A major part of teaching poetry to younger learners is the introduction of figurative and symbolic language. I use catalog poetry as an introduction to this form of language.
Step 1 – Read and view a few examples of catalog poems.
Step 2 – Explain that the purpose of this type of poetry is to build up a ‘verbal collage’ of what a concept means to you.
Step 3 – Break the students into groups of 3 with a pencil and a piece of blank paper between them.
NB – I do my first catalog poems as a whole class activity as it focuses the mindset of the class on the language of poetry.
Step 4 – Write on the board ‘ White is a/an (object) (where)’
– invite each group to fill in the blanks and write their responses on their paper.
– ask each group to read their response to the group and ask them to decide on the one that ‘sounds the most like poetry’
– I find that if you do this step after each line you soon move from ‘My cat is white!’ to ‘White is the cat that stares at me with contemptuous eyes’. 🙂
– Write the line selected onto a large sheet of paper to make a joint construction.
Step 5 – Repeat Step 4 for the following lines:
– ‘White is (animal) (doing an activity)’
– ‘White is (something from nature) (exotic location)’
– ‘White was (a toy) when I was (age)’
– ‘White is the innocence of a small child (describe a place or situation)’
– ‘White is (a food or drink) that (a person) eats or drinks frequently.
– ‘White is the colour of (something ‘big picture’ ‘Life the Universe & Everything’) all ___________ & _____________
– ‘White is (something that you feel is sad)’
– ‘White is (something that you feel is happy)’
– ‘White is (killer last line that sounds REALLY poetic)’
Step 6 – Arrows and crossing out are good 🙂
– adverbs – using mime point out the difference between walking, walking briskly & walking slowly. Find a spot in the joint construction to add some adverbs and then invite the children to do the same with their poems.
– repetition – poets often use repetition as a way to add emphasis. Re-visit ‘The White’ poem above to see where repetition is used. Find a place to add repetition in the joint construction. Invite the children to add an element of repetitions to their poem.
Step 7 – Most Effective Line Order
– Decide which line on the joint construction is the ‘most poetic’ and place the number one beside it. Close the poem with the second ‘most poetic’ line and number the rest of the lines in the order that you feel has the greatest effect on the reader.
– The children do the same for their poems.
Step 8 – Celebrate your work!
– Publish the poems – in the school newsletter, on your blog, as animation or digital movie, put them on noticeboards for all to see.