Sunday, June 26, 2011

Georgia Heard, Poetry, and Common Core Standards

Earlier this summer, I downloaded two Common Core Standard apps for my iPhone. You can find them at the iTunes app store or read about them ("The Common Core app isn't going to revolutionize the way you teach, but it certainly will make it convenient to find the standards that you need to know.") at Free Technology for Teachers.

I'm approaching the switch to the Common Core Standards on a "need to know" basis. They aren't exactly giving me hives, but I'm on the apprehensive side of curious to find out how they'll impact the way I do business in my 4th grade classroom.

Georgia Heard's session at All Write, "Understanding the Core Standards: Reading Standards for Literature -- Poetry," seemed like a good place to dip my toes in. And the main message I got from this session? Good teaching is good teaching, no matter what labels they give us to name the pieces and parts.

Georgia started with the big lessons that poetry teaches -- lessons of language. Poetry is filled with figurative language, and with the language of heart and soul: rhythm and sound, compression and precision, images, and figures of speech. (And she showed us where all of these pieces and parts and labels can be found in the Common Core Standards.)

She named the questions we need to ask of poems we read and write:

  • What makes this a poem?
  • What is this poem about?
  • What is the poet's message?
  • What tools did the poet use to help show his/her meaning?
(The standards these questions address already exist in our state standards...nothing new here...)

And she showed us how, by living with and climbing inside one poem a week, students would build knowledge about poems for their "music" and for their "meaning" toolboxes for reading and writing poetry.

Monday: read the poem aloud. Make sure students can see the poem. Read it again. Turn and talk. What do you notice? What's it about?

Tuesday--Thursday: illustrate it, act it out, read it chorally, do quick-writes about the poem/off of the poem.

Friday: now that you love and understand the poem, dig into the craft tools the poet used. Talk about how the poem's built, how the poet uses compressed language (not ALL of the words another writer might use on the same topic).

Georgia's final message:

Don't forget that literature is heart work.


  1. I like that this model has you wait until the 5th day to dissect the poem. By then, the poem will become these student's own and I think they will find more joy and purpose in looking at it closely.

  2. Mary Lee,
    I'm going to join you on the "apprehensive side" of the common core standards. Thanks for making me feel a little better. When Ohio first went to standards someone said to me, "Think of the standards as a small piece of the pie. You're going to give your students a lot more than that." (I think that someone was Tony, but it's been awhile.) I've always held onto that. Your post, and Georgia Heard, remind us once again of the bigger picture.


  3. Rebecca, that was her point EXACTLY!!! Love the poem first, then figure out how the author strung the words together!

    Cathy, yes, good teaching is ALWAYS going to surpass whatever standards we're given.

    I've killed myself for several years trying to do a poem a DAY. One of the biggest take-aways was to study a poem a WEEK. Ahh...that's do-able.

  4. Thanks for recapping this session. Even though I didn't get to attend it, I feel like I was there. What a big final message. I'm putting it in a place I can see it often.


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