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April 26, 2011 Explore Poetry That Turns the Ordinary Into the Extraordinary — Write an Ode! By Danielle Mahoney
Grades 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    During the last week of Poetry Month, have some fun creating odes with your students. Take the time to assess, use a mentor text you love, and invite your students to notice strategies poets use. Then it's on to the writing and to providing feedback. Your students will enjoy the revising, editing, and publishing phases and finish up with a powerful poetry reading. Let's get busy turning the ordinary into something extraordinary by writing fantastic odes!


    Assess Your Poets


    Assessments drive instruction, even if they are quick and informal. Whether you're just introducing poetry or you're knee-deep in a poetry unit, get a sense of what your writers know about poetry before you go any further.

    If you're at the start of your unit, this assessment is like the "K" or "What I KNOW" section of a KWL chart. If you're at the end of your unit, this would be more like the "L" or "What I've LEARNED." 

    While working with a group of 2nd graders, I wanted to check in with them on what they already knew about poetry. Poetry is quite difficult to describe, and through a brief conversation with them, I found out that these students had a good sense of what makes poetry so special. Together we created a poetry web. It served as a quick, informal assessment for me. I used it to figure out my next steps in teaching them to write odes.

    Build on your students' knowledge and connect new information about poetry with what they already know. It's essential to check in with them, either formally or informally. Plan the strategies you want to teach them based on what they know and what they need to know. 

    Identify Strategies Poets Use and Build a Foundation

    Do you have a favorite poet? Pick out some poems or a few stanzas to read aloud to your students. These poems should show evidence of the strategies you want your students to explore. Read a few lines and ask students what they notice. Record their answers on a chart along with examples from the poem. This will give your students a point of reference as they begin to write their own poetry.

    I decided to read aloud a few stanzas from Red Sings From Treetops, a book I recommended in my April booklist. I chose it because I wanted to focus on the use of personification, colors, adjectives, and the five senses for the work we were about to do. Here’s what my group came up with:


    On With the Odes!

    During our next writing session, I reviewed some of the elements we found in Red Sings From Treetops. Revisit your strategy chart to remind your writers about the strategies great poets use when they write poetry.

    Tell your writers that they are going to write a special type of poem called an ode. You can give a simple description of an ode as a type of poem that celebrates something ordinary as quite extraordinary. 

    Use these guidelines when working on your odes:

    • Pick an ordinary place or thing.  
    • Give your subject praise or thanks. (Oh, _____________!)
    • Speak directly to the object.
    • Use adjectives to describe it.
    • Use verbs to bring that object to life. (Personification)
    • Use repeated lines.

    Here's an ode I wrote as an example to model for my students:

    Odetoblueberries An Ode to Blueberries

    Oh blueberries,
    I see you wearing your purple crown,
    sprinkled over my waffle.

    Oh blueberries, 
    thank you for swimming
    in sweet butter
    maple syrup.

    Oh blueberries, you are simply delicious.


    Before you ask your students to write an ode for the first time, model how to do this. Feel free to rewrite my ode or pick your own subject to write about. Your subject can be something simple, like a book, a pencil, or even your feet. You can focus on a season, a feeling, a holiday, or your favorite food. Be sure to use repeated lines and speak directly to the subject.

    Once you've modeled this work for your students, share your pen and try creating one together. Writing an ode with your students will allow them to try incorporating some of the strategies you've taught them while you support their work. My group took a big leap and tried to find the beauty in bad breath. "Ode to Stinky Breath" was the result. It’s rough, but it allowed students to get a feel for this special type of writing.


    Once your writers have tried this out with your support, allow them to experiment with odes independently. They'll need time to plan, think, and write. Be sure to conference with them to support them with topic choice, line breaks, and use of verbs. The first round of poems may not be masterpieces. Remember, this is a process. It takes time and practice. 

    Helping Writers Who Seem "Stuck"

    Most of your students will get right to it. But how can we help those who seem "stuck"? Are they having trouble choosing a topic? Remind them to think of something ordinary to focus on. It can be something found in nature, something in school, an article of clothing, an instrument, or a piece of sporting equipment. Are they having trouble coming up with some human qualities? Asking them to make a list of verbs can help. For example:

    What do teachers do? write, teach, read, organize, listen, learn . . .

    What do chefs do? chop, mix, slice, cook, bake, knead, boil . . .

    What do friends do? share, play, laugh, love, shop, eat . . .

    What do babies do? crawl, cry, sleep, grow . . .

    Then encourage writers to describe their object taking part in some of these actions. With your support, your students' poems will sing. =)

    Philipwrites   Girlswriteodes

    After your writing session, collect the poems and take time to really read through each piece of writing. Give your poets some positive feedback in addition to pointing out strategies they may want to focus on during the editing and revision stages. I used post-it notes to communicate with my writers and pointed out specific places in the odes they might want to reread, edit, or revise.

    Odetofallolivia Odetobooksyasmin













    Odetoarainbowphilip Odetotreesgenessis












    When you meet with your writers again, give them time to read your feedback and make revisions on their work. 














    Now your poets are ready to publish their odes!


    Ta-da! Your first round of odes is complete! Celebrate with a poetry reading. We got together to record some of our poetry. Take a look . . . and listen!



    Publish your poetry in written form for all to read!






    We are using Studentreasures to publish a class book of odes. The work above was written on their special glossy paper and will be sent out to the company to be bound in hardcover and reproduced so that all of my writers will have a copy. Contact Studentreasures early in the school year to find out how you can get your students' writing published.


    Poetry is always so much fun to teach. It gives young writers the opportunity to really get creative. As Poetry Month officially comes to an end, I hope you will keep poetry alive in your classroom throughout the spring and straight into summer. 


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