Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Poetry in the Classroom - Concrete Poems

Poems that take shape are such fun. There are many great poetry books that use concrete forms. Two of my favorites are A Poke in the I: A Collection of Concrete Poems and Doodle Dandies: Poems That Take Shape.

A Poke in the I, written by Paul Janeczko and illustrated by Chris Raschka, includes a wide range of poems that are cleverly shaped and written. Eskimo Pie and Popsicle are both poems in the shape of ice cream. Swan and Shadow looks exactly like the title is is a lovely piece of work. You can see it and read it at this concrete poem page.

Doodle Dandies, written by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Lisa Desimini, uses wordplay and surprising "movement" to make the topics come alive. Synchronized Swim Team uses the legs of upside-down swimmers to make its point, while Creep and Slither appears in the shape of a snake, until midpoint when the bulging word bull frog announces what's been eaten.

Both of these books are surprising and funny and deserve to be studied for the way the collaboration of shape and text makes the topics come alive.

I often encouraged my students to write shape poetry when we were drawing diagrams in class. It was a good way to help them learn more about the parts of plants, cells, electric circuits, and more. Generally they were given a blank outline to fill in with their poems. You can do this with your students. Using shape patterns, encourage them to use the outline of the shape to create their own concrete poems.

Concrete poems are fun to write and challenge children to think in different ways about the objects and events they see in their world. For additional ideas on writing concrete poetry, here are some resources you may find useful.
If you want to read concrete poetry as story with your children, try Joyce Sidman's lovely book entitled Meow Ruff: A Story in Concrete Poetry.


  1. This page about shape poetry is great. The concept of 'visual poetry' could also be added...

  2. Tricia,

    I didn't get around to do much blogging on Wednesday. I had another computer crisis!

    Here are the titles of four more books of concrete poems:

    1. SPLISH SPLASH, written by Joan Bransfield Graham & illustrated by Steven Scott

    2. FLICKER FLASH, written by Joan Bransfield Graham & illustrated by Nancy Davis

    I really like the books by Graham because they're great for using across the curriculum in science. SPLISH SPLASH is all about water--in ice and snow, in hail and dew, in steam and rain and rivers, etc.
    FLICKER FLASH is all about light--light from the sun, stars, the full moon, a television, camera flash, etc.

    3. OUTSIDE THE LINES, written by Bard Burg & illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon

    4. COME PLAY WITH ME AND OTHER SHAPE POEMS, written by Heidi B. Roemer & illustrated by Hideko Takahashi

  3. I love the concrete poems of John Grandis - particularly the title poem of his last book, Technically It's Not My Fault. Though that actual poem isn't as, you know, concrete as the others in the book but it is funny.