Writing Science-Themed Poetry in the Elementary Grades

Although we typically focus on nonfiction reading and writing in science and other content areas, including poetry and other forms of creative writing is a good idea. Why? Creative writing appeals to students who might not be attracted to the subject matter. It engages linguistic and musical intelligences, and it requires students to consider the content in a new way. It also challenges students to think creatively – a quality necessary for scientific discovery.

Of course, some types of poetry are more suitable than others for elementary students – no sonnets here! We’ve highlighted a few types of poetry that could be used in conjunction with elementary science activities and have provided links to lesson plans and resources. Remember that the content or topic of these types of lessons can be easily modified to meet your instructional needs.


FOUND POETRY

Found poetry involves mining words and phrases from existing works and recasting them in a different genre. Great for developing vocabulary, this exercise also helps students become more insightful readers.

A Bear of a Poem: Composing and Performing Found Poetry (Grades K-2)
Working together, students select words and phrases to create a collective class poem that they will then turn into a performance. Substitute a polar-themed book from one of our Virtual Bookshelf columns for the series used in the lesson. This lesson meets the following NCTE/IRA Standards: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 11, 12.

Poetry From Prose (Grades 3-5)
Working in small groups, students compose found and parallel poems based on a descriptive passage they have chosen from a piece of literature they are reading. They pick out words, phrases, and lines from the prose passage and then arrange and format the excerpts to compose their own poems. This lesson meets the following NCTE/IRA Standards: 1, 2, 3, 11.


Acrostic Poetry

In acrostic poetry, selected letters from the poem spell a word related to the poem’s topic or theme. Typically, the poem is arranged so that the first letter of each line lines up vertically to reveal the “special word.” Acrostic poems are great for having students explore characteristics of a place (the Arctic or Antarctica), an animal (polar bear or penguin), a thing (ice, snow, glacier), or a phenomenon (the aurora). They also help students with spelling and phonemic awareness.

Acrostic Poems: All About Me and My Favorite Things (Grades K-2)
Students write free-verse acrostic poems about themselves using the letters of their names to begin each line. They then write an additional poem about something that is important to them, also using the letters of that word for the beginning of each line. This lesson meets the following NCTE/IRA Standards: 4, 5, 6, 8.

Building Classroom Community for the Exploration of Acrostic Poetry (Grades 3-5)
Students learn about acrostic poems on the Internet and write their own using an online tool. The lesson’s topic is not science-related, but the tools and templates provided can be used with any content. This lesson meets the following NCTE/IRA Standards: 4, 5, 6, 8.


Shape Poetry

In shape poetry, the words do more than convey meaning – they take the shape of the object being described. Like acrostic poetry, shape poetry is a great way to explore an object’s characteristics. How about an iceberg?

Shape Poems: Writing Extraordinary Poems About Ordinary Objects (Grades 3-5)
In this lesson, students write shape poems using their content knowledge and sensory awareness of a familiar object. This lesson meets the following NCTE/IRA Standards: 5, 11, 12.


CINQUAIN

Cinquain poems are five-line poems with a two-four-six-eight-two syllable count pattern. The poem also follows this general pattern:

Line 1: One word that tells what the poem is about
Line 2: Two words that describe the subject
Line 3: Three words that describe something the subject does
Line 4: Four to six words describing the subject further
Line 5: One or two words that rename what the poem is about (a synonym)

Writing cinquain poems helps students develop vocabulary and proficiency in identifying and counting syllables.

Composing Cinquain Poems: A Quick-Writing Activity (Grades K-2)
In this lesson, students write simple cinquain of their own as a follow-up to a subject they have been exploring in class. This lesson meets the following NCTE/IRA Standards: 4, 6, 11, 12.

Composing Cinquain Poems with Basic Parts of Speech (Grades 3-5)
Students learn about cinquain poems and write their own. This lesson meets the following NCTE/IRA Standards: 4, 6, 12.


DIAMANTE

Diamante poems are shaped like a diamond. Composed of seven lines, the poem begins by naming or describing one thing and ends by naming or describing another. The poem follows this format:

Noun (beginning topic)

Adjective, Adjective (about beginning topic)

Gerund, Gerund, Gerund (-ing words about beginning topic)

Four nouns -OR- a short phrase (about both beginning and ending topics)

Gerund, Gerund, Gerund (-ing words about ending topic)

Adjective, Adjective (about ending topic)

Noun (ending topic)

Diamante poems help students practice parts of speech and provide a simple format for comparing and contrasting two items. This type of poem is perfectly suited to describing the Arctic and Antarctica. The poem’s shape even mirrors the regions’ positions on the globe!

Dynamite Diamante Poetry (Grades 3-5)
In this lesson, students review nouns, adjectives, and verbs and learn about gerunds. They then practice using them as new vocabulary words by composing structured diamante poems as a class and independently using an online interactive tool. This lesson meets the following NCTE/IRA Standards: 3, 4, 6, 8, 11, 12.


HAIKU

Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry composed of three lines following a five-seven-five syllable pattern. Traditionally written about the natural world, haiku is perfectly suited for inclusion in the science classroom. Writing haiku helps students with word choice and syllable counts.

Reading, Writing, Haiku Hiking! A Class Book of Picturesque Poems (Grades 3-5)
Students create their own haiku after collecting words in their writer’s notebooks. This lesson meets the following NCTE/IRA Standards: 1, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9.

Seasonal Haiku: Writing Poems to Celebrate Any Season (Grades 3-5)
Students write and illustrate haiku depicting seasonal images. This lesson meets the following NCTE/IRA Standards: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 9.


Writing Science Poetry

This lesson plan provides strategies and suggestions for incorporating poetry into science.

Earth Verse: Using Science in Poetry (Grades 3-5)
In this lesson, students listen to the story, Science Verse, by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. Students then create one of three types of poems (diamante, acrostic, or shape) with illustrations. To help increase fluency, students read their poems to the class. Finally, students create original poems using specific facts they have learned in the current science curriculum. This lesson meets the following NCTE/IRA Standards: 3, 4, 5, 6, 12.


This article was written by Jessica Fries-Gaither. For more information, see the Contributors page. Email Jessica at beyondpenguins@msteacher.org.

Copyright November 2008 – The Ohio State University. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0733024. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This work is licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons license.

One thought on “Writing Science-Themed Poetry in the Elementary Grades

  1. What is really significant about teaching grade school students about poetry is that they learn to appreciate the beauty of poetry, the things around them and giving them the chance to express themselves. Through writing, you can be whatever you want.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>