A guide to using poetry in any classroom… even math and science
The Important Book
Have you ever heard of the Important Book? If you haven’t I’m about to let you in on the best Ohio Writing Project hijacked lesson I have ever acquired. (Thank you OWP I am forever grateful). This is a book I introduce at the beginning of the year to create classroom culture — but also as a key assessment piece in my classroom.
The Important Book by Margaret Brown Wise is a sacred text in my classroom. This simple beautiful book follows everyday items and describes these items beginning and concluding with the author’s view of what the important thing is for each item.
The important thing about the important poem is that it could check for the student’s understanding.
It is true it can be used for formative and summative assessments.
It is true it uses content related vocabulary in context to deepen comprehension.
It is true that it can be leveled depending on students’ understanding of the standard.
It is true it can be used as a reflection piece to evaluate students’ understanding.
But the important thing about the important poem is it could check for students’ understanding.
What you are about to find out is ˆhow important this book could be in any subject area you teach.
The Important Thing about Me (Day 1)
On the first day of introducing this book and strategy to my students I read “The Important book.” I ask my students if while I am reading they would think “like a writer” and listen to the format and pattern that Margaret uses in her book. Quickly they catch on that every item is being described in a similar pattern with an importance.
Image via_ Amazon.com
We follow the reading of Margaret’s book by creating an important poem about ourselves (see example above of what the pattern looks like). I ask the students to make a list of things that are important to who we are.
Important things about Abigail Lund
- I am from Iowa
- Mother of Jan
- Wife of Jon Lund
- Family lives in Norway
- Traveler of the world
From making a list students follow Margaret’s structure by making true statements about themselves.
“It’s true that I am from Iowa… and that it is a “place to grow’”
“It’s true that Jan is my 18 month-old-son and he has wild in his eyes”
Students share their Important Poems with each other as an opportunity to create classroom culture and get to know each other.
Speaking the Right Language (Day 2)
Image Via_ George S. Sabo
The next time I introduce this strategy it is connected with content.
Students can organize their thinking by generating lists of vocabulary words from the unit. With this list students can think about the strategies and important strategies that they have used to complete the skill.
Students then come up with statements about said strategy or topic. I.E.
- “It’s true that when you multiply you need to think of your numbers as groups of something.”
- “It’s true that invasive species come and destroy habitats around them because they often do not have known predators.”
- “It’s true that ____ character is a greedy person because_____ “
After many true statements have been made students determined the “most important statement.” There is a choice in their answers. Students do not have to agree with which statement is most important but like always in Mrs. Lund’s classroom they must be able to reason with examples of why their choice is the most important.
Here are some examples of Important Poems from 5th grade:
Reflection = Meaningful Assessment
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There are many routes you can take the important poem. In my opinion this is a great summative piece, one of my favorites, because it can show students thinking through reasoning and evidence of their most important picks. But below are some other ways you may use it in a math class, novel study, social studies unit or even after a science experiment:
- Pre-assessment… do the kids know anything about the subject you are about to dive into
- Whole class/small group discussion check-point… creating a class important poem about key details of the content and adding to it as you go
- A piece of reflection at the end to assess what your kids know and BIG takeaways.
Anyway you use this, it is a task that is using high level thinking by creating, connecting learning, and sythenzing what they have learned throughout the unit.
It is a great reflective piece which can engage your students in a rich vocabulary centered writing lesson– that requires them to reason. The important thing to remember about Margaret Wise’s Important Book is that its uses are endless. Can’t wait to hear how you use it in your classroom!
Please reach out with questions, reflections, and connections in the comments below or on Twitter @Mrsablund. Check out my other articles writing out of the ELA classroom.
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