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A Writing Unit for Third Grade

This is a writing unit for third grade.  My cooperating teacher requested that I teach poetry because she “doesn’t do poetry.”  Being a (very) amateur poet, I was happy to take on the topic.  My goal was to familiarize the students with many different kinds of poetry.  Some, like sonnets, may not be the kind they are going to write or understand completely at this point.  But by learning  a little about them and hearing a few, they are exposed to some aspects of our culture that they will encounter again in the upper grades.

            I was pleasantly surprised by the amount that they did pick up.  The limericks and haiku proved a bit difficult for several children, but they did an outstanding job on all the other types.  The color and shape poems were especially popular.

            The children enjoyed reading the poetry during the lessons, and absolutely loved reading their own poetry aloud whenever we had a few minutes to fill.

            I wish that I had been able to give them more time for the actual writing.  The lessons didn’t take more than fifteen minutes, but often we would only have half an hour total for writer’s workshop.

            Even without lots of time, they did come up with some great poems.  The conversation poems I heard were impressive, and some of the color poems really expressed what the color was like.  The similes and metaphors used in the poetry were well-chosen.  Some were better at making rhyming lines than others, but they did all find some good rhyming words.

            If I did it again, the biggest thing I would change would be the amount of time available.  They could have used half an hour or more to write most days, and we totally missed the Thanksgiving poems because of a snow delay.  I would also try to find a larger variety of poems, but that’s not too pressing, since we already took plenty of time reading poems by other people during the lessons.

            I hope that I do get to work with poetry with my class at some time in the future.  It’s always fun to read aloud to and with children, but the chance for them to write some of their own is truly priceless.
Poetry Unit Overview


Day 1 – introduction                                                                 Tues. 11/5

what is poetry? 3.3.1

Day 2 – couplet                                                                        Wed. 11/6

rhyming 3.7.4

Day 3 – unrhyming/unrhythmic                                                  Thurs. 11/7

describe a feeling 3.5.2

- - -

Day 4 – limerick                                                                       Tues. 11/12

tell a story, pun, or joke 3.5.5

Day 5 – nonsense                                                                     Wed. 11/13

onomatopoeia 3.3.5, 3.7.4

Day 6 – sonnet                                                                         Thurs. 11/14

metaphor and simile 3.7.4, 3.5.4

- - -

Day 7 – haiku                                                                           Tues. 11/19

adjectives, describing words 3.6.5, 3.7.4, 3.5.4

Day 8 – cinquain                                                                       Wed. 11/20

adjectives, describing words 3.6.5, 3.7.4, 3.5.4

Day 9 – Play/lines/conversation                                                 Thurs. 11/21

past, present, future 3.6.4

- - -

Day 10 – shapes                                                                       Mon. 11/25

alliteration 3.7.4

Day 11 – color                                                                         Tues. 11/26

metaphor and simile 3.7.4, 3.5.4

Day 12 – Thanksgiving Turkeys                                                Wed. 11/27

audience 3.5.5

- - -

Final Project: Publishing the Poetry                                            Mon.-Tues. 12/2-12/3



Day 1




Objective: Students will be able to explain what makes a poem.


Materials: poetry samples, dry erase board and marker



Read “Short Gaits with Three Spiders.”

What is it? Not a story, not a report… a poem.

What is a poem? What do we know about poetry? How is it like/unlike prose? Who reads it and when and where? What can it be written about?  How long is it? (Look at the 2-line poem, and the Odyssey)

Read a few aloud, incl. “Eletelephony” and “To be or not to be.”



Short Gaits with Three Spiders (Matt Welter)

Eletelephony (L Richards)

Zoo (student)

To Be or Not To Be (Shakespeare)

No (Silverstein)

Three Stings (Silverstein)

Daddy Fixed the Breakfast (John Ciardi)



Day 2

Couplets, rhyming



Objective: Students will write at least one poem using rhyming words.


Materials: poetry samples, writing notebooks and pencils



Read “Father William.”

Give the students a copy of “Spider, Spider” and read it together.

What is special about the sounds at the end of each line? (they rhyme)  Those two likes together are called a couplet.  Read “Zoo” and “Hog.”

Review the rhyming sounds that have been discussed in Word Block (often words that have the same spelling pattern will rhyme and vice versa).

Read the first stanza or two of “A Bird Came Down the Walk.”  Note that the rhyming lines aren’t always next to each other.

Write some rhyming words on the board and make a short poem about a spider together.  It can be long, like “Father William” was, or short, like “Stone Airplane.”  Note also that sometimes there’s nothing to rhyme with a word, and it must be changed (for example, orange or purple – or W?)

Students return to their desks to write at least two poems using rhymes.

Check on the students while they work.  The teacher or fellow students can help each other find rhyming words.



Spider, Spider (student)

W (James Reeves)

Father William (L Carroll)

Show Fish (Silverstein)

Stone Airplane (Silverstein)

A Bird Came Down the Walk (E Dickinson)

Zoo (student)

Hog (student)



Day 3


Describe a feeling



Objective: Students will write at least one unrhyming poem.

Students will use words to describe or evoke a feeling.


Materials: poetry samples, writing notebooks and pencils



Read the book/poem Hoops to the class.  Ask how it makes them feel.

Read “Listening to Grownups Quarreling.”

What feeling does that poem create?  What are some words that gave you these feelings?

Read “When My Dog Died.”  What feeling does that give you?  Do you think “The Eviction” will be like that too?  (read it) Was it?

Did any of these poems rhyme?  Poems don’t always have to rhyme. 


Hoops (R Burleigh)

When my dog died (Freya Littledale, treasury)

Eviction (L Clifton, treasury)

Listening to grownups quarreling (Ruth Whitman, treasury)






Day 4


Tell a story, pun, or joke



Objective: Students will write at least one limerick, using the proper format and rhyme pattern.


Materials: poetry samples, writing notebooks and pencils



Define “epicure” and read “An epicure, dining at crew”

Ask students if they know what kind of poetry that was.

Give students a copy of some limericks and read one together

Write the rhyme scheme (a-a-b-b-a) on the board as well as the pattern of 3-3-2-2-3 beats per line

Explain that limericks often tell a story, joke or pun.

Give the students the mixed-up lines of a limerick and ask them to put them in order, based on what they know about the beats and the rhymes.

Allow the students to write their own limericks.



Treasury page 114-117

Linking Literature page 73

An epicure, dining at crew (anon)



Day 5



3.3.5, 3.7.4


Objective: Students will write at least one nonsense poem.

Students will use onomatopoeia in their poem.


Materials: poetry samples, writing notebooks and pencils



Ask some students to volunteer to perform a poem as you read it.

Read “Jabberwocky” aloud to the class.  If the student performers look mystified, help them along a little – what does the sound of the word make you think of?

Explain what onomatopoeia is, and how it can be used.

Read some more nonsensical poems to the class

Let the students write a nonsense poem, either with made-up words that sound right, or using real words to tell about something silly and using normal onomatopoeia.



Jabberwocky (L Carroll)

Various poems (Silverstein and Pulasky)


Performers: Stephen – boy,  Jordan – jabberwock,  Luke – father,  others - toves, raths, borogroves, and a tumtum tree








Day 6


metaphor and simile

3.7.4, 3.5.4


Objective: Students will choose the purpose, audience, and topic for a poem of their own.

Students will make some sort of comparison in their poem using metaphors or similes.


Materials: poetry samples, writing notebooks and pencils



Read Sonnet 43 by Shakespeare to the class.  What was he comparing her to?

Ask if anyone has a guess as to who wrote it and what kind of poem it was.

Explain, in general terms, what a sonnet is, and read Sonnet 130.

What kinds of his things was he comparing her to there?

See if the children know what a metaphor and simile are, and explain them.

Read “The moon was but a chin of gold” by Dickinson.  Ask the students to find the comparisons in that poem.

Allow the students to write a poem or two on their own in any style, using at least one simile or metaphor.



The moon was but a chin of gold (E Dickinson)

Sonnets XVIII and CXXX (Shakespeare)



Day 7


adjectives, describing words

3.6.5, 3.7.4, 3.5.4


Objective: Students will demonstrate understanding of what haiku is by writing one or two haiku

Students will effectively use describing words in their poetry


Materials: haiku examples, writing notebooks and pencils



Ask the children to review what forms of poetry have been used so far.

Tell them a little about haiku – where it comes from, what it’s about, but not the technical details.

Read two samples of haiku.

Ask what the children notice.  (It’s short.  The lines are short.  Etc.)

Pass out the explaining haiku and read it aloud as the students follow along.  The format is explained in this piece

Look at the describing words in some more haiku examples.

Write a haiku on the board about the plants the class grew for science last month.

Ask the children to write one or two haiku using the correct format and at least one adjective.



Definition Haiku (The Everything Kids Nature Book)

Student-written samples


Adaptations: If the identified students have a hard time getting the syllables right, it’s OK.  Give them some help if they need it.  But I think they’ll do fine.

Hawaiian Tropics
Beautiful water falling
Down the rugged rocks.




Five syllables

Seven syllables

Five syllables



Day 8


adjectives, describing words

3.6.5, 3.7.4, 3.5.4


Objective: Students will write a cinquain

            Students will effectively use adjectives in their poetry


Materials: poetry samples, writing notebooks and pencils



Introduce the word cinquain.  Ask the children if they have any idea what it could mean.  Clue: Think of Spanish numbers.

Read “Candy.”  That is a cinquain.  Do they know why the poem is called that now?

Pass out the poems so that they can see the five lines.

Read “Father.”  Try to decide what goes on each line.  Write the format on the board.

Read “Crayons.”  Check to see if it fits the pattern.

Put the words for “Horses” in order on the board.

Students write a cinquain of their own.







Crayons (all by me)



1: 1 word, noun

2: 2 words, adjectives

3: 3 words, actions

4: 4 words, feelings

5: 1 word, noun




Day 9




Objective: Students will display their growing familiarity with poetry by continuing to write poems in their writing notebooks.


Materials: writing notebooks, pencils, poems



Have some fluent readers familiarize themselves with “The Quiet Evenings Here” before or during the lesson.

With a helper, read aloud “Water Striders.”

Ask the students: could that poem be read silently?  Why do they think so, or think not?

With a helper, read “Honeybees.”  Does it ever sound like this when you are talking with your friends?  Which bee is right?  Why?

Pass out “Water Boatmen” and read it together.  Have one half of the class read one part and the other half read the other part.  How else could it be read?

If time permits, have four students read “The Quiet Evenings Here.”

Read some lines from a Shakespeare play in which two or more characters are dialoging.  Is this poetry as well?

Ask the children to write some poems of their own.  They don’t have to be dialogue; they may want to finish a poem they started another day.


Joyful Noise:  (P Fleishman)

-Water boatmen (copy for class)

-Honeybees (copy and perform)

-Water striders (copy and perform)

Big Talk:   (P Fleishman)

-The Quiet Evenings Here (copy for students to perform)

lines from Shakespeare




Day 10




Objectives: Students will write one poem in a shape that matches the theme


Materials: writing journals, pencils, poems



Read aloud, and show the class, “I Am Winding Through a Maze.”

Why do you think the author wrote the poem this way?  How might you write a poem about a sea shell?

Hand out and read “I Am Stuck Inside a Seashell.”

What are some other shapes that a poem could be written in?  What if you were writing about a bear?  The moon?  A star?

Read “We’re Perched Upon a Star.”  How else could the author have written it in a shape?  Write “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” on the board in star shape.

Who knows what infinity is?  What does it look like?  Hand out and read “I’m Caught Up in Infinity.”

Do these poems rhyme?  Do they have to?

Ask students to write their own rhyming or non-rhyming shape poems.



Various poems by J. Prelutsky (It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles)



Day 11


metaphor and simile

3.7.4, 3.5.4


Objective: Students will write a poem about a color that uses some form of metaphor or simile.


Materials: writing notebooks, pencils, poems



Ask students what their favorite color is.  Why do they like it?  Are colors only something to see?

Read the “Colors live” poem from the end of Hailstones.

Ask students what the color red makes them think of, feel, see, or otherwise sense.

This is what it makes one person think of when she thinks of red. – Read “What is Red?”

What kind of images did she use there?  What did she compare red to?  Did she say “it is like” or “it is”?  Is red really those things?  Why?  Talk about metaphors and why poets use them.  How do we use them?  Eg, “She’s a real tiger.”

Is white a color?  What do you think of when you think of white?

Hand out and read “What is White?”

Ask students to write their own poem about color that shares what they think that color symbolizes, sounds like, feels like, etcetera.


Hailstones and Halibut Bones (M O’Neill)





Day 12





Objective: Students will write about what they are thankful for, gearing it towards a specific audience


Materials: Turkey bodies, colored paper, scissors, pencils, crayons, writing notebook, glue



Do you ever share what you are thankful for at dinner on Thanksgiving?  What kinds of things do you list?

If a young cousin asked what you were grateful for, and your grandparent asked, do you think you would tell them different things?  Why or why not?  What about one of your parent’s friends, or someone on TV?

We are going to write about who and what we are thankful for today using a special format.  When you write these things, remember your audience.  Who will it be? (the class)  So if you’re thankful for your dog, Sparky, make sure you don’t just say “Sparky,” because this audience won’t know what you mean.

Introduce the format to be used.

Once students have listed three or more things in the correct format, they may complete the project:

Trace and cut out colored paper handprints

                        Write what you are thankful for on the prints

                        Cut out a turkey body

                        Glue the prints to the turkey for a tail

Finished turkeys may be posted in the room for the day, and taken home that afternoon.



Writing and Art Go Hand in Hand, page 67



Final Project

Publishing the Poems

3.4.6, 3.4.8


Objective: Students will evaluate their poetry and publish their best one


Materials: writing notebooks, pencils, lined paper, construction paper, glue, scissors



What are some ways that you can publish writing?  What have you done before?

We are going to publish some of our writing by making a hall display.

How do you think you can choose your best poem?  What are some things that you could look for?

Students choose their best poem to revise.  They must check the words that they don’t know how to spell and conference with a teacher before they publish.

The revised poems are written neatly on lined paper.  The paper for smaller poems may be cut to fit after it is copied.  They then glue it to the color construction paper of their choice.

Students who finish faster may publish more than one and/or do some free writing.


Assessment: Check that the students have correctly revised their poems and neatly published their original work.


Modifications: All students should have something written; even the two identified boys who are taken out during this time in the afternoon probably have gotten one or two written.  If they haven’t, they can use the time to work on writing poems.


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