RENEE LYNETTE WILLEMSEN-GOODE
Poetry Lesson: Name Poems
Read students the vignette"My Name" from Sandra Cisneros' House on Mango Street. Ask students what they thought of the different ways Esperanza describes her name (What does it mean that a name is like the number nine? A muddy color?).
Tell students that they will be writing a poem about their name. Have students free-write about their own names, encouraging them to write about as many ideas as they can. Suggest to students that they can write about where their name comes from, what their name means, whether or not they like their name, their nicknames, how their name makes them feel, etc.
Describing Names in Unconventional Language:
Reread the first paragraph of "My name" with the students, displaying the text using an overhead projector. Have the students identify some of the metaphors and similes that Esperanza uses in the text, reviewing the definitions of simile and metaphor.
Have students describe their own name in metaphorical language. Using the overhead projector, project a list of prompts to help the students to complete this task. Encourage students to use unconventional language and to explain their choices of words.
Transforming Prose into Poetry
Have students refer to their text Writer's Express. In this text, they describe and give an example of creating a free-verse poem from prose. Look at the examples in the book and discuss what changes were made from the first prose brainstorming to initial poetry draft to polished copy.
As a class, revisit Cisneros' first paragraph and transform this into a poem. Encourage students to explain why they made the choices that they made. Text of this collective poem. Through this activity, emphasize the use and importance of line breaks in poetry.
Finally, have the students begin to write their own poems. Encourage students to expand their initial descriptions (example: "my name is blue" becomes "my name is blue, like the vast ocean"). As students work, conference individually with them, making suggestions. Students will type their final copies on the computer, and then conference with the teacher again to verify correct spelling, etc. Then students may print and illustrate their poems.
Examples of student work: