Strategies for Empowering Students

  • To promote students' understanding of themselves through self-expression
  • To promote students' critical thinking skills
  • To promote students' creative writing and thinking skills through poems and poetry

  • Use of writing and thinking skills
  • Use of knowledge
  • Use of metacognitive skills

  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies
  • Character Development

Talk with students about the use of writing as a vehicle or a way of expressing one's feelings and emotions. Read the poem, written by a fourth-grader, to the class.


I am stuck and can't get out!

When I am mad I have to shout,

What should I do? Cry, Shout, Hit?

Help me! I'm stuck in a deep pit.

And the pit is holding me ...

Lies are holding my legs ...

Hitting is holding my arms.

I pushed and pulled and got
away from the pit of Emotion,
rubbing trust on my body like a lotion.

--Schinon E. Russell
Grade 4, Arthur Ashe Elementary School, Chicago, Illinois

Have the class discuss the poem. Ask them questions such as:

What do you think Schinon is trying to say at the beginning of her poem?

What kind of challenges or problems seem to face her?

What do you think she meant by, "I'm stuck in a deep pit?"

Do you think she resolved her problems? Why do you think she did or did not?

Do you think she was talking about herself in this poem or someone else? Why?

Ask students to think of other poems they have heard or read in which the author expresses his or her feelings or thoughts about life. Ask the students to think about something they would like to try to express in the form of a poem. Remind them that the lines of their poem do not have to rhyme, but that the poem should express how they feel or think about some topic.

This activity can be done by individual students, pairs, or in cooperative teams. Allow the students to select the option of how they want to complete the assignment.

After the completion of the poems, have a poetry reading to allow students to share their works.

  • How did students exhibit their ability to interpret?

  • Was there evidence of improvement in writing and thinking skills?

  • How was this exhibited?

  • How effective were students in using their inference skills as they attempted to answer the questions?

  • Did students demonstrate a sense of empathy for the author? How?

  • Were students able to relate to what and how the author felt? How was this demonstrated?


Excerpted from Beyond Rhetoric and Rainbows: A Journey to the Place Where Learning Lives ©1996 University of Illinois Extension.