Nature and poetry go hand-in-hand. Many famous poets were inspired by nature, including William Blake, Oscar Wilde, Geoffrey Chaucer and John Keats. Poetry encourages the use of creative expression and descriptive language.
This activity teaches students about using adjectives to help their reader imagine the scene being painted by poetry. This activity also contains all the tools required for students to reap the benefits of being outdoors while learning the outcomes of the Australian Curriculum.
Time required: 60 minutes
Learning goal: Students understand the value and importance of trees to humans and our environment. They recognise how they can use their senses to experience trees, and understand how to convey these experiences into poetry. They recognise how their poetry can be used to convince other people about the importance of trees.
Essential questions: Why are trees important? Why is it important to receive feedback about artworks? How can you give feedback to others in a truthful but kind manner? How can you use feedback to improve the quality of your artworks? What are the mental, physical and academic benefits of completing classroom activities outside?
Curriculum links: Year 5 & 6 English
General capabilities: Literacy, Critical and Creative Thinking.
Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability OI.2.
- Seven large pieces of cardboard, each labelled with one of the following: Sight, Sound, Touch, Taste, Smell, Thinking, Feeling/Emotion.
- Seven whiteboard markers or thick textas.
- The book Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai by Claire A. Nivola.
- Student Worksheet (paper or online copies), free-to-access from Cool Australia’s website.
Digital technology opportunities: QR codes, digital sharing capabilities
Part A. Story and Rake thinking routine – 25 minutes
Part B. Poetry Writing, Editing and Sharing – 25 minutes
Part C. Reflection – 10 minutes
PART A. Story and Rake Thinking Routine
Step 1. If you aren’t already outside, take your class to your outdoor learning space. Review outdoor learning rules and the benefits of outdoor learning with students, including potential hazards and actions to take in the event of hazards.
Step 2. As a class, read Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai by Claire A. Nivola.
Step 3. To help consolidate student thinking, engage students in a class discussion using the following questions: What’s the most important reason we have trees? Why is this the most important reason?
Step 4. Invite students to participate in the Rake thinking routine on the Student Worksheet. This requires students to use their senses to observe the nature around them.
In this activity students are asked to observe how they experience trees by answering the following questions: What do trees feel like? What do trees smell like? What might trees taste like? (WARNING – some trees are toxic so don’t actually try tasting them!) What do you see when you look at trees? What do trees sound like? How does being around trees make you feel? What does being around trees make you think about?
Hot tip: While students are completing the Rake thinking routine, prepare for the next activity by spreading out the seven pieces of paper or cardboard labelled with one of the following (Sight, Sound, Taste, Touch, Smell, Thinking, Feeling/Emotion) with markers/textas in the learning space to form a large circle.
Step 5. Working in seven groups, invite students to share some of their responses to the questions above, adding ideas to the relevant seven cards spread around the learning space. Encourage students to be creative in thinking about what words can be added to the cards. Give groups 2-3 minutes at each card. As students rotate through the activity, you could reduce the amount of time they spend at each card, as it may become increasingly difficult to think of new ideas. Monitor student attention and behaviour, and shorten the time at each sense, if necessary.
PART B. Poetry Writing, Editing and Sharing
Step 1. Reconvene the class and explain that they will use the words on these seven cards to write a poem about trees, and that they will get to decide how to use the poems to help other people realise the importance and value of trees.
Before beginning, engage students in a discussion around the words and phrases written on the card to ensure all students are familiar with these words, how they are used and how they apply to the topic of trees.
Step 2. Revise the concept of adjectives and encourage students to use them in their poem. For revision, you could teach the rap below:
A noun is a person, place or thing,
Like boy or house or playground swing.
An adjective describes nouns well,
A smile, blue sky or beautiful shell.
A verb is an action or being kind of thing,
Eat, run, were, be, shout and sing!
Step 3. As a class, create some examples based on student ideas. For example: ‘branch’ – strong branch; ‘wind’ – fierce wind, etc. Lead students to the question: What effect do adjectives have on the reader? (Example answer: To help the reader create an image in their mind).
Step 4. Explain that students will write their own poem, using one short descriptive sentence for each of the five senses.
Step 5. Place the pieces of cardboard back into the large circle formation so that students can use the brainstormed ideas to write their poems. Ask students to sit at the pieces of cardboard again. Explain that the lines of the poem don’t have to be written in order. Encourage students to move to the different senses in their own time. Emphasise that their poems need to reinforce the importance of trees. Students can write their poems in the spaces provided on the Student Worksheet.
Step 6. At the end of the writing time, ask students to whisper their poems aloud to check their sentence structure and the meaning of each sentence. Students then form pairs and read their poems to each other. Give students an opportunity to share their poem with the whole class.
For more information about this activity:
- Download the Student Worksheet.
- Explore over 900 free-to-access lesson plans that ignite a love of learning in your students.
Cool Australia is an award winning not-for-profit that helps teachers inspire their students through real-world learning. Download free-to-access units of work and lesson plans that integrate topics such as sustainability, ethics, Aboriginal Histories and Cultures, economics and wellbeing across subject areas and year levels. Build your confidence and skills with accredited online professional development. Cool Australia would like to thank The Youngman Trust – managed by Equity Trustees – for their assistance in producing the Outdoor Learning series.