Found Poems/Parallel Poems
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Students compose found and parallel poems based on descriptive literary passages they have read. Students first select a passage and then pick out descriptive words, phrases and lines. They then arrange and format the excerpts to compose their own poems. Students create found poems (poems that are composed from words and phrases found in another text) as well as parallel poems (original poems that use the same line structures as another poem, but focus on a completely different topic.) This process of recasting the text they are reading in a different genre helps students become more insightful readers and develop creativity in thinking and writing. Since students are primarily identifying nouns and verbs for use in their poems, the lesson also provides a relevant opportunity for a grammar review of these two parts of speech.
- Word Mover: This student interactive allows students to drag and drop words from a passage from famous works or a word bank to create a found poem.
From Theory to Practice
One of the strongest ways to teach students about how poets and poetry works is to encourage them to write their own poetry. As Dunning and Stafford explain, the advantage of found poems is that "you don't start from scratch. All you have to do is find some good language and ‘improve' it" (3). These two teachers note that "poems hide in things you and others say and write. They lie buried in places where language isn't so self-conscious as ‘real poetry' often is. [Writing found poems] is about keeping your ears and eyes alert to the possibilities in ordinary language" (3).
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
- 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
- 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
- 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
- 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
- 9. Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.
- 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
- 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
Materials and Technology
- Prose passage chosen by student or teacher
- Choose a text for students to use as the source of their prose passages. You might use a book that the entire class has read recently, choose books that students have read in literature circles, or have students use books that they have read independently.
- Make copies or an overhead transparency of the Found Poem Instructions, Model of Found and Parallel Poem, Student Assessment Sheet for Found Poems, and Love Found Poems Rubric.
- Test the Word Mover on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tool and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.
- select a particularly descriptive passage in a piece of prose fiction.
- identify significant words, phrases and sentences in the passage.
- arrange the excerpts into a found poem.
- compose a parallel poem, using the same structure as the found poem.
- Ask students to choose a prose passage from a text they have read. Have them focus on identifying a page or two that includes a lot of strong description or dialogue.
- Explain that the class is going to use the passages to compose original poems, called found poems and parallel poems.
- Pass out or display the Model of Found and Parallel Poem.
- Read through the passage and the two poems, pausing to explain the poetic form of each of the poems. You can provide more examples found in the links in the Resources section.
- Define found poems for the class as poems that are composed from words and phrases found in another text.
- Define parallel poems as original poems that use the same line structures as another poem, but focus on a completely different topic. Some words from the original poem are retained, but some words are replaced with new words.
- Ensure that students understand how the examples on the model sheet fit the two poetic formats.
- Pass out copies of the Love Found Poems Rubric, and have students analyze the Sample Found Poem using the criteria on the rubric.
- Step students through the process of composing original found poems, using the Found Poem Instructions.
- Introduce the Word Mover and allow time for students to practice rearranging the words into found poems.
- For homework, ask students to return to the prose passage that they have chosen and use the Found Poem Instructions to write their own found poems for homework. Explain that students will compose parallel poems during the next session so they should have a completed found poem ready at the beginning of the next class.
- Ask students to be sure that they bring two copies of their found poem to the next session—one to share with peers, and one to use as they compose their parallel poems.
- Arrange students in small groups and have them share their found poems with one another.
- Encourage students to compare the poems to the criteria on the Love Found Poems Rubric.
- As groups work, circulate among students, providing feedback and support as appropriate.
- When students have completed sharing their poems, reconvene the class.
- Return to the Model of Found and Parallel Poem and read through the two poems. Add reminders of the definition of the parallel poem form.
- Have students put one copy of their found poems away and keep out the one that they will use as they work on their parallel poems.
- Ask students to read through the found poem and identify words and phrases that provide specific information. Have students underline these content words.
- Since students will primarily be looking for nouns and verbs, provide a grammar refresher on the two parts of speech if appropriate.
- Once they have identified the content words, ask students to copy the words and phrases that are NOT underlined on to a new sheet of paper. In place of the content words, have students draw blanks, creating a template for their parallel poem in a fill-in-the-blank format.
- If resources allow, you might make additional copies of these templates for students to use. If they are working on a computer, have them print more than one copy.
- Have students choose a different topic and create a parallel poem by filling in the blanks on their templates. Allow more than one try so that students can play with words until they get poems that they like.
- For homework, ask students to prepare polished copies of both of their poems for peer review. If possible, you may ask students to provide a photocopy of the passage from the original prose text for your comparison.
- Review the Love Found Poems Rubric and discuss any questions students have about the expectations for the activity.
- Pass out copies of the Student Assessment Sheet for Found Poems.
- Discuss possible feedback that would be appropriate on the Assessment Sheet, pointing out the connection between the categories on the rubric.
- Arrange students in small groups, and ask them to read their poems aloud to each other one-by-one. Alternately students can work in pairs.
- Ask group members to use the Student Assessment Sheet to provide feedback on the effectiveness of one another's poems and then to share the assessments.
- As students work, circulate among class members, providing feedback and support as appropriate.
- Once everyone has finished, gather the class and generally discuss the feedback that students have received and any questions that they have about their poems.
- If desired, you might invite volunteers to share drafts with the whole class.
- In the remaining time, ask students to revise their poems, taking into account the feedback they received.
- Ask students to submit their work at the end of the session or at the beginning of the next class.
- Try the ReadWriteThink lesson Alliteration in Headline Poems for another way to create found poems.
- For additional discussion of found poems, tap the student examples in "Found and Headline Poems" from Getting the Knack: 20 Poetry Writing Exercises by Stephen Dunning and William Stafford.
- Use this lesson as a book report alternative. Ask students to choose descriptive passages from two or three key moments in the text and then compose found and parallel poems from those passages. Add a reflective piece where students explain why they chose the passages they did.
Student Assessment / Reflections
- Evaluate students’ found poems using the Love Found Poems Rubric. In your comments, draw connections to the discussion of the poem formats and the practice poems that students have written. If desired, compare your comments to those students receive on the Student Assessment Sheet for Found Poems.
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