Teaching Lorine to 3rd graders

To help the 3rd graders experience the Lorine Niedecker poem I had them read, I made up a metaphor from their world. I mean, how can one explain her concentration of words, the "this condensery" as she called it, of her work? To clarify, I put it to them like this:

You know how in a Lunchable you sometimes get a bottle of water and a little packet of flavoring to put in the water? The little packet is very strong in flavor and all the flavor is condensed so you can mix it with water.

They nod their heads.

Well, the words in this poem are very concentrated, like the flavor packet. And you reading them and bringing them to life and thinking about them, that makes you the water. And you mix it all together and you have a whole poetry experience or the whole flavored drink.

Then we read this poem together:

Iron the common element of earth
in rocks and freighters

Sault Sainte Marie-—big boats
coal-black and iron-ore-red
topped with what white castlework

The waters working together
[ - - - - - ]internationally
Gulls playing both sides

-Lorine Niedecker


I picked this poem because they are working on writing poems that are somehow inspired by the science units they have studied and I wanted to give them a good example of a poem that refers to rocks and minerals, since that was a unit. They liked it and had nice comments to add. One talked about how it made him think of the pirate ship that sunk in Lake Michigan. Another liked thinking about the science/mineral aspect of iron and then switching to iron in a ship. Someone else liked the gull who was playing both sides of US and Canada. It was fun!

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