by Bruce Lansky
Some of the most memorable poems ever written are about feelings
("How do I love thee?/Let me count the ways").
Here's a good way to get your students thinking about poems
that discuss feelings:
1. Ask your students to name as many feelings as they can.
To get them started, write "sad," "mad,"
"happy," and a few others on the board. As your students
think of more feelings, add them to the list.
2. Ask the students to choose one feeling from the list.
3. Have the students write down their answers to one of the
-When do I feel [insert feeling]?
-Why do I feel [insert feeling]?
-How does it feel to be [insert feeling]?
Their answers will become the poems, although you may encourage
them to revise and polish their poems as needed. What will make
these poems work best is if they tell a story or if the reader
can learn something about the writer from the poem. Often it's
easier to write about feelings in free verse-so tell your students
they don't need to worry about rhythm and rhyme patterns.
Here's an example:
I feel miserable when
I have a big math test coming up so I have to study instead
of watching my favorite TV show
my mother doesn't believe I have a fever, so I can't stay home
and miss a
big math test I didn't study for
my teacher doesn't believe I have a fever and refuses to send
me to the school nurse until after the math test
I get a "D" on the math test
Bruce Lansky © 2002
Here's another example that answers two questions: "When
do I feel happy?" and "What is it like to feel happy?"
(Notice that this poem is a good way to stimulate metaphorical
When Santa brings me the toy I wanted most for Christmas I'm
so happy I feel like:
singing at the top of my lungs
jumping in a mud puddle (too bad it's December and the puddle
is covered with ice)
raiding the cookie jar and eating all the cookies
playing with my new toy all day and not letting my bratty little
brother touch it for a single second (which, as I recall, is
why my parents took away my favorite Christmas toy last year
and hid it from me for one whole week)
Bruce Lansky © 2002
Finally, here's an example of a finished poem about what happens
when you feel a little dazed and confused after a kiss:
I climbed up the door and
I opened the stairs.
I said my pajamas
and buttoned my prayers.
I turned off the covers
and pulled up the light.
I'm all scrambled up since
she kissed me last night.
© 1996 by Bruce Lansky, reprinted from My
Dog Ate My Homework published by Meadowbrook Press.
Note: If some of your students produce confused or poorly written
poems dealing with some "heavy" personal issues, they
may need your help in discussing the experience and sorting
out exactly what it is they felt before they can productively
revise the poem. Or it might make sense for you to provide a
comforting, supportive presence and leave the discussion of
how best to fix the poem for later-when the student isn't feeling
quite so confused or vulnerable.
you are interested in inviting Bruce Lansky to your school,
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