Thursday, October 18, 2018


I’ve been writing poetry since I was a teenager and maybe even younger. So it was only natural that I would teach my third grade students to read and write poetry. Every month or two, I put up a large paper with a poem on it on the black board or above the windows in the classroom, and I’d have them read and memorize it. They weren’t graded for it and only had to try to memorize it if they wanted to. They had to turn away and try to recite it without looking. During the first few weeks of the year, they had to recite each poem without looking at it, at least as much as they could remember. In the last few weeks of the year if they could recite every poem without looking at it, they got a free book of poetry I had bought through the bonus points I accumulated for the amount of books my students ordered from the catalogs of children’s books each month.

It's a little hard to read, I know.
A few days ago I came across a folder with the booklets of poetry I put together.  My students wrote about different subjects. Because I had blogged recently about insects, I decided to choose this one. The students were new to third grade then. Because the weather was still warm we studied insects and went outside to gather grasshoppers or other insects to study. Insects seemed a good topic to write poems about as well. They didn’t do such a good job of rhyming, but you have to realize they were still very young.

My room buzzed with the sounds of crickets. Each student had a plastic cup with grass and a grasshopper in it covered on top with clear plastic. They were given a little stick with cotton on each end and punched a little hole in the top. One end of the que tip would be dipped into something sweet like maple syrup and the other end into plain water so they could see which end their grasshopper would be attracted to. They all named their grasshoppers, and had the option of taking them home or letting them go outside.  

Another two pages from the booklet
I don’t remember these students anymore. After teaching third grade for twenty years with more than twenty students in each class and sometimes as many as twenty nine, it’s hard to remember these earlier students.  I do remember the ones I taught towards the end of my teaching, though. That is if I run into them. I live in a different county than where I taught.

They;re busy checking their grasshoppers.

Note: My husband had made dividing boards for each group of mostly four or sometime five students and I painted them in different colors for each group. Those with the red dividers were the Red Hot Peppers. Those with the blue dividers were the Blue Crew. Those with the green dividers were the Green Beans, The yellow dividers were Yellow Fellows, the purple dividers were the Purple People, and those with orange dividers were Orange Blossoms. 

These were the Green Beans

At the end of each grading period I had them pick one student who they’d like to sit with and write it on a piece of paper. Since there were always the popular ones almost everyone wanted, and those who weren’t so popular, I divided them and when I told where each one would now sit, I told them even if they didn’t get who they wanted to sit with someone in the group had picked them. As far as I know they believed that.

Have you written poetry as a child?
Have your children written a poem?


  1. My mother still has the poetry book I wrote in third grade. The gem of the collection (which was illustrated, of course) went along the lines of:

    If you eat goat grass
    You'll feel like an ass
    Because your mouth will be sour
    For more than an hour.

    And I assure you, I used "ass" in the Biblical sense, as in, a donkey. But my mother still cracked up anyway.

  2. LOL, Tina. I wrote poetry as a child, but I also remember being frustrated by it because I knew something wasn't correct about it, having read poems. I only write it now when a script calls for it and then I try to make it humorous as to not embarrass myself!

  3. I love the idea you used to seat people and let the students choose one name. THEN you said if they didn't get their selected person, they should know somebody selected them. SO SWEET! -- Laura

  4. Tina, that is so funny. I love it.

    E.B. I'd love to read some of your poetry.

    Laura, there was always at least one or two students in my class who were very
    popular and a few others who were kind of out of the loop, shy and somewhat
    isolated. One in particular who I remember was a minister's son. He wandered
    around the playground on his own sometimes waving something. And of course,
    there were always those from poor families who were poorly dressed and not
    very clean.

  5. What a fun project! I bet the kids loved it.

    It's also a testimony to reasonably sized classes. When I taught fifth grade in Baltimore City Public Schools (special education) the regular education fifth grade classes had between 48 and 50 kids each. Not much time for each student to get that kind of attention, or for the teacher to be able to listen to 50 recitals of a poem.

    Your students were lucky to have you, and I bet you influenced a lot of lives.

  6. How delightful! Yes, we wrote poetry in school when I was a child. I still remember my first - Pop, Pop, Pop, here comes a cop. I guess I was destined to write mysteries!

  7. KM, that was a horrible amount of students. It seems to me they should have divided the classes up with at least three different teachers. We had two third grades so that's why I didn't have as many children as I would have had if I were the only teacher. Actually, one of my students after we had studied early settlers in our country went on to work for a Virginia early settlers town as one of the settlers. I went there once and can't remember the name right now, but it was before he had graduated and got a job there. I know when I was invited to graduation parties for some of my students after they graduated that they had plans to go to college and pursue a career in what they had liked in school.

    Kait, that is so funny. At least it rhymed. :-)

  8. How lucky your students were - all your activities sound like so much fun. We never did much poetry when I was in school, which is too bad. I think kids really respond to it.
    I liked your point that many of your students pursued careers in what they had liked when they were young. When my husband was little he wrote a poem:

    I put on my coat
    And go in my boat.

    Years later he was a Coast Guard officer and he still is out on a boat very day. From little acorns big trees grow, for sure!

  9. Shari, I had as much fun as they did. I like your husband's poem. It shows he already knew what he wanted to be when he grew up. My first grade teacher asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. I said mother and teacher, and that's what I was; a mother first and then a teacher when I went to college a year after my oldest son died. What did you want to grow up to be when you were a kid?

  10. what fun, Gloria! I wish you'd been my third grade teacher.