writing, and responding. By the end of the unit, every student has assembled an anthology of his or her favorite poems—a minimum of 40 poems written by others and at least ten original pieces.

Vivian's poetry unit includes a variety of lessons on figurative language and poetic devices, including the two- to three-day lesson on line breaks captured in Write in the Middle. Although the content of the lesson is quite specific, the techniques and strategies Vivian uses apply equally well to other writing genres.

Lesson on line breaks in poetry (pdf)

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