The Poetry of Power
Language Arts Activity
Students use a thesaurus to develop a vocabulary that they can use in poems
describing developments in their state.
WHAT YOU NEED
- Reference materials on the development of your state
- Poetry collections and anthologies
- Butcher paper
- Felt-tip pens
WHAT TO DO
- Find, or have students find, examples of poems that use powerful and
expressive language to describe everyday events. Have students listen as you
read the poems aloud. Help them identify the words that give the verses their
excitement and strength.
- Tell students that they are each going to write a poem about an important
event in their state's history, using the most expressive language they can
think of. With student input, develop a list of such events (for example, a
battle, the founding of a major city, getting electric power from a
- Model the method by which students can find effective synonyms for their
poems. Read the description of an event from a reference source. Ask students
to identify the words, if any, that best dramatize the event. Then refer to
the thesaurus for more powerful synonyms. For example, the entry might describe
water running over a dam. Read aloud synonyms for "running," such as "gushing,"
"jetting," "shooting," and "roaring." Ask students to judge which words are
- Create a wall of synonyms using butcher or other paper. As students research
each event, have them write key words on the wall and below them list their
more expressive synonyms.
- Have students work independently to write their poems, referring to the
words on the wall.
- After students have completed a rough draft, have them exchange papers with
a partner for a supportive critique, edit their work, and make a final copy.
Students might try to write concrete poetry. That is, if they are writing about
an oil well, they have the words form the shape of a derrick.
Use the wall of synonyms as a background for the final copies of the poems.
Have students frame each poem with construction paper.
Have students organize the poems in chronological order, then
link them with a narrative. Students can make an audio tape of the piece, with
each poet reading his or her own verses.
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