Third Grade Poets: An antsy, burbling, cock-a-doodle-dooing kind of bunch

Third Grade Poets: An antsy, burbling, cock-a-doodle-dooing kind of bunch

by Erin Malone

There are so many great things about third graders, and at the top of that list for me is their exuberance for art and storytelling. They’re not afraid to try making things; the fear of failure hasn’t seemed to touch them. Isn’t that an awesome (I mean that in the true sense of the word, awe-inspiring) thing to witness on a weekly basis? I can tell you, it is.

And yet teaching this age group can be tricky. Third graders are often an antsy, crawling, burbling, doodling, cock-a-doodle-dooing kind of bunch. Look up here. Can you hear me? What did I say? I find myself repeating throughout our time together.

One morning I wanted the students to think about how mood and imagery go together. I needed the room to be very quiet, and I turned down the lights. Then I told them to imagine any color they wanted, and I asked them a series of questions to answer silently. What pictures does this color bring to mind? What feelings? Do they like the color? Why or why not?

They liked this exercise. The quick meditation put them in a thoughtful mood, and it showed in our discussion of two poems, “The White Horse,” by D.H. Lawrence, and a haiku by Ryota:

No one spoke,

The host, the guest

The white chrysanthemums.

Students were quick to point out the similarities between the poems—they’re three lines long and both mention the color white. We talked about how the poems seemed quiet, and why the color white suggests this. Then, having cribbed the idea from Kenneth Koch’s Rose, Where Did You Get That Red? I told them to write two poems, one about a color that seems noisy, and one about a color that makes them feel quiet. They should use all their senses to help describe their colors.

Here are just a few of the fantastic poems they wrote:

Black

When I think of black

I imagine a nighttime sky,

and houses

with their shimmering yellow lights on.

When I think of black

I imagine my fish

and his pretty black scales

inside his tank.

–John-Joseph

 

Hot Pink!

Angry Hot Pink at midnight

stomping through the house crushing everything

in his way—Stop! Stop! You’re making a mess!

–Autumn

Red Hot Loud

The house was loud,

The guests, the owners,

the red TV.

–Brody

Yellow

Yellow is like

the first day of school

on a sunny day

in September. It is like

a shy afternoon

in December. It is like

sticky honey on warm

toast at the start

of your day.

–Daniel

I love the image of those quiet fish and how yellow brings to mind a school bus when I read Daniel’s poem, though he doesn’t mention one. I love that hot pink’s persona is loud and stomping, and that Brody perfectly mimics Ryota’s poem. Another success happened the following week, when I asked the students if they remembered what we’d learned last time. The boy who raised his hand doesn’t usually volunteer, and he doesn’t write much yet. But he recited Ryota’s poem from memory.

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One Response to “Third Grade Poets: An antsy, burbling, cock-a-doodle-dooing kind of bunch”

  1. wonderful…

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