Graphic Novels? Nope…Graphic Poetry!

Poetry can be really hard for 5th graders because of the amount of inferring a reader has to do to interpret a poem. The result is a bunch of kids giving me the “this is boring” or “I don’t get it” look. That look was my cue to rethink how I was teaching poetry. We needed to bring poetry to life!

“Graphic Poetry” is what I have coined this teaching strategy. In essence, we first talk about a poem in groups of 3-4 and use our bodies to create a frozen picture that represents what the poem is about AND how it makes us feel. At our school, we call these “Tableaus”. We look for strong body positions, facial expressions, and accurate interpretation of text.


Next, the photographer or the student who doesn’t act in the Tableau uses the app, WordFoto, and photographs the frozen picture. This is revised over and over again as we learn how the angle, background, and lighting can change the photo. WordFoto allows your to embed short words into the photo so once the group has decided on the perfect photo, they add the words.

Last, students transfer the photo into a comic-strip type app such as Story Me. They choose the layout they want and add in the photo(s) created from WordFoto. We talk about how we can use thought bubbles or speech bubbles to enhance our graphics. Our caption usually reflects the sentence stem I give them such as “This poem makes me feel_____about…..”



This whole process will take an entire period the first time you try it. Stick with it though! The kids catch on quickly to the process. As the teacher, you are the fabulous director. Your role is to walk around, listen in, and coach into groups when needed. Push them to be strong actors and photographers. Say things like “I think you mean to show that you are depressed but it looks like you have a stomach ache. What can you do instead? Change it!”

The products are amazing. Show your kids how to take photos from multiple angles of the same Tableau. They can use it to create multiple frames just like pages in a graphic novel.




While I call this Graphic Poetry, I’ve also tried this with my book clubs. Once in a while, mix it up so that a book club meeting is creating a Graphic Page on how the character is changing over time in the book. All I do is give them a sentence stem such as “The character used to be __________, but now I’m thinking he is also ______________” This is perfect to create two different photos that you can import into Story Me.

How could you adapt this to your literacy classroom? Have fun!!!