It’s story time…
Once upon a time in the land of green and white, there lived a class of sixth graders. They were a little feisty, slightly stinky, and wonderful in all the right ways. The only problem was their perspective. It was always so stuck in the mud like a pig or Artex from The Never Ending Story. Whenever their amazingly gifted and ruggedly handsome teacher taught them something new, they put on a stern face and said, “We hate this topic and we are never going to like it.” However, once they began learning that something new, their attitude began to change. They started to like that thing they once hated. No matter what the new subject was, they always started out with a negative mindset, until the learning actually began. It was like watching reruns of Mash, at first you’re like, “Oh, this show is so old, I can’t possibly like it,” and then after you start watching an episode for a few minutes you’re like, “OMG, this show is hilarious. I love Hawkeye.”
Okay, I’m done telling my story, but wait, it has no ending. Every story needs a happy ending. So, here is mine…
Then, one day the sixth grade class was outside exploring the Forbidden Forest of Doom when they happened upon a uni-chaun, which is a cross between a unicorn and a Leprechaun for those not in the know. The uni-chaun jumped for joy when it saw the sixth grade class and their broad-shouldered teacher, and said, “Yah! I am now free. Thank you so much for finding me. I can grant you one wish before I fly away. What would you like?” So, the sixth grade class thought long and hard about their wish, and responded, “We would like to have rainbow-colored wings so that we can fly wherever we want.” And so, the uni-chaun granted their wish and gave every member of the sixth grade class, including their witty and wise teacher, rainbow-colored wings. Then, the sixth grade class flew off into the sunset. THE END.
So that’s it. That’s my story, which serves as the inspiration for today’s blog post. You see, over the years, I’ve found that many of my students come into a particular topic or subject area with a very fixed and closed mindset. For whatever reason, they don’t like math, science, poetry, or some other topic; however, by the end of the unit, activity, or course, they change their tune and seem to like that which they once despised. It’s always been a bit perplexing to me, but something that I’ve grown to accept in my years of teaching sixth grade.
Recently, my students have been learning about poetry in my Humanities class as part of our larger unit on Figurative Language. When I first introduced our mini-unit on poetry, complaints and sighs filled the room like mold on bread. “I hate poetry. It’s so boring,” were some of the statements made by my students. Then, we got into the heart of it. I taught them how to craft Haikus, Sonnets, Epic, and Free Verse Poems. I shared examples of great poems with them. They began writing their own poems. I explained how poetry isn’t fixed and is open to interpretation. Rules are meant to be broken, I told them. I let them explore words and lines as they learned the ins and outs of the poetic form of writing. And of course, as always is the case, they started to enjoy poetry. They had fun writing poems. They liked listening to poetry read aloud. They loved reading their original poems aloud to the class during our weekly Poetry Slams. Their disdain for this personal form of writing seemed to drift away like gas after a student farts in the classroom. As they realized that what they thought they knew about poetry was only a tiny sliver of the actual truth, their perspective began to change. They started to see poetry as fun and exciting. They looked forward to learning about new forms of poetry. They couldn’t wait for our next Poetry Slam. And they begged me to read more of our class read-aloud novel written in verse. They have begun to truly love poetry. It’s amazing.
Today in class, after the students had spent the period working on revising some of their poems, I had some of the boys share how they have grown as poets over the course of our time learning about poetry. It was through their words that I started to see how it just takes time for people to see all sides of something, including the good and the bad. While for many of the students, their past experience with poetry was negative and perhaps a bit stereotypical, they have now been able to see it from a different perspective. They now see how poetry is more than just “pretty” words strung together in short lines. Poetry is truth. Poetry is fun. Poetry is personal. Poetry is easy. Here are some snippets of what they shared with me in class this morning…
“I used to not like poetry because I thought it was boring or confusing. Then I started to realize that it’s fun writing poetry when you use figurative language. My lines now mean something more than just what the words suggest.”
“I thought poems were just about nature and stuff. I didn’t realize you could write a poem about Abraham Lincoln or how life changes. I liked learning about different poems and trying to figure out what they meant.”
“I liked how we could break the rules of grammar and writing when typing our poems. I could choose to use a comma or not, and I didn’t get in trouble.”
“I liked how short the poems could be. Haikus were really short and didn’t take long to write.”
“I used to not like poetry because there were so many rules about syllables, lines, and rhymes. Then I realized that I didn’t have to follow all of the rules if I didn’t want to. I really liked the freedom we had in writing our poems.”
Clearly, my students learned a lot about poetry throughout our unit as their perspectives changed quite a bit. It’s nice to know that my students will be moving onto seventh grade enjoying poetry and seeing a new side of this form of writing that used to send shivers down their spines.
An Ode to My Sixth Grade Class in Haiku Form
My sixth grade students
are silly and stinky and
like learning new things