Put Poetry on your Classroom Agenda!
Poetry enables teachers to teach their students how to write, read, and understand just about any text. It gives students a healthy outlet for their emotions, and reading original poetry aloud in class can foster trust and empathy in the classroom community, while also emphasizing speaking and listening skills.
Students who don’t like writing essays may like poetry because it has some fixed rules and a strong kinship with rap. For these students, poetry can become a gateway to other forms of writing. All writing benefits from the powerful and concise phrases found in poems.
Use my unique and fun classroom poetry unit for all ages on the Dozy Poems Book page!
Every word in a poem is well-chosen, and therefore, there's nothing better than reading them aloud. Reading them with a theatric flair can get everyone's attention, so make sure you know your poems before sharing them with your class. Don't oversupply them with material, but ask questions such as, "How do you think the poet feels?" or "What does that make you think of?" after a poem. Especially with ages 8 and older, poetry in the class works best when students are given the chance to take part.
For younger students, having visual aids and related activities to the poems can greatly enhance teaching poetry.
Whichever grade you're involved with, when bringing poetry into the classroom, the most important thing is to work with poems that will amuse and engage the children. While it's perfectly fine to explore poetry from famous names of times gone past, it's much more crucial to catch the child's attention, and not put an emphasis on what students "ought" to like. Be realistic of your classroom's attention span. Introducing them to poems in a fun or delightful way can ensure curiosity and a positive attitude about poetry for years to come!
TO GET YOUR STUDENTS MOTIVATED, SURPRISE THEM WITH A WORD BANK!
SOMETIMES ON MY CLASS VISITS, I COME ARMED WITH A BUCKETFUL OF WORDS WRITTEN DOWN ON LITTLE FOLDED BITS OF PAPER. THE CHILDREN CHOOSE ONE AND OPEN IT AND THEN USE THAT WORD AS THE FOCUS OR SUBJECT OF THE POEM THAT THEY WILL TRY WRITING.
FOR INSTANCE, SOME OF MY WORDS CAN BE: SOCCER, SUMMER VACATION, MY NEIGHBOR, SCHOOL, JACK O' LANTERN, OR TREE. DEPENDING ON THE AGE GROUP, COME UP WITH A VARIETY OF SUBJECTS FOR THE CHILDREN TO WRITE ABOUT. I'VE EVEN HAD SUCCESS WHEN SOME CHILDREN TRADE THEIR WORD WITH OTHERS IF THEY FEEL STUCK OR DON'T FEEL THEY KNOW ENOUGH TO WRITE MUCH ABOUT THEIR SUBJECT.
HERE'S AN EXAMPLE OF A WORD BANK THAT YOU CAN USE. POST THIS UP ON THE BLACKBOARD AND ALLOW THE STUDENTS TO EITHER WRITE A POEM ABOUT ONE OF THE COLORS, OR ONE OF THE WORDS ON THE PICTURE, OR EVEN A "HEART" OR "CRAYON". GIVE THEM FREEDOM TO CHOOSE, BUT KEEP THEM ON A TIME LIMIT.
CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES AND POETRY IDEAS FOR THE ENTIRE SCHOOL YEAR, ONE PER SEASON:
For the youngest students, create a simple poetry tree to decorate. Cut out a large tree shape from construction paper, and tape it or pin it on a wall or on the blackboard. Have the children think of words to describe the leaves and branches of their tree in autumn, and write them on the falling leaves.
Verbs: On one side of the tree, write the words that describe what the leaves or branches are doing as the season progresses.
Adjectives: On the other side, write the words that just describe the leaves or branches.
Inspire the children with poetic ideas. For instance, if a child says, "Dancing, the leaves are dancing", ask them what kind of dance the leaves are doing. "Are the leaves dancing a ballet, or doing the conga?"
Look at my example ( I just wrote in the words, but putting them on cut out paper leaves looks great!):
For older students, I always suggest coming up with couplets in the first few months of the school year. This is a nice way to add a little touch of poetry on any day! It doesn't take long, and it's a good way to allow the kids to get more acquainted with each other.k the students to think of some knack or talent they have, and then write a couplet about it. This activity canith self-esteem, and lighten the mood of the day.
Here's an example:
Science is my favorite class,
Every test I take I pass!
Couplets are two-lined poems with rhyme, and with the same meter. Traditionally, they rhyme, but they don't have to. Rhyming couplets are one of the simplest rhyme schemes in poetry.
Talents come on many levels and in various formats. Open the young writers up to the possibilities! Is someone good at his math? He could write a couplet about reciting the times table. Maybe one student has a talent for a sport, or has a knack for building snowmen.
For youngest students, play musical poetry (like musical chairs), to get them moving, and recognizing rhyme.
Have the children walk in a circle around a bunch of chairs. Have a long list of words that rhyme, such as tree, bee, key, sea, flea, glee, me, etc. and then add a word that doesn't rhyme. The children have to find a seat and sit down when they hear a word that doesn't rhyme. See how fast they can respond, and who's left standing.
For older students, explain a cinquain ("cin-kain"). A cinquain is a 5-line poem - a wonderful poetic demonstration of subject, description in adjectives and adverbs, feelings about the subject, and finally a word that sums it all up. Feel free to use my example below, and then have them start poet-ing!
Drawing, cutting, pasting
Friendly heart-shaped cards
- Raven Howell
For youngest students, engage the class with riddle poems. Because riddles are short and can be quite simple, they're easy to create and personalize according to grade level and comprehension.
Here's my example of a shape riddle:
I'm shaped like a plate
or clock on the wall,
a bicycle wheel, a pizza, a ball.
What shape am I?
Riddles are a perfect way to promote listening or reading comprehension because in order to solve the riddle, students have to listen carefully to the clues (or re-read them) in order to find the answer. This means the child is engaged on both a visual and auditory level - great to meet the variety of the students' needs!
Another tip: Riddles are charming and can be short and sweet and fun. For instance, after solving a shape rhyme, have the children look for similar shapes in the classroom.
For older students, a rhyming sequence poem is a wonderful way to get writing creatively. It's simple in that the poem will tell you about things in the order in which they happened. You don't have to limit your students to making it rhyme, but rhyming gives a poem structure.
Have the children write a sequence poem based on the days of the week, the experiences of a day, numbers, seasons of the year - you choose! Here's my example:
A Colorful Year
by Raven Howell
In autumn leaves turned orange-brown,
The breeze tossed them around the town.
Winter brought us snow so white
The stars twinkled the sky at night.
Spring is blooming bright and green,
The rain showers wash our car clean.
Summer colors greet me soon,
In lazy yellow afternoons!
Introduce your class to an "If I were" poem.
It's not always easy coming up with ideas for writing a poem, and then of course, you have the obstacle of figuring out your first line. This is a great way to save time in the classroom and jump right into creating!
Here are my examples:
If I were the principal
I'd extend our vacations,
That may improve
Teacher- student relations!
If I were a turkey
I'd suggest pork and beef,
And after Thanksgiving
Breathe a sigh of relief!
An "If I were" poem has 4 lines (quatrain), with the 2nd and 4th line rhyming (an ABCB scheme).