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March 5, 2014 eMagnetic Poetry: 4 Ideas Across the Curriculum By Alycia Zimmerman
Grades 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    Back during my college days, my friends would leave heartfelt, quirky, or lewd “poems” for me on my mini-fridge. Those magnetic word tiles eventually made it into my classroom, where we used them for everything from sight word practice and parts of speech activities to a poetry center.

    While those very tiles still live on a filing cabinet in my classroom, magnetic poetry now has a robust virtual presence. eMagnetic poetry makes it easier than ever to free the words from the refrigerator door to use in creative lessons across the curriculum. Here’s an overview of some of the apps and websites that offer eMagnetic poetry, as well as ideas for putting these words to work as a teaching tool.

    My students created a "Visual Character Trait Thesaurus" using eMagnetic Poetry.


    An Artist's Tools: How to Create eMagnetic Poetry

    A quick search in the app store and online finds nearly a dozen magnetic poetry creators, some with more features than others. Listed here are the ones that I’ve used most often in my classroom and that have been successful with my students. Of course, layering words and images could also be done in PowerPoint or even using a word processing program — the apps and sites listed below make it accessible and engaging.

    Poetics is a $1.99 app, and it’s the eMagnetic poetry creator that we use most in my classroom. In fact, all of the images above were created with Poetics. Poetics allows you to use any image saved into your camera roll, edit that image, and then place words wherever you want over the image, resizing and rotating the words as needed. You type all of the words you want to use — this doesn’t use a restricted library. So it really creates art with a magnetic poetry aesthetic — it doesn’t have the limited word constraints of real magnetic poetry.

    The National Counsel of Teachers of English created Word Mover, a wonderful, free app used to compose found poetry. They provide several options for creating digital magnetic poetry by choosing from themed word banks and word collections of existing famous works. Students can even customize the background for their poem, and then email their poem or save it to the camera roll. (You may also want to check out this NCTE ReadWriteThink lesson based on magnetic poetry.)

    Storybird, the online visual storytelling tool, now has a poetry option. This is a visually stunning resource — students can choose from a huge selection of original artwork to illustrate their poetry. Storybird then provides smallish collections of words to craft your own poetic composition. This is a great tool for having students respond to art and to teach them about the creative freedom that comes with a constrained artistic vocabulary.

    The company that sells "real world" magnetic poetry kits also offers a free online version that closely mirrors the magnetic experience — well, on a screen and not a fridge, of course. They offer several themed kits, as well as this kit for kids (not listed on their website but available here.) Students can send their finished creations to an email address — we use our shared class email address for all of the students. 


    eMagnetic Poetry for Scientific Labeling

    How it works: Students find an image on the Internet that matches your science curriculum, or they snap a photo using the tablet’s camera. Then they go label-crazy, showing off all of their newly acquired vocabulary.

    Other ideas: Free-associate words with a mystery photo; label important parts and figures in a historical image; take the tablet outdoors to photograph the neighborhood and then label important places; pre-assess students’ content-knowledge by having them individually label a preselected image.


    eMagnetic Poetry for Character Analysis

    How it works: Students find an image of a book character, or they create their own drawing of a character and then snap a photo of the drawing. Then they brainstorm character traits and artistically collage these adjectives over the character’s portrait.


    Other ideas: Use photos of the students or members of the school community and add personality traits; find photos of historical or influential figures to accompany a biography unit and add words to describe the subject of the biography; use an image of the cover of a book and add words that describe the theme, main idea, or purpose of the book.


    eMagnetic Poetry for Geometric Art

    How it works: Students find an image or take a photo that demonstrates a geometry term or concept. Then they create a short poem that includes the geometric term.

    Other ideas: Choose a photo of a provocative current events issue and write a brief opinion-poem to accompany the photo; select an inspiring painting or other visual artwork to create an ekphrastic poem — that is a poem inspired by another form of art.


    eMagnetic Poetry for Vocabulary Development

    How it works: Students choose a vocabulary word and find an image to illustrate that word. Then they add as many synonyms (or antonyms) they can brainstorm to create a “visual thesaurus.”


    Other ideas: Use vocabulary words (or spelling words) as part of their magnetic poetry writing; create a magnetic poetry/image composition that represents a vocabulary word and have other classmates guess which word goes with the composition; create “found” eMagnetic poetry and adopt the vocabulary of another writer; use photos of faces (possibly students’) displaying various emotions and build a visual dictionary of feelings-words.


    Do you have ideas for ways to use eMagnetic poetry in the classroom? Please share your suggestions, favorite apps, poetic creations, and of course, feedback, in the comments section below. And for updates on my future blog posts, follow me on Facebook or Twitter!


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