Triceratops: Poetry in the Third Grade

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The Triceratops Poetry Project is founded on the idea that there are significant mutual benefits to be realized in a teaching collaboration between third grade and graduate student writers.

Spearheaded by Willow Springs magazine, the project pedagogically prepares MFA candidates in creative writing to teach a unit of poetry to third grade classrooms in Spokane Public Schools. Triceratops teachers provide students with hands-on knowledge of poetic forms and craft techniques, and offer focused instruction in the use of the critical vocabulary required to discuss and analyze writing. The Triceratops curriculum complements the existing writing curriculum and will help students achieve specific Spokane Public Schools Standards.

During the course of a unit of poetry, two graduate student teachers visit a participating classroom for one hour, once a week, for four weeks. Student teachers write lesson plans that promote active and supportive student engagement with published poetry as well as poetry written by peers. Student teachers provide practice booklets that include definitions of poetry terms and examples of poetry forms, in addition to space for students to write their own poetry during and between class periods. Lesson plans incorporate these terms and forms in a progressive manner, such that instruction in week three builds upon instruction in weeks one and two.

After week three, student teachers act as editors by selecting one poem from each student’s body of work and publishing a chapbook of their selections. These chapbooks form the heart of week four instruction, during which students read their published work and share their knowledge of poetry by responding to the work of their peers. Some examples of previous work are below.