Friday, March 22, 2019

2019 Post #8 -- "You Mean Line Breaks Don't Just Make a Poem Seem Longer?"

One of the first poems I use in 7th grade is "Ode to Enchanted Light" by Pablo Neruda. This poem is quite short, and I am sure to include a visual with the poem. Before reading the poem aloud, I make an observation to the class - “Did you know this poem is only 3 sentences long? As I read today, think about why the author chose to write 3 sentences over 15 lines.”

Next, I read the poem aloud to the students. As I read, students are marking up their own copies of the poems - either sketchnoting, or writing ideas in the margin. Students work in pairs to reread the poem, and I ask them to notice punctuation. How does punctuation help the reader to better understand the poem?

Students usually realize the punctuation reminds them to stop or pause as they are reading the poem. By this point, I am circling the room listening to the conversations students are having about the poem. Usually someone will notice the line breaks, and we will discuss them as well. Why does the poet use line breaks?

Students begin to see the repeated “l” sound in the first stanza, and soon we discuss how the poet uses 3 stanzas, 3 sentences. Then, I ask students to cut the poem and rearrange the poem into sentences. This physical transformation helps students to see how ideas are formed through the poem. My students enjoy cutting the poem and rearranging it. It helps them to see the poem as lines of text, which also helps them to understand the meaning of the poem.

Finally, we hold a discussion about the meaning of the poem and how the rearrangement helps us to truly comprehend the poem. We use this idea on other poems we read throughout the year to help us comprehend.

Further Reading:

Rose Birkhead is a Reading Specialist in Holland, PA. She teaches 7th and 8th grade Literacy classes and strives to create a positive learning environment where her students feel successful on a daily basis.

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