Tunnel Poems

tunnel poems top view

April is officially National Poetry Month, but I always teach poetry to my students in December. Class instruction gets interrupted a lot in December due to holiday performance rehearsals, parties, and various holiday activities. I like to teach poetry during the holiday craziness because I can work around smaller blocks of time (and holiday mode student attention spans) to complete a whole poem, and we won’t be left hanging at a critical part of the story if we have to put our work down.

This year, I combined a poetry lesson with one of my favorite craftivities– tunnel poems. The tunnel poems did double duty. The students learned about haiku poems, and we created a finished product that kids took home to their parents for a holiday gift. I even made a tunnel poem to give to my teaching partner with a picture of us from our school Halloween carnival.

joker tunnel poem finished

I asked students to bring a 4×6 family photo to school. The photo could be of any family member (and that included pets) and show any special memory whether it was a recent event or something from several years ago.

Students generated word lists that related to their chosen picture. When they completed their personal word list, they counted the syllables in each word and wrote the syllable count next to the matching word. Using the haiku formula for the 3-line poem (5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables), students moved words from their lists around until they created a haiku poem. The finished tunnel poem has 4 frames layered on top of the photo. The first frame displays a title for the poem. The next 3 frames display the haiku– one line at a time– across the top.

tunnel poem pieces

CLICK HERE to go to my post about foldable booklets with step-by-step directions for making the tunnel poems. When I made these with students in the past, we used postcards as the back panel. This time we used personal photos to make it more meaningful. The photos were flimsier than postcards (especially if they were printed from home on printer paper), so I attached each photo to a 4×6 notecard to give the photo a little more stiffness.

Basically, you need lots of 4×6 notecards and a paper cutter to cut the side hinge pieces evenly. You will also need glue, scissors, colored pencils or markers, and lots of patience. I recommend training your early finisher students in tunnel poem contruction and let them help other students. Spatially, it is difficult for some students to comprehend how to layer the frames and attach the hinges to the backs of each frame. It is easier to fold the side hinges if your photos are landscape orientation, but it is possible to make the tunnel poems with a portrait (tall) orientation.

dog haiku tunnel poem

Concrete Poems and Shape Poetry

 

I am always surprised how much my students like poetry and even more amazed at the poetry they create during our poetry unit. We start the poetry writing process slowly with an adjective review. The students made a list of adjectives that describe the sneakers on their feet and then wrote simple “adjective” poems using a frame I provide to get warmed up. The poem frame has a fill-in-the-blank structure where students add five adjectives from their sneaker description list. (Grab an adjective brainstorming page on THIS POST.)

adjective poems

Everyone can complete the poem without fear of having to rhyme words or create some great metaphor. After completing the sneaker poem, the students choose another topic like dogs, pie, or books and write a new adjective poem that uses the same structure. This year, we took the completed adjective poems and created concrete or shape poems.

shoe concrete poem

How to Make a Concrete Poem

We searched for black and white clipart in Google images that matched the poem’s topic. The kids pasted the clipart image into a Word document and enlarged the blackline image to fill an 8 1/2″ x 11″ page. We printed the image and lightly traced the main lines with pencil on a blank piece of copy paper. Using black pens, the students wrote their poem over the traced pencil lines. Students left the paper with the clipart image under the paper with the concrete poem while writing to serve as a guideline.

concrete poem and clipart

concrete poems tracing the design

In most cases, the students needed to write their concrete poem multiple times to fill the shape outline. They also added a few details to complete the effect. The finished product elevated the simple poems into something much more sophisticated.

dog concrete poem

pie concrete poem

More ideas for student poetry are available in my poetry unit. Purchase the poetry unit by CLICKING HERE.

concrete poems shape poems student poetry