Out of everything I had an opportunity to teach over my Winter practicum block, some of my favourite (and most successful!) lessons were my Literacy lessons which incorporated aspects of the Gradual Release of Responsibility Model. In the first half of my placement, my Associate Teacher asked if I could start a Poetry Writing unit with the kids, and I jumped at the chance to do so. I have been writing my own poetry since I was 11 years old, and I couldn’t wait to share my enthusiasm with this class. I was given a set of amazing Poetry resources that my Associate Teacher had used in past years, and a theme to work with (the 4 elements: air, water, fire and earth). Eventually, I began introducing different forms of poetry and writing techniques, and having my placement students use them to write about an element-related topic.
After an introductory lesson and a baseline assessment, my host teacher and I decided it was time to help the students to refine their skills and begin adding more detail, description, and creativity to their poems. After a little bit of digging and some brainstorming, I found an amazing idea from the book that I had been allowed to borrow (It’s called Teaching Poetry: Yes You Can! (Grades 4-8) by Jacqueline Sweeney, and I would HIGHLY recommend it. Seriously. It’s absolutely wonderful!), and put the GRR model to work.
First, I haad a discussion with the whole group about ways to make our writing more creative. I introduced them to the idea of a “Like What?” poem, and read them a few examples from the book (as somewhat of an “I do, you watch” activity). The general idea of a “Like What?” poem is to create a short, rather free verse poem using language that is highly descriptive, and which appeals to the readers’ five senses. I provided the following list as a reminder on the whiteboard, and as a handout for those students who wanted their own copy:
- Sounds like…
- Tastes like…
- Smells like…
- Feels like… (what is its TEXTURE?)
- Looks like…
- Moves like…
When we had a chance to review the list, I prepared a large sheet of chart paper, and had the students collaborate as a whole group to write a class poem about the colour red. This portion of the lesson was by far my favourite, and while it took longer than I expected it to (meaning that the “You do together” and “You do alone” ended up being separate lessons), I was very impressed with the quality of the kids’ ideas, and with the direction that the unit was starting to go in. After we finished the “Red” poem, both my Associate Teacher and I were genuinely excited, and it strengthened my confidence in the merits of the GRR model as a classroom teaching strategy. Below is the poem that the Grade 6s and 7s wrote together:
Red sounds like anger and a crackling fire.
Red tastes like cherries, strawberries, apples, raspberries, and spicy peppers.
Red feels like rug burn, heat from a flame, frost burn, a soft rose, pain and velvet.
Red looks like blood, guts, snappers, a hot scarlet sunset, a piranha’s eyes, and firetrucks.
Red smells like Dorritos, ketchup, tomato soup, spaghetti sauce, paint, and tacos with hot salsa.
Red moves like fire, blood in a gutter, oozing lava, and like you’re gasping for air!