Pick a president’s name, any American president. Write the name vertically, down the paper. You are ready to write an acrostic poem, with each letter beginning a new line of the poem. Students working as a whole class, pairs or individuals can be as imaginative or fantastic as they wish, but each line should have something to do with the chosen president. As poet educator Jack Collom advises, “…it can be some weird or hard-to-see connection…you don’t have to rhyme…don’t be afraid to sound crazy; it often means you’ve come up with new ideas.” (More of Collom’s ideas on teaching poetry in schools here.)
Ask your school librarian to identify books about the presidents, including some that are not straight biographies but offer different views or aspects of the man’s life (so far – they’re all men!). Good examples would be Master George’s People: George Washington, His Slaves and His Revolutionary Transformation by Marfé Ferguson Delano and Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library by Barbara Rosenstock.
If students read far enough in Master George, they might decide to use “Wheatley” to begin their “W” line, because the West African-born slave and poet Phyllis Wheatley wrote and mailed a poem to the general which he praised for its “elegant lines” and “genius.” That poem contributed to General Washington’s changing attitude toward African Americans.
A close look at Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library could lead to “fire” for one of the “F” words. Fire destroyed the library in Jefferson’s parents’ home and the Library of Congress itself, prompting Jefferson to sell the library more than 6,000 of his own books.
Share the poems along with any stories that explain the presidential connection.