For our lesson, I collected a bunch of great first lines from published poems, and put them into a GoogleDoc. In class, I shared the document and told the students to choose one line as the inspiration for their poem. I asked them to keep in mind all of the poetry tools they've developed thus far (line breaks, rhythm, repetition, figurative language, narrative, humor), but otherwise allowed them total freedom in regards to style, length and content.
Some 'stubs' we've used:
Come, Let us roam the night together, Singing
I am standing, feet apart, hands on hips
I love music
I love music
Sunday mornings at our house
Lucy was 7 and wore a head of blue barrettes
Thank you for
Picture this, with your eyes closed
The sea is always the same
Approach if you dare
We are ankle deep in the cool water
Maps are more than tiny lines
I dream I am
I’ve got books on the bunk bed
Each of these stubs lend themselves to interesting writing from students, and they've been a nice way to differentiate within my classroom, as struggling writers can rely on a stub as a prompt, giving them some guidance and clues about what their poem might ultimately be about. My classes expressed more enthusiasm about this assignment than any of the other poetry prompts I've used this semester (onomatopoeia, alliteration, silly poems, haiku, found poems), asking again and again to see the list of first lines. Yesterday, one student suggested a nice extension of this lesson - to use a list of stubs composed not by famous poets but by the students themselves.
It's been most fun to see a group of students take the same opening line and send it on very different journeys through writing. Yesterday, I gave every 5th Grader the same stub. Here are a few of the second lines they came up with:
I dream I am...
a grownup, not scared of anything
a superhero, brave and strong
a fairy with wings to carry me across the world
a whale swimming through the deep blue sea
magical. When I close my eyes a new world opens up.
a sorcerer. I perform tricks, like turning an innocent prince into a frog.