Curriculum Connections

Writing Your Own Safari Poems

After your class has gone on Safari!, it's the perfect time for your students to write their own safari animal poems.

(Modify the following procedure according to the time you would like to spend on the project.)
Besides going on Safari! itself, three good preparation activities for safari poem writing are explained on the Poetry Awareness Scavenger Hunt
, Connecting Your Safari to the Curriculum: Science and Rebel Poets pages.

If you have completed the activity under Connecting Your Safari to the Curriculum: Science, you will already have divided your class into teams and assigned an animal to each team. Your students will have researched their animals and will be quite familiar with them. Step one in the writing process is to brainstorm. But, even before that, encourage your students to clear their minds, focus and visualize. Have them picture in their imaginations the animals in their natural environment. Ask them questions to help them fill in the details: What color is your animal? What shape are its ears? What movements is it making? What plants and other objects are close by? etc.

Then, as a group, have each team brainstorm out loud, assigning one member of the group to be the 'secretary' and to write down of the suggested words. At this point the objective is to get all the words (or phrases, but not complete sentences or poem lines) that the students associate with the animal onto paper. The words should range from specific and descriptive to tangential and abstract. Value judgments and choices about which words to include in the poem should not be made yet - that will occur later. As you did when your students were visualizing, prompt them so they can get as many words as possible, encouraging them to consider such things as physical characteristics, environmental surroundings, everyday activities and movements, food, and pop culture images of the animal (i.e. advertising, mascots, TV portrayals, cartoons, etc.).

After the first stage of brainstorming, have your students consider sounds that their animal makes, not just with its voice but when it moves, etc. Also, have them consider what the animal might say (under different circumstances - hunting, being hunted, eating, lounging, etc.) if it could speak. (Note: See the captions on the photo pages of Safari! for examples.) Have students add some of these ideas to their list of words and phrases.

Next, have students identify physical characteristics of their animal that they have listed. If they haven't already written them, have them add descriptive words that describe each physical characteristic. Then, have them list things that they might compare each of the physical characteristics listed to (for example, giraffe's tail - broom; elephant's ear - fan, etc.). Next, ask them what they might compare the animal itself to. What about when it's eating, running, sleeping, etc. Have them list these comparisons?

Next, ask students if they see any words on their list that they would rank higher than all the others when considering this animal. Have them circle these words. Also have them circle the words that describe the sounds of the animal. These circled words might be good words to repeat in the poem. Finally, have students underline words in their list that are easy to rhyme. Have them write rhyming words that might fit in the context of the poem next to these words.

Explain to students that a trick to make rhymes is to rearrange the words of a line or rephrase the words of a line to get the easy rhyming words at the end. For example if your students create a line like 'At night, I chow down on zebras' and are having trouble rhyming it, have them consider ways they might change it: 'I chow down on zebras at night;' 'At night, I chow down on my prey'; etc.

OK, now your students have all the building blocks they need, so remind them of the poetry writing strategies (see Poetry Awareness Scavenger Hunt
) and let them start constructing their poems. Remind them that they don't need to use all of the building blocks: now is the time to pick and choose the ones they feel will best 'flesh out' their animal. If they choose a particular point of view or a specific theme to focus on, they may end up not using the majority of the words, comparisons etc. they produced in brainstorming - which is perfectly fine. Students should play with the words, twisting them, repeating them and combining them in interesting and purposeful ways.

Once they've written the poems, have them consider ways they will put the words on the page. Have students share their poems, challenging their classmates to guess the correct answers. Then, have them illustrate their poems or write them inside drawings of the animals and display them for the rest of the school. Or, if you want to go the whole nine yards, make your very own Safari! Web site with them (see Safari Web Site Project



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