The Poetry of Science Unit Overview - Handout for Students

 Handout for Students at the Start of the Poetry of Science Unit: What Is Poetry?

To start the unit, and to explain poetry in the simplest and most welcoming terms I could, I would distribute and review the following handout at the start of the unit.

Poetry and Paintings - A Lesson on Reading Poetry for Beginners

This is an excerpt from the handout on I distribute at the start of the Poetry of Science unit. 

Poetry can be described or defined in many ways. A good way  to put it is “poetry is the art of language.” Another good  description of poetry is “the best words in the best order.” 

If you compare a poem to a painting, you can say:  

  • the page is the canvas (what the painter paints on)

  • the words are the paints 

  • the poet is the painter 

  • the reader is the viewer of the painting 

When you look at a painting you can notice lots of different  things:  

  • the size of the painting  

  • the types of paint used: oil, water color, etc

  • the colors used in the painting

  • the brush strokes: thick and bold, delicate and thin

  • what is in the painting: a portrait, still-life, a  scene, something abstract (not anything particular, just  colors or shapes) 

  • what the painting is meant to do: show a scene, express  an idea, make you think about something in particular 

When you read a poem you can notice and ask lots of  different things as well. You can think about: 

  • The word choice

    • Verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs  

    • What specific thoughts do the words bring? 

    • Are they  abstract words (words that don’t give you a picture)or concrete (words that do give you a picture)?

  • The sounds of words 

o the consonants, like hard “k” or soft “s”  

o the vowels, like long vowels (ooo) or short vowels  (ah)  

o the rhyme or slant rhyme (almost rhyme)

  • The rhythm of the words 

    • What syllables are emphasized? 

    • What ones are not?

  • The pattern of the words  

o they could be in a formal way, like a haiku or  limerick 

o they could have a pattern but not in a particular  form 

o or they could be in free verse with no particular  rhyming, rhythm or pattern 

  • How it looks on the page 

o Notice how it is different from stories because  instead of sentences, it has lines. The lines do not  go across the page continuously, but stop and begin  below the previous line. 

o Does it have long lines or short lines? 

o Where are the line breaks (where one line ends and  another begins)? 

o Where are the stanza breaks? 

o Does the poet use capital letters?  

o Does he or she use conventional (usual)punctuation? 

  • The meaning of the words: they could  

o describe an image 

o tell a story  

o make a collage of thoughts or scenes 

o send a message 

o play with words and sounds 

Think about some of the writing and literary words you have  learned this year and how you can use that knowledge in  writing your poem. You have learned about: 

  • Mental imaging – “drawing” a picture with words Using strong verbs – words that describe an action Describing words – using specific, strong adjectives and  adverbs

  • Simile – a comparison of two things not usually compared  using “like” or “as.” EXAMPLE: “That sandwich is as big as a  house!”