As a special education teacher, I often teach my students to have a “flexible brain” and try new things. But much like other adults, I tend to be inflexible when it comes to my own routine. For the last several years I have approached ELA in a certain way. And by certain I mean routined. And by routined I mean EXACTLY THE SAME. I do vocabulary and focus skills on Monday, reading the selection on Tuesday, companion texts on Wednesday, and the same Spelling City game on Thursday followed by tests on Fridays. I felt that if I stuck to the routine and let the content change, that the predictability of things would help my students. Knowing what to expect when you are Autistic or have a behavioral disability can be really great….or not.
Things got boring. Fast. Like downhill ski event fast. And I was losing them. I was forced to be flexible and toss my routine out the window. But after tossing things I had to replace it. I went to my go to new idea place, which may or may not rhyme with “smeachers play smeachers”and found some really great units on Poetry, Drama, and Prose. I have a hard time with how abstract poetry can be for me and my students, but this time, I went for it. I wanted to keep in mind some of the Common Core State Standards that I tend to avoid, like:
Refer to parts of stories, dramas, and poems when writing or speaking about a text, using terms such as chapter, scene, and stanza; describe how each successive part builds on earlier sections.
By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poetry, at the high end of the grades 2-3 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
I am supplementing the unit I found with activities of my own design including my own teacher-made assessments. I enlisted the help of our school library and media specialist, who pulled some of the best children’s poetry from the shelf for us to use in the classroom (Shout out to Shel!) and the engagement was instant.
We began with really understanding the elements of poetry, moving into rhythm, theme, mood and rhyme scheme, followed by different types of poetry. The kids love it!
Check out my students identifying the rhyme scheme in some much loved poetry!
This week I introduced Acrostic poems and we began writing our own. I had the students write and edit using our Chromebooks being ever mindful of my commitment to utilize technology. I asked my students to write 3 acrostics: name, favorite food, and favorite animal. One poem in particular had me laughing pretty hard:
Another cool by-product is their continued interest outside of our scheduled ELA time. This week, my students took out MORE poetry books at library time. In my parent-teacher conferences one boy shared with his mother, “Yeah, we are learning all about poems, like the stanzas and the rhyme schemes and …”and I was SO EXCITED! I imagine we will hit a bump with Haiku, but the momentum is great and shows no signs of stopping! Here is to being flexible and tossing old routines out the window in favor of the new and less predictable!