Personification, Balloons and the Poets of the Third Grade
by Karen Finneyfrock
Personification is a natural fit for third grade poets. Kids are always finding the human qualities in objects and almost can’t stop their imaginations from bringing things to life. So, when I walked into the third grade classrooms at Lafayette Elementary with three helium balloons and said, “I brought some friends with me to class today,” the poems practically started themselves.
The students sat on the carpet and listened to Deborah Chandra’s poem Balloons and discussed personification. Then, we honored the great Seattle poet Theodore Roethke by reading The Ceiling.
Suppose the Ceiling went Outside
And then caught Cold and Up and Died?
The only Thing we’d have for Proof
That he was Gone, would be the Roof;
I think it would be Most Revealing
To find out how the Ceiling’s Feeling.
A Tuesday morning is well spent asking third graders to explain the difference between a ceiling and a roof. You get answers like this, “The ceiling is the roof of the room, but the roof is the ceiling’s ceiling.” Whoa. Students also told me that, “the roof is the house’s rain jacket.” That’s a budding Seattle poet for sure.
For our writing warm-up, students went back to their desks and answered a few questions about their chosen balloon.
How does the balloon feel today?
What is the balloon’s favorite game?
If the balloon could leave this classroom, where would it go?
Then, we wrote poems personifying our balloons. I told students to use their writing warm-up or venture off onto some new idea. We ended up with lines like this:
“The Red Balloon’s been thinking/ It’s lonely down on Earth.”
“The balloon is feeling dreamy. Floaty. Sleepy. Lofty.”
“A red circle bobs like a fish. He is not full of air, instead he has thoughts.”
“Balloon feels gloomy today. He gets up and plays jump rope.”
“Red balloon likes ground-diving, the opposite of sky-diving.”
“The yellow balloon’s favorite game is fly upon the lily pads.”
By the end of our WITS lesson, we did have some new friends and some new ways to talk about the experience of being human. I left each class with a balloon so that their poetry lesson would linger as long as the helium could last.