Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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Write in the Middle
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Write in the Middle
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Workshop 3: Teaching Poetry

Jack Wilde's Lesson on Distinguishing Poetry and Prose

Jack Wilde
Jack Wilde uses a model to teach differences between poetry and prose.

Like many other middle level students, the children in New Hampshire teacher Jack Wilde's fifth-grade class have had limited experience with poetry. So Jack's first priority—starting at the beginning of the school year—is to immerse his students in the genre.

One day each week, Jack has the children choose their reading from a poetry cart—a selection of 75 to 80 books Jack keeps in his classroom. The students also collect personal anthologies, selecting poems they want to own, and, occasionally, memorize. By the time they start writing poems, they know that poetry is more than rhyming words. They've begun to think about what's possible in poetry that's not possible in prose.

Jack begins his formal unit on writing poetry late in the school year. The first activity—a class discussion on what makes a poem a poem—requires the students to draw upon the experiences they've had reading poetry over the past eight months.

For Write in the Middle, Jack shares a mini-lesson on the differences between poetry and prose based on the model "The Truth About Why I Love Potatoes" by Mekeel McBride.

Lesson on distinguishing poetry and prose (pdf)

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