Poetry and PowerPoint with first graders? Absolutely! They love it. We’re not talking about writing limericks and creating long PowerPoint presentations — just beginning with the basics. At the beginning of the school year, I give each child a spiral notebook labeled “My Poetry Journal.” I keep up with these during the year so there is no chance of someone misplacing it.

The first poem of the year is the Five Senses Poem (PDF) and it's one of my absolute favorites! It can be done with many different activities. I have used this after nature walks outside, field trips, events (storms, rain, etc.), or after an activity where you place an item in a brown paper bag and have the children reach in and feel it and try to guess what it is. The first senses poem we did this year was after a field trip to see the movie Arctic Tales. When we arrived back at school, we immediately sat down and closed our eyes and imagined we were in the Arctic with the polar animals we just met. The children placed themselves in the movie and then wrote their poem.

Now the fun begins. You have completed the easy form of poetry, so let your imagination run wild! I mix teaching poetry (haikus, cinquains, etc.) with my own original forms of poetry. How do you make your own original forms? Simple — I create a blank form and I put parentheses after the line telling them what to write. Poems do not have to rhyme. It’s just getting their thoughts and feelings down.

Here we go. It’s the beginning of the school year and you want to learn about your students and have them learn about each other; create a Bio-Poem (PDF). Have their first name (or what they go by) on the first line. Then think of something you would like to know about them. I like to find out how they see themselves (personality traits); someone they are related to besides mom and dad; favorite food; what they care deeply about; favorite activity and so on. We always write the poem on the blank form the first time. I call this our “sloppy copy.” After we have conferences and make our changes, they write them in their poetry journal. When they have finished, they read them aloud to the class.

Don’t get me wrong; I do love the traditional poetry as well. I use acrostics a lot. They can do their names or anything from a lesson you are teaching or a subject you are studying. I have also used them to check and see what they have learned about a subject. Haikus are introduced in the middle to end of the school year. I have also done cinquains and rhyming poetry throughout the year. I like to read different types of poetry to the children. Shel Silverstein is a favorite. Laugh-eteria by Douglas Florian is one of the kids’ favorites. I also use Poetry Place Anthology by Scholastic. It has a variety of poems to use throughout the year.

Now, on to PowerPoint. Keeping in mind they are first graders and this is probably their first PowerPoint experience, keep it simple. I set up one computer (my teacher’s cart) and turn on the TV monitor so I can see what’s going on. I also set up the slide page for them. I do a lesson on how to pick your font and insert a picture. I have the students go to the computer with a partner. They type their poem and they can insert one picture as well. You do have to remind them to include “By: _________.” I make a simple cheat sheet and I post it on the monitor. The partner is there to help out and watch for errors. Now I must say to you as a teacher: Put your patience hat on! Just know it’s going to be time consuming the first time and they may call your name a couple of times, but they will get the hang of it. Once a couple of kids understand how to do it, they make great teacher’s assistants.

What do you do with it once they have all typed in their poems? I insert a title page and an ending page. I save my files on a flash drive and sometimes a CD. You now have a PowerPoint slide show of your classroom poetry. I show mine at Open Houses, parent meetings, school meetings, and even district-wide meetings.