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Poetry Smackdown… THE EVENT YOUR POETRY UNIT IS MISSING!

Poetry Smackdown FunARE YOU READY TO RUMBLE??????

Poetry Smackdown is a KNOCKOUT Classroom Event!

Get your students ready to step into the ring with their favorite poems and poets!

What is Poetry Smackdown?

If you know anything about The Rigorous Owl, you know that we love a good theme! We also love to put on, what we call, Classroom Events. So what is a Classroom Event? A Classroom Event uses an exciting theme that captivates students’ attention and ignites their passion for learning. Classroom Events take students out of their desks doing boring old worksheets and instead takes them onto the stage to experience content with a full understanding. Students are learning when they don’t even realize it. The event motivates students to not only understand a standard, but to master it.

The standard that we focused on was Poetry. In our class, we had already learned the elements of a poem, and now we were ready to dive deeper into how a poem should be read. The goal of Petry Smackdown was to show our students that Poetry is an art that is meant to be enjoyed. We wanted our students to take risks and have fun! This is when our idea for Poetry Smackdown was born.

What is Happening During Poetry Smackdown:

  • Memorizing multiple poems
  • Understanding a poem’s meaning
  • Reading with expression
  • Reading fluently
  • Public speaking
  • Listening
  • Team building
  • Evaluating
  • Encouraging
  • Learning how to be humble winners
  • Learning how to deal with losing
  • Realizing that Poetry ROCKS!


Steps to Creating a Poetry Smackdown

Poetry Smackdown Trading Cards for Bulletin Board

The first step to Poetry Smackdown is to create a bulletin board to track your participants. Think “March Madness.” To begin, we shuffled our student “trading cards” and created totally random competitors. Competitors were then  given the same poem and were given a week to memorize and master it for their performance. This was Round 1. At the end of the week, students got into the “ring” and battled it out. Once they were in the ring, students each took turns performing their poems and the class nominated a winner. After everyone performed their poems, we had a class discussion of what made for a good performance and what did not. The students that lost Round 1 then had the job of encouraging their “opponent” and preparing them for the next round.

Poetry Smackdown Bulletin Board and Props

Now, it was time for Round 2. Round 2 meant that all students received new poems and were paired up with new competitors. The competitors received the same poem and were given another week to memorize and master it. Each round looks the same, until you are left with your final competitors.

An Unexpected Surprise

When we first came up with the idea, a couple of red flags were raised and we weren’t quite sure how it would all pan out. We were a little nervous about how students would take the losing aspect of the event. Okay, are you ready for it???? Here’s what we didn’t expect week after week. Because we had the students who lost, root on their “opponent,” the entire vibe that we were afraid of was null and void. Students did not show any negative behaviors. Instead, we had the losing students ask for their “opponent’s” same poem in order to help them! We saw our students out on the playground practicing their poems and giving each other tips on how they could win the next round! Our teacher hearts were overflowing when we saw our students lifting each other up!

Who Participates in the Main Event?

Poetry Smackdown Main Event

The main event works best with anywhere from six to eight performers. Since we are a school with one hundred fourth graders and three fourth grade classes, we decided to have each class submit their top two performers to the Poetry Smackdown’s Main Event. This set us up for three rounds.

We wanted our Main Event to be a show, so we decided to have other students who did a good job with their poems, but didn’t make it to the main event, open our show with their favorite poem as “Honorable Mention” performers. Each class submitted around four students to open each round. In our minds, the more students participating in the Main Event, the better!

Other students who participated were our “Cornermen.” These “Cornermen” were students who stood out to us and truly uplifted others throughout the rounds. The “Cornermen” were given water bottles and towels and were up on stage with the Man Event qualifiers to encourage and root them on in their corners. This was absolutely hilarious to watch! They patted the performers’ foreheads before and after their performances and provided moral support. The “Cornermen” really added that sense of entertainment a show needs!

Let the Show Begin!

Poetry Smackdown Awards

Our main event was a little bit different from the other rounds. Each class had two students. These students were not given the same poems. They were each given their own. We were done eliminating students. In our minds, these students had been through enough rounds. They had both proven to be amazing! Now, they were competing for awards under different categories. We awarded Most Dramatic, Most Entertaining, Most Fluent, Best Overall, and so on. It was more entertaining to hear different poems during the Poetry Smackdown’s Main Event.

If you are looking for ways to improve and add to your Poetry Smackdown’s Main Event, you can’t go wrong with props! For our main event, we added an official Ringside Bell, two robes for the competitors, boxing gloves, microphones and MUSIC! We played Jock Jams- Let’s Get Ready to Rumble! We HIGHLY recommend using it in your Poetry Smackdown’s Main Event!!!!! The high energy music pumped up our students and set the stage! The music was playing as the students entered and also between rounds to add excitement!

After the Main Event

After the Main Event was over, the buzz did not stop! The teacher’s lounge was buzzing with:

“We will forever do this event!”

“Can you believe how good ____ was?!”

“Man, that was so much fun!”

“That was the best thing ever and it was so easy!”

“The kids had a blast… heck, I had a blast!”

Needless to say, it was a KNOCKOUT event! Our students had fun, we had fun, and best of all our students learned how fun poetry can be. This event is definitely worthy of assemblies, parent nights and is a show for whoever is in your audience!

Even after our Poetry Smackdown was over, students still asked if they could get new poems to practice on the playground. The event was over, but their love for poetry continued. Mission Accomplished! What more can a teacher ask for… am I right?!

Poetry Smackdown Materials

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Detective Mystery Unit!

Welcome Super Sleuths!
In this blog post you will get to go behind the scenes with us to see how we set up, planned, and operated our Detective Mystery Unit!
Be sure to check out the Freebies, Tips, and Enter our Giveaway!
Now, let’s get started!
The first task that you face when you plan for a fun unit like this, is to get into character! We do everything as a team at our school, so the three fourth grade teachers plan and work together. We all participate in the events together! We started by simply getting everyone a badge off of Amazon. Our next stop was to the Dollar Tree to find some aviator sunglasses…. and just like that, we were transformed into Detective Brazeal and Detective Devlin!
We also made sure that we used detective vocabulary throughout the day for our gumshoes!
If you need some ideas, Click the button below for a Detective Vocabulary Freebie!

The next thing that we decided that we HAD to have was a crime lab to book our evidence into. Instead of transforming three classrooms, we decided to have all three teachers set up one crime lab.  Our perfect spot was behind the curtains of our stage in our MPR. This was amazing for us because there were no performances going on, Also, if we wanted a small group activity, one class could go inside, but if we needed all three classes to participate, they could sit in the MPR and look into the lab. If this is not an option for you, maybe there is an empty classroom at your school that could serve the same purpose. We loved this idea because our unit was an entire week long, and this way, we didn’t have to be in this dark lab for an entire week!
Check our YouTube video out below to get a feel for it!

You Tube Video of our Crime Lab!
All right, so here’s where we got all of the materials for our lab. The first thing that you will need is black plastic sheeting. Here is what we used Click Here. We simply used a staple gun and lined the area. The only other thing we bought were our detective cardboard boy and girl and the footprint stickies from Oriental Trading. The rest of the supplies were found around our classrooms or school. We already had black lights, cation tape, and we found the cool items on our lab table in our science materials kits. The glowing liquid in the test tubes is made from glow in the dark paint that one of the teachers had at home. We already had the flashlights that the students are holding in the picture because we do Flashlight Friday reading, which we purchased from Amazon. Overall, it looks like a lot, but when you have three teachers making one lab, you have more resources to pull from!
The main purpose of the Top Secret Lab is to build excitement for the students!
It is so amazing to hear them shout out,  “Wow!” “Ahhhh!” and “That’s Awesome!”
If students are engaged, they will be more motivated to complete the academic tasks that you present for them! Another reason is for your excitement! It is so rewarding!
We were excited to get to work each day and pumped when it was time for our Lab time!
Ok, now it’s time for the good stuff. The first question you need to answer is, “What is the crime going to be?” If you are doing the unit with multiple classes, you will need to find something that all of the classrooms have in common. Since we were reading Bunnicula, we decided to buy a small stuffed rabbit for each classroom. We really wanted them to value the rabbit, so we made it our class pet. We brought in a pet carrier, gave him a blanket, laid out some food and water, and made sure he was securely locked in his cage every day before heading home. If you know the book, then you will get why there is a white pumpkin nearby. We also left the book for him to read at night. After we were done reading our book, it was time for the crime to occur! Bunnicula mysteriously disappeared overnight! When the students walked in to the crime scene you see the next morning, they are devastated that their beloved class pet was missing! And just like that, the mystery began!
For those of you who have not read about our Year Long Plan, you might be unfamiliar with the way we teach. Each unit lasts one month.
In each unit, we teach four main standards… one from each domain.
Here is what we were teaching during this unit.
Key Ideas and Details:Character Traits
Craft and Structure: Elements of Poetry
Vocabulary Acquisition: Context Clues
Language: Prepositions and Prepositional Phrases
During our Engaging Scenario (what you are reading about),
we complete one task from each domain each day.
For the very first day, our focus was on Prepositions. The students were given this
FREEBIE: REPORT AND SKETCHING. Click the button below to get it!

Their first task was to make a sketch of the crime scene.
Then, they had to write their report.
In their report, they had to circle all prepositions and underline all of the prepositional phrases.
Describing the crime scene was absolutely PERFECT for prepositions!
The next step was to book all of our evidence into our lab!
We pulled all of the classes together and debriefed.
We talked about what was seen in each classroom (all the same) and what we thought our next actions should be.
We decided that it was time to canvas the campus and start gathering tips!
Students created posters that listed basic information about the crime. In this poster, they had to include five prepositions and prepositional phrases. Again, the prepositions were circled and the prepositional phrases were underlined. On the posters, students advised witnesses to contact our Crime Hotline with any tips that they had. Each student made a poster and they were plastered all over campus! Talk about building excitement! The whole school was buzzing!
The next day, our focus was Character Traits. We wrote eight short scripts for eight different callers. Click Here to See What Our Witnesses Read!
Various staff left these messages on our voicemail portraying eight different character traits. When our students came in the next day, they were given the piece of paper in the image above.
We also have it available for FREE by clicking here!
We told them that we had several new messages that needed to be investigated! They were hooked! With each message, students had to assign a character trait and list the evidence that supported their claim.  Most of the messages were pointless and led nowhere, but several fed the students ideas about what they should do next in their investigation.
From the hotline, a suspect list was generated. Our first thought was to make a list of everyone that had access to all three rooms. From there, we focused on the time of the crime. We had our custodian report that the bunnies were seen at 4:30pm. This dwindled down our suspect list to six suspects. The next day’s standard was Context Clues. On each of our doors, there was a black light message left inside a Top Secret envelope. Students came together to examine the messages. On each paper, there were more clues given. Students had to use their knowledge of Context Clues to decipher the messages! One of them said that there was a very important clue left by the piano in the MPR. Student RUSHED over to discover it! This important clue was an invitation to a party that had a map on it. The students then interrogated the remaining six suspects and discovered that three of them lived in the area on the map. Our mystery now had three prime suspects!
The next day, we focused on College and Career Readiness.
We had an expert come in to close the case!
Our forensic specialist came out and shared with the students all about the law enforcement career. Students took notes and asked some amazing questions! They loved this!
At the end, we explained our crime to the expert and asked if he could pull prints from an item left at the scene. He pulled the prints successfully!
Now, our case was ready to be solved!
All we needed was to collect prints from each of the remaining suspects and make a match!
Our match led to no other than our very own principal!
She was served with a search warrant, and our rabbits were found safe and sound! Immediately, our students chorally read her her rights and our principal was booked!
When asked about her motives, our principal told the students to look inside the basket. We discovered that our cute little bunnies were holding rolled up papers! These rolls ended up being diplomas from Bunny Obedience School! When our principal explained, she told us that she heard our bunnies might be vampire rabbits (If this sounds a little crazy, read the book! You’ll love it!). She didn’t want anything to harm the students at her school because safety was her top priority. She decided that she would send them to a four day obedience training and she didn’t want to tell us because she wanted them to finish their training.
Talk about an amazing principal, right?!
Our students immediately forgave her and released her!
The next day’s focus was on Poetry Elements.
We had fun with fingerprint poems and pulled out all of the elements from some detective poems. The students were able to practice and apply all four concepts that were in our month’s unit, while having a blast!
CASE CLOSED!
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