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1. The teacher reads this poem to the class: Trees

There is no plant upon this earth As lovely as a tree.

No tulip, rose, chrysanthemum, Can steal its place from me.

A tree is beauty, strength and grace, Its branches touch the sky.

It whispers secrets to the breeze, When in its shade I lie.

A tree is proof that yesterdays Existed where I stand.

For seed to full maturity, Exceeds the span of man.

When I am old and near the end, I’ll sort my memories.

The fondest ones I’m sure will be My time spent ‘mongst the trees.

2. Re-read the poem emphasizing the “beat” as the number of syllables in each line. On the chalkboard or experience chart paper, emphasize the syllables with short dashes:

There is no As love - No ly tu - lip, plant up - on this earth as a tree rose, chry - san - the - Can steal its place from me.

Etc. 3. Note which lines rhyme in the above stanza (i.e. lines 2 and 4).

4. Read the second poem to show that the meter can be slightly different (as in the fact that there are only seven syllables in lines one and three) but that the rhyme scheme remains the same.

The Dandelion A yellow-headed soldier

Keeps guard beside my gate. So tall and thin and noble You stand the silent wait.

And round your feet green daggers Spread out to claim your space. Your leaves in careful overlap Force others from this space.


Oh dandelion tell me,

Your plans, what can they be? To hold this ground forever And never let it free?

And when your crown of yellow Is turned to fluffy white.

You’ll launch your seeds upon the wind, To spread as far as sight.

So next year one brave soldier A thousand more will be. A yellow headed army, As far as I can see.

5. Have the students choose a title for a poem. For example, they may choose “The Maple Tree”.Write this on the chalkboard or experience chart paper.

6. Give each child a strip of paper about 4 x 20 cm (easily cut from standard printer paper). Allow about two min- utes for each student to compose only the first line for the poem that the title describes. No one is to sign their name to the paper.

7. Collect the folded papers in a hat or box. If a student has not written a line just pass on and collect only those that are finished. (It has been found that many students will not participate in this first round because they believe they might be identified as the writer).

8. Pull one strip from the hat and read it to yourself. This allows you to exert some control over what ends up on the chalkboard. (If the line is inappropriate simply say “Oops, too many syllables” and then pull another). The first line that is acceptable is then written on the chalk- board without identifying the author.

9. Distribute another round of paper strips to create line two. This time, emphasize the number of syllables and the fact that this line will have to rhyme with line four. (Remember, there are no words in the English language that rhyme with purple or orange!)

10.Repeat the process of selection. The first appropriate line must be accepted and written on the chalkboard. Now you have the first two lines of the poem. Distribute more paper and continue until you have a four line stanza in which lines two and four rhyme. Repeat the process to produce a second stanza.

Once reluctant students know that they will not be identi-

fied as the poet they become more confident and will partici- pate in the game. The teacher can now choose to continue the activity to complete a poem of four or five stanzas or can allow students to compose whole stanzas on their own. The concept can be used to stimulate poetic thought in many forms such as haiku or diamonte.

Bert Murphy is a lecturer in outdoor and environmental education in the Faculty of Teacher Education at Brock Uni- versity in St. Catharines, Ontario, and a former consultant in environmental education for the District School Board of Niagara.


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