The Foundation for a Meaningful Life
Kindergarten - Grade 9 in Southborough, MA
Serious Fun

Ode to a Sneaker

Second graders created poetry that celebrates something they love with an ode
Second graders have been learning about odes this month and writing poems to an object or person that they love. 

The ode is a lyrical form of poetry that originated in ancient Greece. Originally sung, odes still retain some of the rhythm and cadence of their musical roots. After listening to some examples of odes from poets like Pablo Neruda, the second graders generated a list of some of the common elements that they noticed. In addition to being dedicated to something the poet admires, odes are usually written directly to the subject of the poem. Odes customarily contain a lot of describing words and questions. Unlike the highly-structured haikus that second graders studied in the fall, odes also have greater stylistic variety. Some examples that students studied had many lines, but each line was brief. In other cases, the lines were long, but there were fewer. While some odes rhyme, most do not, and although some are humorous, others are quite serious in tone.

Students could choose any subject for their ode as long as it was something that they love. They brainstormed subjects, wrote a first draft, met with the teachers for conferences to discuss where they could improve their writing, and then incorporated those edits into their final draft. Unlike prose writing, where students can use many words to convey meaning, the odes required students to be very thoughtful about word choice. “In our conferences, we talked about making some strong choices as a poet, and deciding which words go together on a line and make sense with the flow,” says Second Grade Teacher Willa Gustavson. “When writing a poem, each word really matters, so poets have to use words that are “juicy” rather than boring.” 

The finished poems are displayed on the walls of the second grade classroom, accompanied by artwork. They run the gamut from a whimsical ode to a delicious muffin to an ode filled with longing for a pair of sneakers that are still a little too big to wear. For the second grade teachers, the odes highlighted the growth their students have achieved this year. While the teachers showed them models and helped them brainstorm topics, there was no graphic organizer to guide them step by step through writing the poem. The task was open-ended, and they had to figure it out independently. “In second grade, writing also transitions from just spelling words to expressing thoughts and feelings through writing,” says Willa. “This was a great example of their personalities and voices starting to come through.”
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