Activity And Project

Finding Poetry in Pleasure Reading

6 - 8
Activity Time
One hour
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Activity Description

Children and teens who enjoy writing poetry but are looking for new and interesting topics to write about needn't look any further than the reading they already do for pleasure.  While young poets are enjoying the experience of reading a book or magazine of their choice, offer them this opportunity to focus on a favorite passage.  They choose a section that they find richly descriptive or emotionally powerful and transform it into what's known as a "found poem."  Writers can then extend the activity by using the structure of their found poem to create another text called a parallel poem.

Why This Is Helpful

There are well-documented connections between the literacy skills involved in reading and writing.  This activity encourages children and teens to focus their leisure reading a bit as they search for the passage they will use to create their found poem and reflect on the effects of the language in the passage.  They then engage in the creative process of shaping and changing the published language into a creation of their own.

This activity is modified from the lesson "Found Poems/Parallel Poems."

What You Need

Here's What To Do

  1. While children or teens are reading for pleasure (a blog, magazine, novel, newspaper, etc.), share with them this idea for transforming what they read into a poem.  Ask them to look for a paragraph or so that they think is particularly well written or emotionally expressive.  Let them know they will use it to make a special kind of poem called a "found poem."
  2. When they have found the part of the text they want to work with, have them read the section out loud to you.  Reading the passage aloud will help them focus on the sounds of the words and will help them make their choices as they shape the words into a poem.
  3. Then ask them to try to describe why they chose that passage.  Ask questions about the emotions being expressed or the topic being discussed, as well as questions about the words the author uses and the way he or she communicates the message of the piece.  Questions such as "What's your favorite word in that passage?" and "Where does the author use words that help you see, hear, taste, touch, or smell what's going on?" will help them focus on potentially poetic language.
  4. Ask the children or teens if anything in their chosen piece of text already sounds or looks like a poem.  Together, think of ways that you see poetry being different from non-poetic language (called prose).  Use the Poetry and Prose: What's the Difference? Handout to generate discussion ideas.  Look at examples of poetry and prose to see and experience some of the differences.  Go to The Academy of American Poets web site for example poems if necessary.
  5. Show children and teens an example of a found poem based on text from the novel Holes. Read over the text from the novel; then read the found poem based on the same passage. Discuss with children and teens how the text differs in the two versions.  Look for what the author added, omitted, and shifted to make the language seem more poetic.  (Refer back to your discussion in the previous step.) See the Academy of American Poets and the Library of Congress for more examples and discussion of found poetry.
  6. Now give children and teens the chance to transform their selected text into a poem.  The previous steps should give them a good idea of what to do, but you may wish to print and discuss the process in the Writing Your Own Found Poem Handout for additional guidance.
  7. Publish their found poems, or their poem and the original text side by side with ReadWriteThink publishing tools such as the Multigenre Mapper or Printing Press.

More Ideas To Try

  • Use the found poem as a model for a parallel poem.  Have the writer re-read the found poem and eliminate any specific content words, leaving only the words that provide structure for the text. (See an example parallel poem based on the found poem from Holes from Step 5 above.)  Use the newly-created template to write a new poem based on an experience of the writer's choosing.
  • While the child or teen with whom you're working writes a found poem, make one yourself as well.   Choose text from your own reading and talk about the process of creating your poem, or agree on a text and make found poems independently.  Share your two poems and discuss the similarities and differences.
  • Make found poems from text that's all around you.  On a walk or car ride, look for street signs, advertisements, or any other print that could be woven together into a poem representing the experience.
  • If a group is reading a book together, make a collection of found poems to represent different readers' responses to favorite sections in the book.

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