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PSSA and Poetry

I know, I know. I should be introducing myself, sharing all kinds of cutesy information about Story Trekker, and trying to pitch some kind of product right off the bat.

This is the best I can do.

It's a picture my 8-year-old took of me this fall. Just so we're clear, I don't usually look like this. Right now, I'm wearing black leggings, a pink sweatshirt, and my hair desperately needs a cut. But anyway...

The reason I can't be bothered with formalities right now (that will be another post down the line), is that this week starts the PSSA here in Pennsylvania. I don't know what you call it in your neck of the woods, but I do know it's every where. The dreaded state-standardized test.

I also know, having been a former teacher (okay, okay read more about me here), I know what "teaching" is like during these weeks. You can't give homework, can't tax the kids too much (who are we kidding - they're already spent by 10:30 a.m.), and can't really introduce new materials because of the two reasons I already mentioned.

Enter: poetry.

This will save your life, friends. No joke. Poetry is so much fun for kids, especially when you can make it active...especially when your kiddos have been sitting all...morning...long. And bonus - it actually may help with the test taking! Check out some of these articles about the links between physical activity and learning.

I'm passionate about reading and writing, and poetry combines the two. You don't have to be a Langston Hughes or Billy Collins to appreciate poetry. Certainly, your students already listen to it in the form of music. But it can be fun. Wickedly fun!

So today I'm going to provide you with a few simple activities to help you get through PSSA (or whatever your acronym might be) week. You can thank me later. With a rhyming couplet. :)




1. Sidewalk Chalk Poetry: All you need for this activity is some sidewalk chalk for each student and some poetry books from the library...and nice weather. Give your kiddos time to explore the books and pick a favorite (short - 10 lines or less) poem. Shel Silverstein books are great for this, as are My Dog is a Carrot by John Hegley and Oops! by Alan Katz. Once your kids pick a favorite poem, head outside to write it in chalk. On the sidewalk, playground, parking lot (be careful!) where ever there may be space. This activity does not take long and does not require a lot of skill, but it does get kids immersed in poetry...and outside for a breath of fresh air.

2. Toss Around Words: A great activity to help kids work off a little steam and reactivate their brains after the drain of testing. All you need are some playground balls (borrow some from the phys. ed. teacher) and/or frisbees - anything your kiddos can toss back and forth. This activity is similar to oral story-building. As the kids toss the ball to one another, they add words to a poem. You might consider starting off all the students with a word or line and seeing where they go from there. If they're too spent, consider just getting them to "play" with words by rhyming on each toss or coming up with a synonym/antonym to a word you give them.

3. Action! Can't get outside? Bummer, but no biggie. Let the kids take a stretch by reading a few action poem and allowing them to create their own movements as they listen. Don't have time to find poems with actions? Play some music or snippets of a musical (think Hamilton!). Students will be amazed when you point out that lyrics are simply poems set to music (mind blown!) and that, in the case of songs from musicals, actions and movements even enhance the meaning of the words.

Looking for more ideas and activities? Visit my online story - Story Trekker - found at Teachers Pay Teachers.

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