Friday, July 9, 2010

Poetry -- 7th Grade

Poetry by Arnold Adoff

"Writing a poem is making music with words and space."
-- Arnold Adoff

Some of the traits covered in this lesson are: ideas, organization, voice, conventions, and the newest, 7th trait, presentation.

About the Author
Arnold Adoff has written over 30 books in 30 years, for young people and adults; and he has won numerous awards. Arnold was raised by Russion immigrant parents in the South Bronx, who valued their Jewish heritage, liberal values, and the roles of women in society. He received a BA from City College in New York, and while teaching History in Harlem, he noticed that there was very little African American literature. He decided to do something about that and wrote a book of black poetry called I Am the Darker Brother. Since then, he has written many poetry books about a variety of topics.

Arnold married author Virginia Hamilton in 1960, and in 1975, they moved to her home town of Yellow Springs, Ohio. Arnold stayed here after Virginia's death in 2002 and is surrounded by friends and family. Their daughter, Leigh, is an accomplished musician; and their son, Jaime, is also a famous writer.

I think it is important for the students of the middle school in Yellow Springs to learn more about their local authors, and I want to know more, too; so I've decided to concentrate on the works Virginia Hamilton, Arnold Adoff, and Jaime Adoff to reach writing with the blogs in this writing class.

Content Standards
Writing Applications -- Grade 7
6. Produce informal writings (e.g., journals, notes and poems) for various purposes.

Through the process of looking at many different books of poetry by Arnold Adoff--Love Letters, Eats Poems, Greens, Slow Dance Heart Break Blues, Chocolate Dreams, and Under the Early Morning Trees--students will learn that the lines of poetry can take many shapes.

As the quote above states, Arnold often used the word "music" when describing his poetry. He also said, "A fine poem combines the elements of meaning, music, and a form like a living frame that holds it together." Arnold appeals to the eye as well as the ear to make this kind of music with his poems. Here is an example from his book Greens:

"...the way the individual words and
letters are set upon the page, the physical
shape of each poem, makes a vital
contribution to the whole."
-- from Arnold's website.

We will spend two days on this activity. I'll read some of Arnold Adoff's poems to the class, and we will discuss the use of the words, pictures, and "music". Then the students will break up into small groups and each group will read from a different book of Arnold's poetry and discuss them together. We'll come back together for a large group discussion, and I'll encourage the students to ask questions and tell what they think of this format. Then the students will each write a poem using Arnold Adoff's technique with words and at least one picture.

I will invite Arnold to come into the classroom and read some of his poems to the class. I will also ask two or three students to read their poems for him and the class.

If you'd like to learn more about Arnold Adoff and his work, go to

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