Let’s face it. Students come back from the Thanksgiving holiday with one thing on their minds. How long until the Christmas break? This is not the time to assign the first thirty chapters of War and Peace or the fifteen Latin declensions of the root par including past, past perfect, and pluperfect iterations.
(Note: I wouldn’t know what a declension was if it bit me, but it sounds like the sort of snooze worthy assignment guaranteed to kill peace and goodwill among all nations.)
At this time of year, there is a delicate balance between providing enough cognitive load to ensure learning and keeping the content light enough to engage distracted, sugar laden young brains.
Writing poetry fits nicely into this time frame, because poems can be drafted, revised, edited, and turned in within two or three days, and because it gives the student an immediate sense of success and accomplishment.
I like using the literature we are already reading to have students create found poems. To produce a found poem, students borrow words or groups of words, rearranging to create their own poems. When generating a true found poem, students should add punctuation only, and none of their own words. This is more challenging than it may seem at first, but almost every student can find lines, words, or groups of words that appeal to them, and almost every student will be able to complete this assignment.
I really liked this teacher’s explanation of the found poem. It may give you some more ideas about how to get students to think of the found poem assignment as word play. He even says that words are toys at one point in the video. Students will listen to toy related talk any time.
I used Christmas literature during December, because there is no shortage of well written mentor text on this topic. I always had other literature available for students who did not observe the holiday, and it never presented a problem in my classroom. If your school district has policies against using Christmas literature, just let students use the great literature you are already reading with them
With so much great Christmas literature out there, I’m sure you already have some of your favorites, but here are some of mine. . .
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson- Best first line in a book, ever.
Santa Calls by William Joyce: This book has a letter in the back of it. You could also use this book as a springboard to write some Christmas letters.
Santa’s Twin – Dean Koontz
How the Grinch Stole Christmas By Dr. Seuss.
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
What Child is This? A Christmas Story by Caroline Cooney
Happy Finding! If your students write great found poems, send them to me. I’d love to see them.