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Monday, April 11, 2011

Writing Poetry with Robert Louis Stevenson

It’s National Poetry Month and I’m all agog at the different ways to share poetry. You all know by now that I went wild in January writing a poem every day for Kat Apel’s Month of Poetry. It was such a good time I didn’t sign up for a poetry challenge this month. Instead I’m challenging myself to think of new ways to share the poetry of other people.

Last week I challenged students to a rhyming contest. I gave each student a piece of scrap paper, gave a word to rhyme with and set my timer for three minutes. They wrote down as many rhyming words as they could in the time given. The person with the most rhyming words was given the accolade “King or Queen (insert name here) of the Land of Rhyme” written on a paper crown. You could not imagine how they set themselves to the task. The winner was often a dark horse candidate. Naturally, we read some rhyming poetry afterward.

This week I am working with classes on rewriting a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson to reflect the realities of the scenery from our playground swing set. I shared the poem with students and asked them about the content. Not a single child knew what “cattle” are.

We talked about the beauty of the scene, but how it doesn’t reflect our experience. We then made a list of what we can see from the swing set of our small city school. Though not an inner city, we certainly cannot see a single farm animal from our environs.

We then carefully cut out the sections which didn’t reflect our reality. I had the children clap out the beat of the original poem so that we could replicate it’s cadence. We then adapted parts and added in the vocabulary we had listed on the board. The finished product is a wonderful mix of Stevenson and Students.

The Original Poem
The Swing
By Robert Louis Stevenson

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside –

Till I look down on the garden green
Down on the roof so brown –
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!

The Swing
Robert Louis Stevenson & Kindergarten Class

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so far,
Buildings and toys and sticks and sand
I feel I can jump on the car.

Till I look down on the school building
Down on the roof so brown –
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!

(their  vocab list - cars, trees, sky, a person, grass, a fence, a bird, a building, the school, sand, a leaf, toys, sticks)

The Swing
By Robert Louis Stevenson and First Grade Class

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the fence,
Till I can see so far,
Children and playhouse and sand and slides
Everything till the cars.

Till I can see the sandy ground
Down on the roof so brown –
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!


(their vocab list – the woods, the road, the fence, the school, trees that are knocked down, sand, slides a factory, the playground, cars, a building, trees, the windows, the wind blowing, children, playhouse, the driveway, the door.)

I’m quite delighted with the results. They liked the poem on first reading, but they owned it when we were through. 

8 comments:

Janice Green said...

Great lesson plan. I'm going to "share" your post on FB for my teacher friends.

Lynda Shoup said...

Thanks, Janice. Glad you liked it enough to share it. I'm feeling very inspired from watching my students interact with poetry and the poetic muse.

Jim Hill said...

What a great lesson plan. I think it's wonderful how you helped them see and write about their surroundings. I bet that helped make Stephenson's poetry more accessible too.

Ann Dixon www.anndixon.com said...

Great ideas, Lynda. I'm going to use them!

Julie Hedlund said...

What a great project! Your kids did a fantastic job

Lynda Shoup said...

Thanks, Jim. I find I'm more and more committed to teaching classics. Still, I do want my students to connect on a personal level. Think I nailed it with this one.

Lynda Shoup said...

Ann, I'm so glad you plan to use the ideas. I'd be interested to see how the vision your students have would differ from the ones my students had.

Lynda Shoup said...

Julie, thanks for your enthusiasm. I compliment myself that the students did do a great job. They inspire me every day.