Poems Are Teachers by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. How Studying Poetry
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Poems Are Teachers
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Poems Are Teachers

How Studying Poetry Strengthens Writing in All Genres

By Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
Foreword by Katherine Bomer

“Poetry is our wisest writing teacher.”

Children’s writer and poet Amy Ludwig VanDerwater leads us on an adventure through poetry, pointing out craft elements along the way that students can use to improve all their writing, from idea finding to language play.

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Full Description

“Poems wake us up, keep us company, and remind us that our world is big and small, And too, poems teach us how to write.  Anything.” Amy Ludwig VanDerwater explains in Poems Are Teachers.

This is a practical book designed for every classroom teacher.  Each lesson exploration includes three poems, one by a contemporary adult poet and two by students in grades 2 through 8, which serve as models to illustrate how poetry teaches writers to:

  • find ideas
  • choose perspective and point of view
  • structure texts
  • play with language
  • craft beginnings and endings
  • choose titles.

Students will learn how to replicate the craft techniques found in poetry to strengthen all writing, from fiction to opinion, from personal narrative to information.  “Poets arrange words and phrases just as prose writers do, simply in tighter spaces,” Amy argues. “In the tight space of poetry, readers can identify writing techniques after reading one page, not thirty pages.”

Contents

1. Learn to Find Writing Ideas from Poems

2. Learn to Choose Perspectives and Point of View from Poems

3. Learn to Structure Texts from Poems

4. Learn to Play with Language from Poems

5. Learn to Craft Beginnings and Endings from Poems

6. Learn to Select Titles from Poems

In Depth

In this book, you will explore the qualities of strong writing through the craft of particular poems. Depending on your needs and interests, there are many ways you might choose to use this resource, but whichever you choose, please enjoy the poems first. Read aloud together. Read quietly. Sketch or paint a line from a poem. Act out a poem. Play with words and reread. Share a poem each morning or week, collecting favorite lines. Make time to read and fall in love with texts—before you study craft. See, when we as readers care about the words of a poem, we will be interested in learning how the writer moved us. We must fall in love first.

If you’re looking for mentor texts or language to help explain a particular writing technique, use this book to add a lesson to an existing writing unit, showing students how they might end articles with a brief word or phrase or find essay ideas by studying artwork. Similarly, as students draft and revise, use this book during writing conferences, sharing model poems by contemporary poets and children as you teach students new techniques. Make sure it’s clear that the strong writing students admire in poems translates directly to the strong writing they admire in other genres.

You might use this book to plan a unit of poetry. Choose a few lessons from each chapter to tailor a monthlong or mini poetry unit, and use the mentor texts provided. If you do this, be sure to check out the books and visit the websites of the poets highlighted. The world of poetry for children is vast and beautiful, including yet extending far beyond humor and acrostics.

— From the Introduction

Samples

Reviews

“Like the perfect poem, each writing technique in Poems Are Teachers is elaborated upon with just the right amount of words: part inspiration, part author advice, part adult poet, part children’s poems, part lesson language. This is a book you’ll return to again and again as you work on your own writing, and support the student writers in your classroom.”—Jennifer Serravallo

“I promise that you are about to experience joy reading this book. I am positive that sharing the poems, how-to’s, and inner workings of all these poets’ hearts and minds with your students will magically, even miraculously, improve their poetry and prose.”—Katherine Bomer

"If I’d had this book when I was teaching full time, there would have been far more poetry in my students' lives.  Amy has accomplished a most amazing feat:  using poetry to teach writing so it is beautiful, purposeful, and doable. I love her use of mentor texts--both the published versions and the student pieces that result from reading like a writer.  Her ideas to inspire student writing are timely and creative.   Bottom line:  This is a book for experienced and inexperienced teachers of writing.  Pick it up and turn to any chapter and page for inspiration and ready-to-go teaching ideas that draw upon the majesty of language used well."—Ruth Culham