Deconstructing Poetry

Slice #17

My 6th graders have been working on a poetry unit. They are reading and writing a variety of poems. I tried a new strategy today to get them to focus on word choice and the importance of it in poetry. I learned this technique at a CPS PD a couple of weeks ago. I really didn’t think much of strategy when I first heard about it, but I thought I would give it a try today. Wow! I was very impressed by the power of this activity. The gist is to gather all the words and list them in alphabetical order–just the words. I didn’t tell the kids it was a deconstructed poem. The title of the poem is Foul Shot by Hoey. Below is the word list. (not totally in alphabetical order but close enough).

A and and and and and against along ball ball ball balances begs before breathes boy by center calms clock crouches coy drums dives down every eyes feet floor fingertips face gently hanging hand his his hesitates in it it line left lands leans measures net nudges on on on out out plays raises right right Roar-up scoreboard seconds solemn squeezed silence Seeks soothes stillness stretching stuck slides screams the the the the the the the the then then then then two two through through upward up uniform until unsounding wavers with with with with waiting Waits wobbles

I asked the kiddos to read the list and put a circle around any words that were unfamiliar to them. Then the students reread the list and chose a word that they thought was the most important one. You have to steer them away from the, and, at, in… or words that are used more than once. The point is to get them to choose a word from the list and prove why it is important. For example one of my students chose scoreboard. She said that word was the most important one because of the words ball, fingertips, net, and screams.
“All those words show a ball game because people are screaming in the stands and watching the ball leave the boys fingertips and go into the net.” Remember this is all before she knows it is a poem.
Another student said solemn was the most important word because of the words hesitates, calm, silence, seeks, soothes, stillness, and clock.
“Maybe it is during the part of the game where everyone is waiting for something important to happen.” (brilliant)
The next literary term we focused on was tone. They reread the words again and I asked them to identify the author’s tone.
Then I gave them the poem. When they read it, they had a better understanding of the meaning because of the simple act of analyzing just the words ahead of time. I highly recommend you give this a try in your classrooms.

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