Linda Kulp Trout

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Poetry Friday: Talking Back to Poems

Today I’m sharing a brief description of an activity from THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY FOR MIDDLE SCHOOL.  I used this activity last June,  but this year I plan to use it during the first week of school.  I'm going to be teaching five sections of Reading Intervention, and it’s sometimes difficult to get them to participate in class discussions. So, I try to plan lessons that engage them in topics they care about. For this lesson, I chose my poem “Silence” which I’m honored to have included in the anthology. The lesson was quick (15  minutes), took little planning, met Common Core standards, and the kids loved it! What more could a teacher ask for?

Activity: Talking Back to Poems
Grades 6
Common Core Standard: RL6.5 Analyze how the poem’s lines or stanzas fit into the overall structure and contributes to the development of the theme. (This lesson covers more than one standard, but I like to choose one as my main objective.)

  • I began the lesson by showing the class my cell phone (Take 5! - Activity #1).  I confessed that I have never sent a text message and wouldn’t know how to do it. This led to lots of giggles and offers to teach me how to text. (More on that in a future post.)
  • I projected the poem onto the screen and read it aloud.

I sent you a text
and when you sent me one back
the teacher caught us—
now you’re not speaking to me
my phone is silent

·       Then, I asked, “Which is worse, waiting for a text message that may never come or sending an inappropriate text message?”  (Take 5!- Activity #3).  That question led to a lively discussion about the boundaries of friendship, and the expectations of friends.

·         Next, I projected the poem written in a single line of prose as a “Tweet” and read it aloud without any pauses. I asked students to focus on the line breaks, and use of punctuation (or lack or it) in the poem and how these elements affected the meaning.  (Take 5!- Activity #4)

·         Finally, I told students that they were going to have a chance to “talk back” to the speaker  by writing a poem in response to mine. I asked them to use my poem as a model for their own.  Students worked on their poems during their extended learning period so this didn't take any time away from our essential curriculum.
     This is a small sampling of their poems.  I think they did a great job with their responses.Students read their poems in their small groups and compared and contrasted their responses.
                       My Phone
You sent me a text
             and when I sent you one back
             the teacher blamed me--
             You didn't speak up for me
             My phone will text another.



I do not like you anymore.
We are not friends, buddies,
                  or best friends-
              so that's it, it's over
                 we're not friends.

                                                                         Why did you text me now?
                                                                         You got me in trouble--
                                                                           we are not friends

                                                                            The teacher is calling my mom.



                                           I did not respond
                                           because the teacher caught me reading your text
                                           my parents took my phone away
                                           I don't like you anymore
                                           My cell phone is gone


You did not apologize to me
so I am still mad at you
don't call my house anymore
I won't talk to you
You are not sorry.



Teachers who haven’t gotten a copy of THE POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY FOR MIDDLE SCHOOL compiled by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong  are missing out on a fabulous time-saving resource. The poems are written specifically for the middle school crowd, and the “Take 5!” activities are flexible enough to use during a transition or as part of a more in-depth lesson. I’m going to use the school-themed poems and activities at the beginning of each grade level section as ice breaker activities during the first week of school. You can learn more about the anthology here.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this activity along any suggestions you might have.  This is my last Friday off before returning to school on Tuesday.  And so it begins, like teachers everywhere, I’m busy getting ready for another year:  going to meetings, planning lessons, organizing my classroom…

Wishing all of you parents, teachers, and students—
Happy New Year!

Renee is our Poetry Friday hostess today at No Water River. I can't wait to see what goodies she has in store for us!









  1. Thanks for the lesson idea! Our school started today, but I won't start pulling my gifted kids for another week. They would love this idea for a quick write. I have the anthology and find it so rich that it's hard to figure out what I want to use. Your direction will help me.

    1. Margaret, I know what you mean. The anthology has so much to offer. Our class periods have been cut to 47 minutes this year so I love the quick Take5! activities. Have a great year!

  2. What a wonderful and fruitful exercise! I love how in just 5 lines, we can enter each of their "worlds" and take away a better understanding of what makes them tick. Good luck next week!

    1. Thank you, Michelle. I find that the short poems work especially well with my reading students. I think they relate to shorter pieces because of the whole face-paced texting world we live in!

  3. Hi, Linda. I remember when you first posted this poem. Now, adding your student's responses, I can see that sharing this poem prompted a dialogue. How does one deal with these sticky friend issues? Talking about such "what ifs" could be a way of avoiding bullying issues in school (especially with middle schoolers).

    1. Laura, the kids picked up on the bullying aspect and peer pressure too. The Take5! question helped to guide the discussion,then the kids really opened up and let their opinions be known. Some of the them shared a similar experience and that led to even more conversation about the boundaries of friendship!

  4. This poem and your lesson are such a perfect way to connect with students whose main mode of communication is texting. Thanks for sharing! =)

  5. Janet, I accidentally hit the wrong link and deleted your comment.(That's what I get for not wearing my glasses!) I truly appreciate your feedback. You made my day! I pasted your comment here so I can look back at it when I need a reminder to keep trying. Thank you for the opportunity to be part of such a wonderful anthology!

    Linda: I think you managed to write an emerging classic "21st century poem" with "Slience"! To me it has the feel of Langston Hughes's "Poem" and William Carlos Williams's "This Is Just to Say." Your topic--friendship and cell phones--is such a terrific writing prompt. And thanks for highlighting the way that you used the "Take 5!" teaching tips!

    1. I'm glad that you were able to retrieve my comment after accidentally deleting it from your blog--a whole other topic for a "21st century poem"!

  6. I'm looking forward to a new school year with the Poetry Friday Anthology!