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Poetry Unit of Study Reading Lesson 5 Grade 5 April 3, 2010

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Reading Lesson 5: How to Read Poetry Aloud—Paying Attention to Line Breaks and White Space


• Poetry anthologies and copies of poems at a variety of reading levels for independent reading (see Reading Resources in Unit at a Glance)

• Student copies of three short poems they are not familiar with and one of the poems cut into word strips and arranged in pocket chart with wording in order, but different line breaks and white space

Intended Learning

Students hear and read poetry aloud to learn how line breaks and white space determine poems’ meanings, rhythms, and sounds.

Big Ideas

• Understand poetry elements, including word choice, rhythm, rhyme, imagery, metaphor, and visual design.

• Create mental images to understand literary language and deepen comprehension.



Looking at the class chart “What Is Poetry?” point out how students already realize that white space and line breaks are essential poetry elements. Tell them line breaks and white spaces are as basic to poems as paragraphs are to prose. Discuss how many poems are arranged in lines and how poets decide on line lengths.

Today we look deeper at the power of line breaks and white space. Remind students what they learn today will help them become better poetry writers.

Teaching and Active Engagement

With the poem’s words in original order, direct students’ attention to the poem in the pocket chart. Ask volunteers to read the poem aloud, thinking of possible meaning and rhythms they hear. Then, with the poem’s words remaining in original order, ask for student input on rearranging the line breaks.

Ask volunteers to read the poem again with the new arrangement. Discuss how line breaks affect the poem’s meaning. Repeat the process with new line breaks, then read and discuss how the new line breaks affected the poem. Finally, show students the poet’s version of the poem and read aloud. Talk about how poets decide line lengths to influence meaning and sounds.

However, by using appropriate language-level poems and taking time learners to experience the effects of different poetry arrangements, this lesson can be very effective in developing the “ears” of budding poets and poetry readers.


Students experiment with line breaks for at least one of the two other poems you chose. Direct them to first read the poem aloud, softly to themselves, to hear the poem’s sound and rhythm. Next, ask them to rewrite the poem with line breaks and white space that make sense to them.

Independent and Small Group Time

• Students read from poetry books and/or teacher-selected poems.

• Confer with individual students and/or provide small group instruction.


• Group students who worked on the same poems in pairs or small groups.

• Ask them to show and read their poems and explain their thinking about the line breaks and white space.


Poetry UOS-Grade 5-Writing Lesson 5

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Writing Lesson 3: Collecting Seeds—Writing About Important Topics


• Mentor poems about personal experiences or mentor poets who have written about personal experiences or important things in their lives, such as “Mexican Dummy Time,” page 21, “T-Shirt,” page 24, or “The Photograph,” page 19, in My Name Is Jorge: On Both Sides of the River by Jane Medina; “Autumn Thoughts” or “Aunt Sue’s Stories” in The Dream Keeper and Other Poems by Langston Hughes; or “Weeding With Dad,” page 52, or “Faking It,” page 75, in Baseball, Snakes, and Summer Squash: Poems About Growing Up by Donald Graves

• Overhead of teacher-created poem about interesting or important topic

• Chart paper to create “Where Poets Get Their Ideas” chart

Intended Learning

• Students write poems about important events, people, or places in their lives to gain understanding of where poets get topics for their writing.

Big Ideas

• Develop awareness of sounds of words and rhythm of phrases.



“Look for the poetry that grows under your feet.”

Rainer Marie Rilke

For students to write poems, they need things to write about. Explain that they may be lucky enough to find poem ideas just popping out of their heads—but unfortunately for most of us, it does not work that way.

You could tell students an author you rely on to help you with ideas for teaching students to write is Ralph Fletcher. He advises us to use our memories, reflections, and dreams to spark poems. Tell students you will read a few short poems from authors who did just that.


Select poems from mentor texts about personal experiences or mentor poets who have written about personal experiences or important things in their lives. Read aloud a series of poetry and ask students to think about where authors got their ideas for these poems.

Active Engagement

After each poem, have students talk with their partners about where the author most likely got his or her idea for the poem or why they think the author wrote the poem. Begin charting information on a “Where Poets Get Their Ideas” chart.


Tell students you tried writing a poem about something important or interesting in your life. Share your try-it with students.

Explain students’ work today is to write at least one poem about something from their lives. Tell them if they finish their poems before Independent and Small Group Time is over, they can write another, or they can list ideas in their notebooks for other possible poems.

Independent and Small Group Time

• Students write poems about important events, people, or places in their own lives.


• Students share with partners some poems they wrote in their notebooks.

• Several students share out with the whole group.

• For homework, ask students to use what they learned today to write another poem at home tonight.