April 12, 2016

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Mysterious Last Line

One of the most difficult things to teach young poets is the art of the turn.

It's a transitional point in the poem -- where the mood or the point the poet is making shifts, or a surprise takes the poem in an unexpected direction.

For many years, I've been using Stephanie Izarek's short poem, "Under the Sky Is" as an opening exercise for elementary school residencies. You can find the poem, with Izarek's article full of poetry-teaching tips, at Scholastic.

What makes this poem is the last line, "Under the rock there are things we can never see."

My classes and I spend a lot of time discussing this line. Most people will ignore the word "never" and pop an image under that rock. It's a neat trick of language and the mind. We see plankton, sand crabs or buried treasure.

With Izarek's poem as a guide, kids *get* this idea: leave the reader with someone to imagine, a little mystery or a surprise to take away from the poem.

Here are a few third grade poets from Northfield Elementary, where I am poetically residing this month. They did a great job picking up the pattern of repeats that Izarek uses in "Under the Sky Is."

I did  not see the last line in Meg's poem coming. The surprise ending made me laugh!

Who Is the Best
by Meg G.
Teacher: Ms. Taliano

There was once a bug.
Next to the bug was a frog.
Next to the frog was a dog.
Next to the dog was a person,
But who was the best
On the dance floor?

One of the things I like about this exercise is that it's open to a variety of interpretations. Check out Isaac's science-minded  poem.

In Space
by Isaac U.
Teacher: Ms. Hoge

Out in space there is a supernova.
Coming from the supernova is a meteor.
On the meteor is ice.
In the ice is a box.
In the box is the most mysterious leaf
You’ll ever see.

Food is a popular subject for student poems. See if you can guess where Brian is before the end of the poem.

by Brian L.
Teacher: Ms. Taliano

It started with bread.
Next to the bread was a mountain of salad.
Next came an endless pool
Of macaroni and cheese.
Next came a trampoline-sized
Peperoni pizza.
But I just ate a ton of spaghetti
From this awesome buffet.

Wow. Brian is the master of descriptive adjectives.
More third grade poems and lessons to come. Thanks to the teachers, staff and families at Northfield ES for giving permission to share these poems.


Jeannine Atkins said...

Lovely poems and post!

Author Amok said...

Thanks, Jeannine. Always good to hear from you. Glad you enjoyed the poems!

Tabatha said...

Great lesson! Adding a little mystery gives the poems an extra kick! Thanks for sharing these with us.

Author Amok said...

Hi, Tabatha. We have a lot of fun with this concept. A little twist at the end of a poem goes a long way.