Writing Poetry with Science Content

Writing Cinquain Poetry: Focus on Fossils

I love how poetry blends writing and art. It is so beautiful and creative, yet often a challenge for young writers. I also enjoy taking two unrelated skills and marrying them together.

For this activity, I integrated:

Science + Poetry
What a lovely way to bring the left and right brain together.

Recently we were exploring fossils in my third-grade class. We spent time on inquiry, hands-on learning, and reading non-fiction text about fossils. I wanted to give students an opportunity to share their learning. Instead of a traditional formative assessment, I decided to get creative. Writing Poetry? Why not?

During most of the fossil unit, the students used their scientific brains. Thus, it was a fun challenge to transform the factual knowledge into creative writing.

 

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Cinquain Poetry Writing Lesson for Young Poets

I integrated my poetry unit with the third-grade Next Generation Science Standards. However, there are many applications to link science with poetry. Since I incorporated fossils into my poetry unit, most of my examples focus on fossils. Please feel free to adapt this lesson any way you see fit.

 

What is Cinquain Poetry?

Similar to haiku poetry, cinquain poems are short (only 5 lines long) and have very few words on each line. When completed, they form a diamond shape, comparable to the diamante poems. Conversely, cinquain poems tell a story rather than give descriptive words. Short phrases (describing and action or feeling) are more powerful than listing related words.

There are a few different methods to writing cinquain poems. In my lesson, I chose to focus on two types: syllable method and word count method. I like to introduce students to both types of poems and let them choose which method works best for them. The syllable method is a little more challenging than the word count method. Thus the lesson scaffolds for varying writing abilities.

Syllable Method

With the syllable method, each line of the poem has a certain number of syllables to follow.

Line 1: 2 syllables

Line 2: 4 syllables

Line 3: 6 syllables

Line 4: 8 syllables

Line 5: 2 syllables

This poem is great if you need to reinforce syllable practice with your students! I like this method more because it lends itself to story-like elements and short phrases.

Word Count Method: 

The word count method is exactly as it sounds: each line has a specific number of words. This is perfect for lower elementary students (Kindergarten - second grade) and a great scaffolding tool for (third – fifth grade).

Line 1: one word (topic)
Line 2: two words (describe topic)
Line 3: three words (describe an action)
Line 4: four words (describe a feeling)
Line 5: one word (describes topic or synonym for topic)

If you feel counting syllables is too challenging, this method is an easier place to start. I introduce both methods and let my students decide which they prefer. I often challenge them to try both!

 

Writing Process with Poetry

 Click the image to get this freebie!

Click the image to get this freebie!

Even with writing poetry, students should engage in the writing process. It focuses their writing and sets them up for success.

If you are interested in writing cinquain poetry with your students, I put together a Cinquain Poetry Lesson Freebie. It includes a lesson plan for both the Syllable and Word Count Method, a whole class brainstorming outline, a drafting paper, and a final draft writing paper. Click Here to download this fun freebie. 

 

PREWRITE:

The prewriting phase is generally the longest part of the writing process. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Prewriting helps prepare students for the actual task.

 

PowerWrite:

Before I even let the students know we are going to be writing poetry, we start with a PowerWrite on their topic:

PowerWriting: Giving students a topic (or letting them select a topic) and allowing them to write quickly, without stopping, for a short-timed interval. I usually select a time between 2 – 4 minutes.

In our case, I gave students 3 minutes to write down everything they knew about fossils. Powerwriting is a great prewriting strategy because it gets students warmed up. It is a fun way to get their brains thinking about and engaged on the topic.

 

Brainstorm

Another prewriting strategy is brainstorming. Again, brainstorming should be quick, so students can dump ideas on the page. During this activity, I had my students do a quick brainstorm (2 minutes). Students wrote down words and short phrases as they could think of related to fossils. This activity activated their brains to think about fossils.
After using both strategies, I let students share out what they wrote. I encourage other students to add to their PowerWrites and Brainstorms when they hear something they like or want to include. By allowing peer collaboration, students generate more ideas and have a better understanding of the topic. 

 

Mentor Text: 

Next, we look at lots of examples of cinquain poetry. After seeing and hearing a few poems, I ask students, “What do you notice?” Possible answers: it is a poem, it doesn’t rhyme, it is short, it is about ___________ topic.

I try to guide students to recognize that the poem is all about one topic (the first line). I point out that the other lines give words and phrases related to the topic. Also, I emphasize that the words/phrases are very specific and related to the topic. Students will generally want to write general or broad words or phrases. The poems have very few filler words (i.e. the, and, a), and there are no dead words (i.e. cool, happy, awesome, lots, etc.). Together, we analyze and come up with significant traits of the poem. Finally, I write these on the poem (or list them on the board or chart paper) for children to refer to later.

 

Introduce Cinquain Poetry:

Go over the two types of cinquain poetry (or select one). I like to start with syllables since that is a little more difficult and then move to the number of words method. On chart paper, on the board, or on a document camera, I write the pattern we will follow:

Line 1: 2 syllables

Line 2: 4 syllables

Line 3: 6 syllables

Line 4: 8 syllables

Line 5: 2 syllables
 

Word Count:

Line 1: 1 word

Line 2: 2 words

Line 3: 3 words

Line 4: 4 words

Line 5: 5 words

 

Whole Class Brainstorm

This is an important step because it scaffolds the process for the students. Additionally, it includes peer collaboration which is one of my favorite aspects of writing. As a class, we come up with many words and phrases related to the topic.

 

Syllable Method

  • Line 1: 2 syllables – Fossil, Fossils
  • Line 2: 4 syllables - hidden in earth, stones of the past, petrified wood, animal bones, untold stories, shells/bones/feathers, frozen in time
  • Line 3: 6 syllables - hidden under the ground, keep secrets of the past, ancient discoveries, time reveals the past, plants and animals, too
  • Line 4: 8 syllables - footprints cast in stone forever, share histories of long ago, many creatures frozen in time
  • Line 5: 2 syllables - ancient, the past, stone bones, kept safe, imprint, preserved

 

Word Count Method

  • 1 word (topic): fossil, fossils
  • 2 words (describes topic): the past, animal bones, petrified wood, untold stories
  • 3 words (describe an action): reveal the past, petrified in stone, keeping past secrets, telling a story, petrified/amber/ice, cast/mold/imprint, shells/bones/feathers
  • 4 words (describe a feeling): stories of the past, time reveals the past, footprints cast in stone, histories of long ago, centuries frozen in time, frozen in time
  • 1 word (describes topic/synonym): ancient, old, petrified, preserved

 

DRAFTING

Now it is time for students to start drafting their own poems. I let them pick and choose ideas from our brainstorm, or they can choose to write their own poems. Since we spent so much time prewriting, students are usually eager and ready to draft their own poems. This phase goes quickly since they have so many ideas and are well prepared to get started. I also included a cinquain poem

 

REVISION & EDITING

I like to call revisions “improvements.” I tell students that the first draft is never completed after the first try. There is always room for improvements. Students should read their poems out loud to themselves to see how their poem flows and sounds. Does their poem tell a story? Could they replace a dead word with a more descriptive word?

Next, students went through and edited their poems. We discussed capitalizing the first word of each stanza and adding commas in a word list. Additionally, we reviewed punctuating poetry (often no closing punctuation at the end of each stanza).

 

FINAL DRAFT/PUBLISHING

Since we’re a 1 to 1 iPad school, I had students type their poems up in Pages. However, you can definitely have they write their final drafts on paper. My Cinquain downloadable freebie includes lined paper for a final draft. CLICK HERE to download the freebie!

Poetry & Science

Student Samples

Syllable Method:

Old Fossils

Fossils,
Old and ancient
Fossils, just go find them!
It takes a long time to harden
Find them!

Third Grader

 

Word Count Method:

Fossil Poem

Fossils
Ancient bones
Taking them slowly
Under the earth's crust
Strange

-Third Grader


About the Author

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I’m Whitney Ebert, founder of ElementaryWritingCoach.com. As you may have guessed, teaching young authors to develop their craft and feel confident in their writing skills is kind of my thing. 

I have 10+ years teaching experience in elementary education, and I've taught every grade level from kindergarten to sixth grade (except first). My teaching passions include interest-based learning, creative technology, project based learning, and building confident writers. Additionally, I have my M.S. in Instructional Media, so I frequently incorporate digital flare into projects and writing assignments.

 I live in a sunny beach town with my husband, son, and baby girl. When I'm not teaching, blogging, or designing new lesson plans, you can find me at the beach with the family.

Find out more about The Primary Professor at: www.theprimaryprofessor.com


 

This Product Includes: 

  •  2 different methods of Cinquain poetry lesson plans
  • Fossil brainstorming page & general brainstorming page
  • Fossil specific Power Writing page & general Power Writing page
  • Class Brainstroming pages (fossils specific & general) for both syllable and word count methods
  • Sample Class Brainstorming pages (focused on fossils)
  • Drafting Poem organizer
  • Dead Word List
  • Final Draft Paper (for fossil or general poems)
  • Cinquain Poem Syllable Checklist
  • Cinquain Poem Word Count Checklist
  • Cinquain Poetry Quick Rubric

CLICK HERE to Preview this Resource!