13 Ways of Looking at a Poem

What You Need:

  • Access to the library or internet
  • 2 notebooks
  • 2 pens or pencils

What You Do:

  1. Take a trip to your local library or simply use the internet to find a copy of Wallace Stevens' poem "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird". Read the poem out loud to your child, then give her a few minutes to read it again silently.
  2. Discuss the poem, paying close attention to the way Stevens creates 13 different perspectives about the same object. How does Stevens use words and descriptions to paint different pictures of the same thing? How do varying perspectives chance the reader's view of the object?
  3. Search for a spot where you and your child can find an object to write about. The spot can be indoors or outdoors, as long as it's somewhere comfortable where you can spend some time writing. Bring along a notebook, pen or pencil, and a copy of Stevens' poem for both of you.
  4. You and your child should each pick an object to observe. Take a few minutes to brainstorm about the object. Encourage your child to write continuously, not worrying about sentence structure or grammar, as she comes up with impressions and ideas about how to describe the object.
  5. Now you're ready to write! Using Stevens' poem as a structural guide, write 13 stanzas about the object you've chosen. Label each stanza with a number. Try to create a different perspective in each one but don't worry too much about repeating details!
  6. When you're both finished writing, read your poems aloud to each other. Talk about the writing process and how creating different perspectives affected your own view on the object you chose.

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