The amazing Reading Specialist who is new to our school this year shared a poetry bracket with me last week when I mentioned doing a poetry unit with my students. I was familiar with poetry brackets from Kelly Gallagher and NCTE. This poetry immersion activity that is modeled after the NCAA Final Four Basketball Tournament.
Charles Steltenkamp described in an article for the Language Arts Journal of Michigan in 2001, “The main objective of the Poetry Tournament is to expose students to many poems in a short amount of time. Through allowing them to choose which poems “survive” as the tournament goes on, we give them control and freedom over their responses. This sense of individual choice and power over their reading creates a more intense focus for students as they read the poems.”
I selected the poems and arranged them by themes of love, life, family, sports, and overcoming obstacles. I specifically selected a diverse collection of poems and include more contemporary poets or diverse backgrounds. Students were provided an entire digital booklet with all the poems and then reflection pages to write a short response on student selections. This short response is an exercise in literary analysis and the ability to articulate elements of the author’s craft and structure. Students discover the craft and meaning in the poem through collaboration and discussion. Through the collaboration, discussion, and writing reflection students will be able to . . .
• Evaluate the structure of a poem and analyze how it adds to the meaning of a poem.
o How does a poem’s structure contribute to its meaning?
• Contrast and evaluate the mood and tone of a poem.
o What words did the author use to convey a specific feeling?
• Choose and interpret figurative language within a poem.
o How does figurative language enhance your understanding of the poem?
• Analyze poetry using close reading strategies to gain a deeper understanding of the meaning of the poem.
o How do multiple readings and marking text help you to have a deeper understanding of poetry?
• Rate different types of poems using an elimination bracket .
o What qualities did this poem have that made you want to vote for it to move on?
If you have created and taught a poetry bracket assignment I would love to know more how it went. My students will spend three days a week in Reading and Writing Workshop reading and creating their own poems and then two days a week work on the poetry bracket and close analysis of the poems selected. This will require students to read the poems more than twice and mark up they thinking about the poetry as they are reading and interpreting the prose on the page.