I love acrostic poems. You take a keyword, write it vertically and then use each letter in the word to write a word or line of poetry about the keyword. Many of us have written acrostic poetry using our names with adjectives to describe ourselves. But its uses go beyond a simple name and personality writing exercise. Have you ever considered using acrostic poetry to help your children review key concepts in science, history, social studies or geography? Maybe you have tried this and the assignment felt forced or fell beneath your expectations. I’d like to encourage you to take another look at acrostic poetry.
As an educator, I often had my children write acrostic poetry while finishing lapbooks. More often than not, the exercises were difficult and I always felt that the lines lacked depth. I liked acrostic poems and felt they were useful in helping my students write down terms and ideas we had discussed in different history or science units but something was lacking. What was lacking? Proper exposure and practice with writing acrostic poetry, or for a more technical term, scaffolding. Scaffolding is a method of teaching that begins with intensive teacher or parent involvement and as learning progresses less help is given until the student can do the work on their own.
The use of scaffolding and acrostic poetry is discussed in the article “Extending Acrostic Poetry Into Content Learning: A Scaffolding Framework”, by Elizabeth Frye, Woodrow Trathen and Bob Schlagal in the journal The Reading Teacher (2010). I’d like to share with you some of the key ideas from the article in hopes that you too can use acrostic poetry to its fullest with your children.
Begin your lesson by visiting the internet or your local library and find poems and children’s books made from acrostic poems to read to your children. Pick a variety of types and styles and pay careful attention to find poems that use literary devices in them, the richer the lines, the better. Ask questions that get your children thinking about the tone and devices used in each poem. Here are a few websites with book and poem examples. This is the most fortified that your scaffolding can be! You are immersing your children in the beauty of poetry.
Next, demonstrate to your children by writing your own acrostic poem. Be creative as possible, with the use of alliteration, assonance, metaphor and simile, etc. Show your children the process of writing. Have them help you with ideas and modify those ideas and demonstrate your willingness to be creative.
Finally, it is time to peel away some of your support and allow your children the opportunity to write their own poems. The scaffolding is shrinking. Take the time to look over the poetry because the job is not done! Now it’s time to add the details. Reintroduce some of the poems that were read, think about what literary devices could be utilized to make this poem sparkle and shine. If you have more than one child, allow them to help one another with ideas and thoughts.
Once you have completed this assignment, utilize it again and again in your homeschool. Creative writing is an excellent tool for students to use in conjunction with reviewing subject material. Your children will now have the practice and skills to make the most out of their acrostic poems and you have integrated their learning to include multiple subjects at one time.
Submitted by: Jessica Smith