Poetry Rocks: Writing Poetry Provides an Engaging and Creative Outlet for Primary Students to Share Observations Made during Scientific Investigations

By Bricker, Patricia; Faetz, Melissa et al. | Science and Children, November 2015 | Go to article overview

Poetry Rocks: Writing Poetry Provides an Engaging and Creative Outlet for Primary Students to Share Observations Made during Scientific Investigations


Bricker, Patricia, Faetz, Melissa, Tracy, Kelly N., Luke, Nancy, Science and Children


Over many years, we have inquired into the integration of science and literacy in primary grades. Our students have used science notebooks as places to write and draw their scientific questions, predictions, observations, research notes, claims, reflections, and wonderings. At the same time, we have engaged our students in writers' workshop. They are accustomed to writing processes such as drafting, revising, editing, publishing, and genre study. Recently, we became interested in having students infuse their scientific knowledge and understandings into their writing. In this article, we describe how we led first graders through explorations of poetry and understanding the world of rocks and earth materials and then merged these lines of study through the writing of poetry about rocks and earth materials (Figure 1).

Exploring the World of Poetry

Our poetry study was guided by the work of Georgia Heard and her book Awakening of the Heart. Heard describes the need to fill our classrooms with poetry throughout the year, not just at the end of the school year when everything else is done. She emphasizes the unique nature of poetry, a genre that enables students to consider their own and other's feelings more than any other form of writing. In her words, "[Poetry] can also help our students open their eyes to the beauty of the earth, restore a belief in the power of language, and help them begin to understand the truths inside them" (Heard 1999, p. xviii).

We began by immersing students in poetry. We filled the room with books of poetry and used poems as read-alouds and within small-group guided reading lessons. Students noticed poetic language in a range of texts and read many different poems. We helped them find poems they understood and loved, analyze more challenging ones, and perform their favorites.

As poetry filled the air, we began to pay attention to characteristics of poems and the crafting strategies of authors. We collectively investigated, "What do we notice about poems?" While there are many elements to consider, we focused on those that seemed the most developmentally appropriate for primary-age students. These included painting a picture with your words, repetition, comparisons, and line breaks. For each of these strategies, we noted and collected examples.

To transition from studying to writing poems, we invited students to bring to school items that were meaningful to them. They wrote about these objects, combining their observations, feelings, wonderings, and memories. We guided students to circle the parts of their writing that sounded poetic. They moved on to use these identified poetic seeds as the beginnings of poems that were drafted. Students read and reread their work; revised in a range of ways--adding line breaks, repeating words or phrases, and turning ordinary words into poetic ones; and published their poems to share with classmates and families.

Understanding Rocks and Earth Materials

While students were working on poetry in writers' workshop, they were simultaneously investigating rocks and Earth materials in science. We began by reading aloud and discussing Byrd Baylor's Everybody Needs a Rock (1974). We spent time as a class responding to the book and discussing her recommendations for choosing a perfect pet rock. Following our discussion, we led the class outside to explore and choose pet rocks, guided by a list of outdoor safety tips (see NSTA Connection). Students returned to the classroom to design and create paper "rock houses." These houses were taped to student tables and the rocks remained there for the duration of the unit. This allowed each student access to a special rock that would be used throughout their investigation.

We continued to engage students by reading other texts including Peggy Christian's If You Find a Rock (2008) and by having students write in their science notebooks. Prompts included, "What have you observed about rocks in the past? …

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