Free-verse poetry unit with 2nd graders

For the last 3 weeks, the 2nd graders have been studying free-verse poetry in the library.  Most of my 2nd grade teachers were in the midst of poetry units (in correlation with National Poetry Month), so it was a natural fit for the library to be involved.  Plus, free-verse poetry is one of my favs to share, teach, and write.  No rhyme, few rules = tons of fun.

Weeks 1&2: Introduction of free-verse, share poetry, practice Claim-Evidence-Reasoning. 

A short PowerPoint introduced the traits of free-verse and the books we would read: Once I Ate a Pie and I Didn’t Do It, both by Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest.

As each poem was shared, students had a task: use Claim-Evidence-Reasoning to decide if you wanted to own the dog in the poem.  Illustrations were not considered, just the text of the poem.

There are some poems in each book that spark great discussion – Mr. Beefy, Darla, Louis and I Didn’t Do It stand out.

A sample C-E-R from Mr. Beefy sounds like this:

  • Claim: I would like to own Mr. Beefy.
  • Evidence: He eats food off the table in a silent, sneaky way.
  • Reasoning: There are parts of my dinner I don’t like. If I had Mr. Beefy in my house, he would eat the bits I don’t like without my mom or dad finding out.

This is SO fun to do with students, as dogs are pretty popular and inspire many connections.  The reasoning explanations of students are brilliant: I like dogs that cause trouble because then I will be in less trouble, I want a dog that I can go running with, I don’t like to be wet when I sleep, so a slobbering dog is no good, etc.

Week 3: Compose a free-verse poem, learn/practice parallelism/Rule of Three, make inferences

Students put their knowledge of free-verse poetry and descriptive writing to the test: as a class, they composed a free-verse poem inspired by the two books.  In similar fashion, the poem was dog-themed and focused on this photograph:


First, students brainstormed single words that described the dog’s looks, feelings, and thoughts.  They had to make inferences based on the photograph.  Many students used words like guilty, mischievous, and sneaky. 

Second, students listed things/actions the dog may like/dislike as evidence by the photo.  Again, lots of inferring!

Third, they worked together to craft a poem from the dog’s point of view.

This was tough – some ideas worked, while others did not.  My job was to write as well as guide the students toward words and phrases that worked together.  This was a natural lesson to introduce the grammatical principles of both the Rule of Three and parallelism, as they helped to balance the poem and add humor.

After class, each poem was written on chart paper and hung them in the hall to share with the whole school.

On the whole, this unit was enjoyable and informative.  Teachers were happy that free-verse poetry was covered during library class, students found some new books they enjoyed (those MacLachlan books are circulating like mad!), and everyone benefited from the creation of four new free-verse poems.

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