GASP Model Integrated Arts Project – Literary Arts


Model Project: The Alchemy Of The Creative Process—Poetry Writing And The Natural Sciences

GASP Artist: Karen Lewis |

Integration of the literary arts with science through poetry writing allows students multiple ways to explore their own sensory world while reinforcing key concepts and vocabulary in the sciences. Students stretch their language arts and creative problem-solving muscles all at the same time. Poetry writing is in itself a kind of science experiment in which students make something from nothing using a mysterious alchemy called the creative process. Mind and heart, fingers and voice all combine with quill and paper to write new poems.

This model integrated arts project explores several approaches to creative poetry writing that may be scaled up or adapted to meet the needs of students at various age/skill levels.

Arts Area and Grade Level Focus
Literary Arts—Poetry Writing, K-5th Grade (see notes at end on scaling this project for younger and older students, K-12th grades).

Connections To Elements of Art/Principles of Design
Poetry allows students to engage with oral and written literary traditions. Sound, rhythm and repetition are key elements of spoken poetry. Line and space are basic to written poems. When writing poems, students also learn the writer’s tools including alliteration, simile, metaphor, juxtaposition, poetic line, stanza and other figurative language strategies. They participate in one of the oldest art forms and discover new ways to express their own unique worldview. Poets experiment with words the way scientists experiment with variables. Creating a poem requires that students pay attention to the world around them while finding pattern, variety, harmony and unity in the spoken and written word. Often, a surprising dis-unity becomes an effective ending to the poem or a powerful turning point. Students are prompted to reach for surprise ideas, images that make “poetic sense” and to trust the process of filling lines of blank notebook paper with original ideas, feelings and language.

Connections To Core Curriculum and Content Standards
In K-5th grade science curriculum students learn about cycles: water cycles, plant and animal life cycles, soil cycles and lunar cycles. Students also learn about weather, habitat and ecosystems. These areas of study can all be reinforced and deepened through creative poetry writing projects. Writing chants is a good way to reinforce the idea of cycles, along with key concepts connected with weather, planetary science or other topics. Free verse poetry can be useful to explore the real and imagined powers of the moon, forces of earth and planetary science or the life of a whale. Following are more details of how poetry writing connects with and supports Science and Language Arts Standards in K-12th grades.

Connections To Science Curriculum Standards
Kindergarten: Students observe, describe, compare and sort and communicate observations of common objects by using the five senses.

1st Grade: Students know different plants and animals inhabit different kinds of environments and have external features that help them thrive in different kinds of places.

2nd Grade: Students now rock, water, plants, and soil provide many resources, including food, fuel, and building materials that humans use.

3rd Grade: Students know examples of diverse life forms in different environments such as oceans, deserts, tundra, forests, grasslands, and wetlands. Students know the way in which the moon’s appearance changes during the four-week lunar cycle. Students know that earth is one of several planets that orbit the sun and that the moon orbits earth.

4th Grade: Students know ecosystems can be characterized by their living and non-living components.

5th Grade: Students know that each element is made of one kind of atom and that the elements are organized in the periodic table by their chemical properties; that the amount of fresh water located in rivers, lakes, under-ground sources, and glaciers is limited and that its availability can be extended by recycling and decreasing the use of water; the origin of the water used by their local communities; that the solar system includes the planet earth, the moon, the sun, eight other
planets and their satellites, and smaller objects, such as asteroids and comets.

6th Grade: Students know earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides and floods change human and wildlife habitats.

7th-8th Grades: Students understand motion, forces and the structure of matter and their roles and relationships to the solar system.

9th-12th Grades: Students gain an understanding of the earth’s complex ecology and biodiversity including water cycles and how that compares/contrasts to other planets.

Connections To Language Arts Standards

Students apply a range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate and appreciate poetry from a range of cultures and styles through:

  • Identifying the form of poem and learning how different poets explore the same theme using a
    variety of poetic forms.
  • Identifying metaphor, simile, sensory imagery, alliteration, theme, rhyme, patterns, line, stanza,
    hyperbole, onomatopoeia, invented language, idiom and personification.
  • Placing poem in historic and/or cultural context.
  • Discussing poet’s point of view, intent and significance to humanity.
  • Discovering emotional connections with written and performed poetry.


Students employ a range of writing strategies to compose original written work through:

  • Experimenting with writing new work in a variety of poetic forms: free verse, chant, ode, persuasive
    poem, narrative poetry, myth, pantoum, sonnet, haiku, rap, calligrame, dramatic monologue.
  • Using metaphor, simile, alliteration, juxtaposition, personification and other strategies to create
    original images.
  • Choosing a variety of line, stanza and meter formats while composing poems.
  • Crafting effective titles, openings and closings for their poems.
  • Using alternative punctuation and capitalization strategies while composing poems.
  • Practicing editing and revision by finding active verbs, paying attention to sensory detail and
    well-defined imagery and through this learning the power of a single word choice.
  • Learning to support abstract concepts with particular concrete details.


Students use spoken and written poetry to accomplish their own purposes through:

  • Creating a vocabulary to write about and to share complex emotional experiences.
  • Finding ways to use poetry in the world-at-large through participation in classroom, school or
    community readings, publication, and/or designing cards and visual art work.
  • Connecting with current events by turning the sequence of events into narrative poetry.
  • Creating poetry that responds to the immediate community, social and/or natural environment.
  • Building a portfolio of original creative writing that may be augmented with visual art,
    photography, theatre arts, dance and/or music.


Steps and Tips
Step One: (5-10 minutes) Introduce the idea that poetry links the analytic and imaginative parts of our brain along with emotions, sensory discoveries and life experience. The earliest poems were not written, but part of the oral tradition. Today we will write chants or free verse poems. Share a model poem (see Ocean Ecology Poem Handout or for K-3rd grades see Rain Chant Class Poem Handout). Introduce writer’s tools by looking at the model poem(s) together. Notice the rhythm, imagery, alliteration, simile, juxtaposition and line breaks.

Step Two: (5 minutes) Class reads the model poem(s). Discuss how a poem looks different from a paragraph. When we write poems, the usual rules of prose writing are suspended, allowing the poet to become a word artist. Ask students to identify language and imagery they like from the model poem(s). Give positive feedback for thoughtful answers and ideas that are outside the usual/ordinary.

Tip: For K-2nd grades, above steps best done in circle near white board. For older grades, with students at their desks paying attention to each other and teacher. Also, when sharing model poems use poems both from either published poets or older students along with poems written by students’ peers in order to provide a wide range of examples to inspire students to stretch and explore beyond their ordinary vocabulary and writing ability.

Step Three: (5-10 minutes) Ask students to connect their own ideas to the topic. What do they imagine when . . . ? Demonstrate an example poem on the board to explore creative use of simile, alliteration, active verbs, and imaginative details. Ask for a show of hands; encourage reluctant students to participate; teacher reaffirms their ideas.

Step Four: (10-15+ minutes) We will have silent writing time. Write for ten to fifteen minutes on the topic. Start a new line in your poem each time you repeat your main idea. For chant, students will add a new image after each instance of the repetition. Don’t worry about spelling. We will have time to revise later. Teacher reinforces the silence. Ask students to raise hands if they want help. If students ask, “Do I have to follow the topic?” Use your discretion. The process often works best if students figure out their own way to write. They may think they are off topic but in fact are connected. In this way, poetrywriting can be useful for engaging reluctant students. “We are writing about the river. Would you rather write about what you don’t find in the river?” At least this way the student will engage with the pattern of the chant or the cycle poem, and perhaps circle around to facts and vocabulary connected with the topic. Give a two-minute warning time to reflect and revise. Encourage students to end poems with a powerful idea or a surprise image. Ask them to underline their favorite part and to craft a fun title, maybe the theme of the poem, maybe two favorite words paired together.

Optional: Walk around the class and offer extra “word tickets” (see thematic Vocabulary Word Strips Earth Science, Marine Ecology, Watershed and Periodic Elements Handouts) to students who are already writing quietly. For example, when studying and writing about the ocean, words like estuary, tsunami, precipitation, oxygen, sodium, cetacean, salmon, gravel, stellar sea lion, kelp, kestrel or snowy plover can add a new depth and richness to the poems students are writing.

Tip: For free verse poems, students may let their ideas run wild, without worry about cycling or repetition. Depending on class dynamics, you may have a pull-out table of students with special needs. Teacher could sit close and prompt the students onward with the project.

Step Five: (10-15+ minutes) Time to share poems out loud. Students who are reluctant may be willing to share part of their poem, for example their favorite part that they underlined or their title. Each teacher will have their own objectives for sharing. Poetry and the creative process often come from a place very deep in a tender heart. It may be most useful to let the students decide whether or not they want to share with their peers. They may be fine with posting work on the class bulletin board but not reading aloud. They also may be comfortable having their poem read aloud by a classmate or teacher.

Step Six: (1-3 additional class sessions) Extensions: If you offer more than one classroom session devoted to poetry, poems can be edited to explore varieties of line breaks, stanzas and active verbs (see Poetry Revision Handout). Students can also typeset poems in the computer lab, pairing them with an image they find on the web. Students can post their poems to a classroom blog, where other students might post comments. Students can turn their poem into a visual art project using collage, illustrating their favorite image(s). In K-3rd grades, students can contribute their favorite lines to a class poem which could then be recited as a choral reading with the entire class reading the title, first line and last line together and each student in turn steps up to read their own line. For 5th grade and up, students can try revising free verse poems into a specific form such as cinquain (5 lines with specific syllable count) or pantoum (pattern of repeating lines) which are popular at this age and often help struggling students reach a new sense of success as they persist with the rules of the pattern and stretch their free verse into something new and different (see Cinquian Poetry Examples Handout and Pantoum Poetry Grid and Examples Handout).

Tools and Materials
• Pencils, paper and example poems (select a few example poems from the handouts that will speak to your particular students’ skill levels).
• White board for listing starter lines (to workshop a classroom example poem) and multiple color markers that work.
Optional: Clipboards if students go outside to observe clouds, rain, wind or sky while they write. This is an experience students need to be prepared for before heading outside. One way to keep students “on task” is to set the ground rule that the outside time will be an entirely silent time to experience all the senses through looking and listening closely and with no talking allowed. Like all skills, students need to learn and then practice keeping silent, this is particularly true for young writers.

Supporting Resources
Ocean Ecology Poem Examples Handout (with bilingual Español/English poem examples)
Rain Chant Class Poem Handout (for K-3rd Grades)
Poetry Revision Handout
Cinquain Poem Structure and Poem Examples Handout
Pantoum Poem Structure and Poem Examples (with bilingual Español/English poem examples)
Planetary and Moon Poems Handout (with bilingual Español/English poem examples)
Vocabulary Word Strips—Earth Science Handout
Vocabulary Word Strips—Ocean Ecology Handout
Vocabulary Word Strips—Periodic Elements Handout
Vocabulary Word Strips—Watershed Handout

Additional Supporting Resources
Optional: Background web resources for watershed poetry; for
ocean/coastal study:; for planetary science including images for poetry prompts: and

Optional: Background classic, contemporary and student poems on a variety of topics available at
the following websites:;;;; and

PowerPoint Presentation
The Alchemy Of The Creative Process-Poetry Writing And The Natural Sciences (Printable Handout)

Project Objectives & Habits of Mind
Integration of creative poetry writing with science allows students multiple ways to explore their own sensory world, key concepts and vocabulary of the specific science unit and to stretch their language arts muscles all at the same time.

Objective One: Students learn basic tools of poetic craft—pencil, paper, voice, brain, imagination and feelings. Students learn how to identify and use the tools in the writer’s toolkit—simile, detail, metaphor, image, alliteration, juxtaposition, personification, line, couplet and stanza. Teacher shares poems that reflect variety of line, stanza and language strategies.

Objective Two: Students engage and persist with the process. They experience alternative ways to experiment with words to create poems assigned on the same theme. When they get stuck, students may stretch for new words or find a way to transition their poem to new levels. Teacher prompts students by distributing “word tickets” that reinforce vocabulary of the science unit to students. In this way, students can expand on and deepen their writing (for example, “sadness” is expanded and deepened to become “sadness like titanium hidden in the earth”).

Objective Three: Expression of personal vision, emotions and ideas is key to every stage of the poetic writing process. Students need to hear, “there is no mistake in poetry;” “try it your own way;” “see what you discover;” “trust the process” and finally, “where are you in this poem?” For example, is it “the sky of summer” or “my sky of summer?” The best poems meld imagination with scientific “fact.” A poem about a polar bear can actually be a metaphor for family relationships, abandonment, personal aspirations and/or survival strategies. Teachers need to be extremely sensitive to the deep wells that may open in students during the writing process. Don’t be surprised if you hear a student say, “I love my poem!”

Objective Four: Observation is key to both the poetic process and the scientific method. A part of the teacher’s role is to reinforce these similarities. Poets get ideas by observing with all of their senses, then thinking about and reflecting on what they have witnessed. Scientists also get ideas from observing their world, imagining “what if” or wondering “why” then testing their ideas. Observation inspires creativity. After writing poems, students share their work with others and have a chance to observe how other students tackled the same “creative problem” in class.

Objective Five: Students also have a chance to reflect on their poetic work; especially if they spend another session revising their poems based on a teacher-supplied checklist. Even at the revision stage, the teacher needs to affirm that the student discover what works for their own poem, not every revision idea will work. One approach to revision is to ask students to try three strategies from the checklist or to revisit the science curriculum to make sure their poem reaches the expectations to engage with the theme on some level.

Making Learning Visible

Poetry Writing and Revision, 3rd Grade


Ocean Habitat/Watershed Calligrame Poems, 6th Grade


Collaborating and Revising Poems, 5th Grade


Working With Very Young Poets, Try a Group Poem First, 2nd Grade
Model Chant Poem on Board – Teacher Prompts Students to Touch the Sky


Using White Board To Scribe Poem Ideas, 2nd Grade


Tips for Scaling Project and Further Opportunities
Tips for scaling project for lower or upper grades and opportunities for varying and/or expanding project.

1. To scale down for K-3rd grades: only share one model poem and maybe one student poem from a similar age group. Print out model poem large-scale on chart paper so that young students can
practice reading the poem aloud together as a classMake sure to have time for questions. It can be helpful to have the class meet in a circle close to the board to work on a classroom poem as a warm-up. When students break into individual writing time, remind them about the topic and remind them about silent time for writing. This is a good chance for parent helpers to be scribes, to assist the smallest poets to get their ideas written onto paper.

2. To differentiate for various science units, encourage students to combine real facts and vocabulary with their imagined imagery. To connect the moon with emotions for example or to connect a NASA image with student’s idea of what it might feel like to be in space (see Planetary and Moon Poem Examples Handout). To find the story or metaphor inside the piece of igneous or sedimentary rock, quartz or granite.

3. To scale up to middle school. Encourage students to begin with a free write about the selected topic, using elements of scientific fact mixed with their own emotions and sensory discoveries. For example, everyone will hear something different when they listen to a river, or notice what is happening in a particular habitat. Combine the vocabulary of the habitat unit with the student’s own creative ideas. Students could choose their favorite poem to turn into a calligrame or poem that is in the shape of the poem subject (see Making Leaning Visible section for examples of student calligrames). Students could also create a collage from their poem, recycling found objects and magazines to illustrate poetic themes and images. Students could host a poetry-slam where each student recites/performs their favorite poem.

4. For high school: everything in middle school plus students might type their poems and publish them in a blog or online journal. They could also incorporate photos, either photos they take in their own habitat, or photos they find elsewhere including photographs of space taken from the Hubble at or photographs of animals in their habitats in National Geographic or online. They could collect their poems into individual chapbooks, design a cover, and add illustrations. Example: poems about the estuary could also include factual studies of birds, aquatic species and plant forms in that habitat. Poems about hands, faces, bones, scars could be combined with student sketches from anatomy/physiology/biology class. Finished poems could then be bound into small books with student-created covers.

5. At any grade level, and most any science curriculum, students could write dramatic monologues from the point of view of some part of the science unit: “I am the salmon”; “I come from the volcano;” “I am the oxygen molecule;” or “If I were a whale.” Students create images from each of the senses and add details of movement, survival strategies, special talents and characteristics. They could also design a costume or mask to wear while reciting their monologue, which would require them to check in again for scientific accuracy. Depending on the classroom, students could collaborate in small groups. One be oxygen, two be hydrogen—what happens when they are onstage together? Or what happens when a student being a river joins with another who is the ocean?

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