Friday, October 27, 2017

Poetry Friday -- Mentor Texts

You've heard about it, you've marked it "To Read" in GoodReads, maybe you've even ordered it and have it on your stack. Move it to the top of your stack, make some time, and dig in! Once I started reading, I was hooked. I wanted to keep reading, but more than that, I was anxious to start writing and try some of her ideas with my classroom of writers.

With a short week this week, I decided to ease my writers into informational writing with some of the strategies from Poems are Teachers, and definitely by using the mentor text poems (one from a professional poet and two from students accompany each section). My goal was for them to develop fluency in generating ideas and drafts, and to show them that a minimal amount of "research" is needed in order to jot a draft. I was also hoping that all of our work thus far in the year with "Unpacking Poems" (hat tip to Tara for the idea) would evidence itself in the students' poems...and it DID! Alliteration, similes, thoughtful stanzas, repetition, and more! Finally, a future goal is that my students will transfer both the fluency of ideas and drafting, as well as the use of rich and creative language to their informational writing. Once you dig in and start reading Amy's book, you'll see how your students' work writing poetry will do what the subtitle says and "Strengthen Writing in All Genres."

On the first day, I spread my "Activists and Trail Blazers" shelf of picture book biographies on the meeting area carpet. We browsed the books, jotting notes about what we read, about what we noticed in the illustrations, or about connections we were making. Midway through our time, we looked at the mentor poems in the section "Listen to History" (p. 18 and 21) and I sent students off to try a draft. Here are a couple of the more polished first draft poems and the book that inspired each poem:

"In America, You Can Achieve Anything"

Discrimination is "whites only."
Discrimination is no prom.
Discrimination is closed doors.
Discrimination is skin deep.

Honor is head held high.
Honor is good grades.
Honor is medical school.
Honor is Olympic gold.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017

Try Hard

Two trainers one passion
Try hard
Train hard

Stolen bike
Fight for rights
Try hard

Try to fight
Rare in light
Try hard

©M., 2017

MLK's Dream Day

Not everyone is treated the same.
Not everyone had the same things we have now.
Who is to blame?

One man stepped forward.
On August 18, 1963,
he said his famous speech
"I have a dream."

©J., 2017

On the second day, we tried the same thing, but I put out a shelf full of animal books from my nature nonfiction section. The mentor poems in Amy's book were from the "Find Ideas in Science" section (p. 32 and 35). Here are a few more first drafts and the books that inspired them. You can probably tell that writing a mask poem was one of the suggestions!

Creepy Crawlers

I have 8 eyes
I can be small
I can be big

I can crawl
Jump and bite

I love bugs
I have more than
One leg or two or three

What can I be?
What am I?

(jumping spider)

©A., 2017

Hello, my little prey!
I see you came to the luminous light.

But you shouldn't have.

As the people say,
"Don't go to the light."

I can be 1 or 2 or 3, *
but can you guess me?

Who am I?


©M., 2017

*"Smaller males join their bodies to mine, latching on with their teeth until their skin fuses into mine. I eat for all of us, sharing the nutrients from my bloodstream."

Mr. Tree

I, Mr. Tree, have been here
longer than you, I've been here longer
than your mother and father.

I, Mr. Tree, give you oxygen
and in return you give me water and food.
I will help you until I go TIMBER!!

I, Mr. Tree, live in your back yard
with Miss Flower and Sir Grass.

I, Mr. Tree, am still here as a seedling
after I pass on.

©H., 2017

(H's poem shows that your writing might wind up taking you in a very different direction than you expected!)

Brenda has the Poetry Friday Roundup this week at Friendly Fairy Tales.


  1. WOW. These poems are incredible. Thank you, Mary Lee, for letting us see the connections you are making for your students between poetry and information writing. Now I have some books I want to read...and I really am hoping that one day your young writers might be interested in sharing at The Poem Farm. I am saving this post for my own reference and so that I can share these poems with students I meet and teach. Thank you for your beautiful poem, "Riches," in POEMS ARE TEACHERS...and thank you for sharing the book here today. xx

  2. I imagine your students loved knowing that they could use some research to respond to it with poetry, Mary Lee. These are wonderfully done, show just enough to celebrate the topic poetically! Wishing I was still teaching so I could use Amy's book, but I have shared with former colleagues!

  3. How fun! Three cheers for inspiration.

  4. These are AMAZING! Hats off to you and your student poets. I especially loved the voice of the anglerfish poem and the ending of the tree poem and the transformation of information into expression in all the poems!

  5. Thanks for sharing these poems. Good to see!

  6. Sammy Lee is knew to me, I need to find that title!

  7. The poems from your young writers just made my day. And yay for Amy's marvelous book!

  8. Wow, this book sounds like a book of breakthrough, or maybe breakdown, as in breaking down the walls between subjects and genres with the tool of poetry. Good job Amy, Mary Lee and class!

  9. Very cool approach, ML, to go for the draft before the indepth research. Love these poems, and the unpacking practice does really show.

  10. Mary Lee, what amazing poetry. I like that some were from novel points of view, too, like mine this week.

  11. I'll have to look for Tara's unpacking post for my own edification!

    And these are just drafts? What a great foundation to build upon.

    By the way, I love that M. utilized the asterisk for that amazing bit of information!

  12. Wow! These are amazing! So much research packed into rich writing. Thanks for sharing them!

  13. Amazing poems by your students, Mary Lee! I, too, love the mask poems - especially Creepy Crawlers (except in real life ;)


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