Cinquain Poems

The power of this instructional strategy/assessment tool lies in the assimilation of related terms and images which tap into the learners existing schemata. It requires that the learner make sense of a term or concept within a defined set of expressions which already exist in the learners own experience. Additionally the poem can express deeper knowledge and be used as an assessment or evidence of understanding.

An example is a learner who wrote something like…

Drifting Continents
Evidence Fossil Record
Plates Float Mantle Uplifts
200 m.y.a.

There is evidence the learner understands that Pangaea was a super-continent. It began to break apart 200 million years ago, the result of thermal uplifts in the earth’s mantle. The continental plates float and move. The fossil record provides evidence that continents were once connected.

This tool, the Cinquain Poem, can be used in multiple ways:

1. Pre-reading assignment
2. Vocabulary assignment
3. Concept building
4. Concept or skill assessment

The basic format is as follows:

Title (one word)
Describe Title (two words)
Feeling Emotive Words (three words)
Words of Action Movement (four words)
Synonym (of title one word)

Poetry Form
Need Not Rhyme
Engages Learner in Content

Five Lines
Sensory emotive expression
Creates an image sense

In addition to writing the poem it is helpful to ask students to illustrate the concept and then superimpose the poem onto the illustration. This is best done by using a scanner and word processing program, if available. But the good ole’ fashioned way of having the student write the poem, using their best penmanship centered on the page and then illustrating around the hand written poem also works well. This is particularly effective if the lesson also includes some instruction on labeling or calligraphy or stylized “wordmanship”…somewhat like WordARt but more individually stylized. Graffiti is a type of stylized penmanship.

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