Saturday, September 13, 2008

Creating Classroom Community Through Writing

Part of creating classroom community in the beginning of the year is to learn to more about your students, building the kind of relationships that won’t get you in trouble. My favorite lesson is called “Poem for Two Voices” which I adapted from the AVID English language arts training in Atlanta in the summer of 2004. This lesson uses Paul Fleischman’s poem “Booklice” from his collection called Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices.
Students partner up and use a Venn diagram or a Double Bubble map (Thinking Maps) to learn about each other’s similarities and differences and their graphic organizer also serves as their prewriting for their piece. After they have gathered information about each other, they then divide their paper up into 3 columns labeled Me, Us and You. I avoid the words “Hotdog style” when talking to students about folding their paper. (I think that dumbing our teacher language down deserves another blog.) Students then write 3-5 stanzas that reveal their similarities and differences. I challenge them to rhyme within the body of their stanzas although they don’t have too.
What do I do while they are writing? I am gathering my data from them for my “Poem of Many Voices.” While they are working together as partners, I move from group to group and ask each student to come up with a similarity and difference that we share.
This lesson builds several skills. It fully integrates reading and writing. It incorporates the use of comparison and contrast skills, one of Marzano’s high yield strategies. I extend the lesson by teaching signal words related to comparison and contrast. I also have the students write a paragraph before writing the poem. Students build listening and speaking skills while doing this. I would love to read your students’ work or hear about how this lesson worked for you.


  1. I want to read one of the students' poems! Can you post one? Also, I found myself wondering about the paragraph you have them write before they write the poem. Just wondering what you do with those or are they just an additional prewriting/warm up?

  2. I will definitely post one. I have them write the paragraph as additional prewriting because they are ESOL students and need that additional scaffold. They can usually take their sentences from the paragraphs and weave them into their poem.