I just attended an on-line poetry reading where the iconic Robert Frost Poem The Road Not Taken was shared. I love Robert Frost and I love this poem. Listening to this poem made me think about what a great idea it is to teach elementary and middle school students using the poetry of Robert Frost. Ummm…NOT!
Let’s be honest – there are very few children who are mature enough to appreciate Robert Frost. Maybe by high school, but I can assure you I didn’t appreciate him when I was in high school. I had no use for his poetry. I hated memorizing his poems. And I honestly had no idea why this was anything but a waste of my time. I pretty much hated poetry.
So fast forward to my teaching career and good old Robert is part of the 5th grade curriculum. Now I am not one to fight city hall…so what to do?
Well, enter authentic teaching, learning, and projects. We introduced the kids to Robert Frost and all the other poets that were in the curriculum. But then, instead of memorizing a poem, or writing in the style of Robert Frost we turned the kids loose to write their own poetry.
In one class the kids were working on a Martian Colony, so they wrote Martian Poetry. Their poetry covered every topic possible – sports on Mars, monsters on Mars, weather, friendship, loneliness… Some of the kids modeled their poetry after a Robert Frost poem, others looked to different poets. (The most popular choice by far – Shel Silverstein).
The class ended up publishing a book of Martian Poetry that went home to every family.
So, the kids really learned about poetry, they learned about different poets, and they had fun writing poetry. The curriculum was covered. The project was authentic. The learning was authentic.