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Opportunities in Found Poetry

By Gary Pankiewicz, District Language Arts Supervisor, Fair Lawn School District

Lesson Rationale:  I began promoting found poetry several years ago- when I feared that the CCSS did not make enough room for students to write poetry as a part of their literacy learning.  The creation of text-based writing is clearly in alignment with the CCSS.  Now, I share found poetry with students because they enjoy it.  Student engagement in found poetry is a great way to develop close reading skills, decision-making to determine importance, word-choice and language/writing skills, and oral reading fluency and reading comprehension.  These performance reading skills are broached by returning to the original text and reading it with enhanced expression before sharing the student-driven found poem aloud, too.  Found poetry is a versatile activity that can be used with the first chapter of a text (as an anticipatory set), an active processing strategy for any text selection (as an alternative to post-its or journaling), or as a culminating activity (celebrating a student-selected passage from a text). This lesson represents my efforts to share an accessible, engaging, and skill-based poetry activity.  I shared a copy of my own found poem on the next page.

Materials:  A favorite book from the teacher’s reading life (I chose David George Haskell’s The Forest Unseen); a teacher-generated found poem on that text; a class core/mentor text or student-selected texts; paper/pencil and/or computer-based platform


  • Students will be able to examine language and explore meaning in a text.
  • Students will be able to generate a found poem based on their analysis.
  • Students will be able to perform a more fluent oral reading of the original text as well as present their found poem to the class.


Supporting Resources:


Procedure (Simplified, so it may be adapted to a teacher’s own school context and student needs):

  • Introduce/model found poetry by sharing a teacher-driven text and teacher-written found poem. Make sure to share the found poetry writing process that led to the final product.
  • Instruct students to select a significant passage (about 100 words) to reread- circling key words and phrases.
  • Next, ask students to list those words and phrases on a separate piece of paper or on a word processor. Remind student that they are free to cross out anything that seems less important.
  • Once students have completed their lists, they should be encouraged to arrange the words and phrases into a “found” poem- include a title.
  • VERY IMPORTANT: In addition to a byline, make sure to add the source adaptation line at the end of the poem for proper citation.
  • In partnerships, ask students to share their poem as well as an explanation of the choices they made during the reading/writing process. (During student partnership work, conduct as many individual and/or partnership conferences as time permits.) Next, also in partnerships, ask students to practice and reread aloud the original text with appropriate expression.
  • Ask student volunteers to present a reading of their original text, found poem, and explanation aloud to the class.
  • Have a brief concluding discussion about writer’s voice and reader’s fluency.



In addition to anecdotal and conference notes throughout the class period, ask students to post their found poem on a shared Google doc.  In addition, ask students to read and comment on several of the found poems created by their peers.


Standards Addressed (these will vary based on your lesson focus):

  • R1. Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences and relevant connections from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
  • R4. Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
  • R5./RF.5.4. Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.
  • W4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • W5. Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
  • W6. Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.
  • SL1. Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  • L5. Demonstrate understanding of word relationships and nuances in word meanings.


Erupting Surfaces

By Gary Pankiewicz


A starburst of the year’s first butterflies,

Migratory warblers, fly above me.

Roused clusters of heavily peppered vigor,

No longer streaked white, newly intermix.


Tips of sturdy stalks sing every footstep

From the bluff fraught from a Hickory trunk

Newly lush­—a mandala unrestrained.

Our walk. Our walk.  Our walk.  Our walk.


Adapted from George Haskell’s “March 25th—Spring Ephemerals” (p. 54) in The Forest Unseen: A Year’s Watch in Nature

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