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Poetry Supermarket


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To help kids get a "feel" for what they like and dislike in poetry, host a poetry supermarket. Begin by choosing 15 or more poems appropriate for your age group. Make sure to include many different kinds and topics.

Make enough copies of each so that any student who wants one will be able to have their own copy.

On the appointed day, place the poems at various spots in the room. If possible, post one copy on the wall where it can be easily read, and put the additional copies of that same poem in a stack underneath. Then, allow students to go "shopping" for 5-10 poems they want to respond to.

It is important to let them know that they do not have to LIKE the poem--just that it create some feeling in them. Allow plenty of time for students to mill around and read the poems. Do set a limit for the minimum and maximum number they can respond to.

When students have selected their poems, their next task begins. They write a response to each poem, discussing what they like, or dislike, about each. They should mention any phrases or lines that captured their attention, questions they have about meaning, emotions generated by the poem, anything they notice about meter or rhyme, etc. You can set the criteria depending on what you want to teach. Eventually, the poems and responses will be included in the student's personal poetry collection, which should also include some of their own poetry.

This makes a great introduction to a poetry unit, as it gets kids to look at what creates a response in them without having to know the "language" of poetry. It can also be a culminating activity, where students get to use their new knowledge of poetry and terms to respond.