Do you remember when magnetic poetry was the craze? You’d visit a friend or relative and they would have magnetic words all over their refrigerator door which would be carefully arranged into poetry based on their feelings across the day or week. I wonder what happened to all those magnetic words?
Thankfully, you can still buy magnetic letter kits or alternatively make your own as well as a range of other options which I’ll outline below. The key consideration should be how we can use such resources in pedagogically sound ways to get students excited about writing poetry whilst also providing appropriate support. The benefit of using magnetic poetry is that it supports students to not only compose their own poetry but also provides the vocabulary which can sometimes be a stumbling block for getting started.
Dave Kapell, created Magnetic Poetry in the 1990s, when experiencing writer's block while trying to compose song lyrics. For inspiration, he wrote down interesting words on pieces of paper and rearranged them. This is a technique often used in classrooms for sequencing words or groups of words in texts. Unfortunately or fortunately, he sneezed and all the words flew across the room. He then decided to glue his words onto magnets. These ultimately ended up on the refrigerator door and as he and his friends manipulated these words, the first magnetic poems were composed. From the refrigerator to then making up his own kits, millions of Magnetic Poetry kits have been sold across the world. This began with the Original Kit and The Poet edition, evolving with a range of kid's kits, language kits and themed kits.
These can still be purchased online or found in novelty gift and game stores. Alternatively, we could make our own kits with magnetic paper now available. The use of mini whiteboards is common in classrooms today so there is no need to have the refrigerator on hand for creating poetry!
Also, digital opportunities for magnetic poetry now exist. The Magnetic Poetry site has several kits, including the kids kit, available as online games. ‘Magnetic’ words can be generated and manipulated across the page to create original poems. These can then be saved and downloaded for sharing and review as in the example below.
Nicole Trimbrell (2018) explains how she has created her own magnetic poetry resource using Google Drawings. She provides a blank template for the Build-Your-Own Online Magnetic Poetry Kit. Similar resources could also be developed with tools such as Jamboard or Miro, allowing students to construct poetry together, even remotely.
The above suggestions can be used to design learning to not only engage and encourage students to write poetry but to also develop conversations about choices and effects on the reader. These conversations can be initially guided through teacher modelling of the resources or tools before engaging students with joint construction and finally independent construction either in small groups or individually.
Due to the nature of working with existing words, vocabulary and meaning can be explored in terms of making explicit comments about word associations or chains related to a specific topic or context. In the example above, focus was placed on the role of sensing verbs to build a sense of feelings and relationships. During the writing process or when reviewing texts attention could be placed on synonym or antonym choice to further develop vocabulary. There is also great scope for discussing the role of both lexical and grammatical word choices to develop a cohesive poem.
With engagement through magnetic poetry and the development of confidence, students may ultimately choose to design their own magnetic words in their chosen mode.
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Trimbrell, N (Oct 12, 2018) Build-Your-Own Online Magnetic Poetry Kit With Google Drawings. International Literacy Association.
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