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Monday, May 28, 2012


It's about time, teachers, ... to wrap up Using Poetry in the Classroom.  As promised, today I'm posting my random thoughts about poetry centers.

Many, many teachers like to use composition books for student anthologies.  They describe having the students paste the poem under study into the book and then use the facing page to write responses.  I prefer to use 3 ring binders because no matter how many times you tell your students that "a dot is a lot," they still get glue on the pages. Carefully tearing the pages apart for them is not my favorite activity and it's way too time consuming.

But, you object, then the students can't write a response on the facing page.  Au contraire!  I have my pupils punch holes on the right margin of the poem.  For many of the poetry responses, I use a Poetry Recording Sheet.

Other times, I have the students insert notebook paper.  Either way, the kiddos now have the poem on the left and response paper on the right.  

Earlier on this blog, I referred to supplies you may wish to have at a poetry center. Although I recommended markers, crayons, scissors, etc., I usually place only colored pencils at the center.  I call them "Poets' Pencils," which makes them more special to the children.  I love the metaphor that "Poets' Pencils" create colorful, figurative language.  

Colored pencils are also preferable for highlighting and underlining words on the poem because they don't bleed through the paper, as markers can.  Moreover, they are erasable, if need be.

By making colored pencils specific to our poetry center, I am also avoiding confusion (and arguments) over whether the markers and/or crayons are part of the center or belong to one of the students. 

Poetry can be used in so many ways to enhance your teaching.  It need not be saved for April, National Poetry Month.   It need not only be used for studying the elements of poetry.  Poems bring rainbows into your classroom.  Visit the land of poems often. You'll be glad you did.

For more ideas for using poetry in your teaching, check out these resources:


Friday, May 25, 2012


It's about time, teachers,... to talk about using poetry centers for POETRY!

Depending on the age and stage of your students, you may wish to begin a study of poetic structures with rhyme scheme, meter, and/or stanzas.  The figurative language synonymous with poetry is a rich source of study for centers.  For example, metaphors are an appropriate subject for task cards:

Similarly, assonance, similes, alliteration, onomatopoeia, etc.  can be studied at centers.

Writing responses to poetry are appropriate for centers, 

as is creating original poetry.  I find that elementary students are more comfortable writing poetry when they have a "prescription" for writing.  For example, they love writing haiku.

There are many, many types of poetry that are engaging for students to write, but the "prescription" may be elusive.  At my poetry centers, I place poetry posters with the task cards that ask them to write specific poetry.  For instance, when using the task card for haiku, I put this poster at the center:

My goal at learning centers is for the students to be as independent as possible.  After all, I'm conducting guided reading groups during center time.  By using task cards and posters, I have largely accomplished this goal.  There will always be some children who struggle to work independently, either because of their personality or learning needs. The majority, however, can act independently or find the assistance they need from their peers.  

Please remember that none of this happens overnight.  You must invest time in training your students to use centers of any type.  With poetry centers, it is essential that you model the things you want your students to do and ensure that your students are very familiar with the poetry before you place it in the center.

Next time, I will address some random thoughts about poetry learning centers.

If you are interested in my poetry task cards and the poetry posters I created for poetry centers, you can find both at my TpT Store or in my TN Shop.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


It's about time, teachers,... that I continue this blog.  I was interrupted by the birth of my grandson, Olin Robert.  :)  He's perfect and I'm utterly smitten!

When I am establishing my poetry center, I model everything I expect to my class during our morning meeting.  Hence, together we will rebuild the poem using the sentence strips and the pocket chart.  Together we will circle the word wall words on our individual copies.  Together we will make a list of all the words that end with -ing.  You get the picture.  

I use task cards at my poetry center.  They describe what the students are to do that day. For example: 

Students will circle the rhyming words on their individual copies.  Typically, this task will be one that I demonstrated on last week's poem.

Using a grease pencil or a Vis-a-vis marker, I fill in the box with whatever letter or blend we are studying at the time.  I provide a POETRY RECORDING SHEET for students to use.  However, blank or lined paper could suffice.

As my students' capabilities grow, so do the requirements of the task cards.

These task cards are appropriate for emergent readers.  I have also used them with reluctant, older readers.  

For students with advanced reading & writing skills, I start with more difficult tasks and build from there.

For upper grade and/or advanced students, the task cards require more.

In my next post, I'll describe POETRY LEARNING CENTERS that focus on poetic structures, elements, and writing.

If you like my poetry task cards, you can find them at my TN Shop or in my TpT Store.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


It’s about time, teachers, that we covered poetry literacy centers.  I {heart} centers that have high interest for the kids and low effort for me.  That doesn’t happen overnight, but you can start to establish a poetry center and train you students to use it.  Then all you have to do is swap the poems and a few supplies.

Poems placed at the center must be familiar to the children.  You are just inviting problems if you post an unfamiliar poem.  Through shared reading, your students should have a clear understanding of the poem’s meaning or essence.  During those reads, ensure that your students understand the vocabulary and have sufficient background knowledge.  Ideally, the poem will be one that everyone can read independently.  If that is not possible, and I don’t believe it always IS possible, have a system whereby those who can’t read it can readily find a helper.

Poems placed at the center are in several forms:  individual copies for the students’ anthologies, an enlarged or poster version, and sentence strips with the poem copied on them.  A pocket chart is available for the latter.  Whisper phones are there, as well.

Have supplies available at the center so that students need not travel back to their desks to fetch them.  You will likely need scissors, pencils, erasers, crayons, colored pencils, and/or markers.  I also place a 3 hole punch at my center for students to use since we collect our poetry in 3 ring binders.

There are myriad activities for students to pursue.  As you can well imagine, the activities available at any one time, are limited and variable.  Following is an eclectic list of those activities:
          Read the poem with a buddy (EEKK)        
          Find rhyming words & highlight them
          Illustrate the poem
          Find patterns in the poem
          Identify word wall words in the poem & highlight or make a list
          Highlight words that are hard or tricky
          Complete a poetry Cloze exercise (fill in the missing words)
          Make a bookmark based on the poem
          Read with expression/read the punctuation
          Build poems from sentence strips
Create poetry with magnetic poem kits
          Memorize a poem
Perform a poem

Another set of activities at the poetry center is based on language arts skills.  The poetry center can reinforce skills currently under study or review some previously taught.  Some skill lessons to consider include:
          Rhyming words
          Onsets and rimes
          High frequency words
          Spelling list words
Vowel sounds   
Blends and clusters
Base words
Prefixes and suffixes
Rules of grammar
Parts of speech
Homonyms, synonyms, antonyms, homophones

For higher performing students in the early grades, as well as students in middle and upper grades, additional activities may focus on the craft of poetry.  Such activities include:
          Make text innovations
          Compose a poem
          Identify elements of a poem
          Explore figurative language
          Compare 2 poems using a Venn diagram or a T-chart
          Write a response to the poem
          Conduct an author study on the poet

In my next post, I will explore some of the activities in more depth.

You may also be interested in:

All of these products are available in my TpT Store or my TN Shop.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


It's about time, teachers, to explore more possibilities for using poetry in the classroom. One of the chief reasons I like to use poetry for grammar lessons is that the subject of the lesson is usually quite obvious in the poem.  For example, the following poem practically begs you to teach punctuation. 

How many punctuation marks you focus on depends entirely on the age and learning stage of your students.  You can see how easy it is to focus on a particular punctuation mark in this poem.  If you are lucky enough to have a smart board, this becomes an interactive lesson.  If, like me, you do not have that resource, you can copy the poem on chart paper and let the students interact with that copy. 

A focus on punctuation in poetry also provides a wonderful opportunity to teach your students to “read the punctuation.”  Modeling the expression punctuation calls for is an invaluable aid to teaching fluent reading.  In fact, reading poetry is the #1 way to improve fluency!

The following poem is one I like to use when studying verbs.  It has a nice variety of action words and I love to point out the verbs the poet chose to use in place of some “tired” ones.

A bonus with this poem is the extensive use of personification.  While you may not think a lesson on personification is appropriate for 1st graders, in order to truly understand the poem, your students will need to realize that the “I” in the poem is the March wind.  Obviously, for older students, personification is an appropriate lesson and is beautifully illustrated in this poem.

Virtually every poem has a grammar lesson hiding in it, just waiting to jump out at you.  All that’s required is to start looking at poems differently.  Try using fresh eyes to identify possible grammar lessons in this poem:

How did you do?  Here some teaching points I found:

1. The importance of using capital letters for months of the  year; how hard would it be to understand this poem if it didn’t have a capital M on the name of the month?
2. Homonyms could be studied starting with merry/marry/Mary and/or I/eye/aye.
3. The vowel digraph /ay/ is plentiful in this poem.  You may want to make an anchor chart for this digraph.  Extend the learning by including other digraphs for the long a sound.
4. Review punctuation and “reading the punctuation.”  The hyphen may be new to your students.  This is a perfect vehicle for studying it.
5. Identify parts of speech: nouns, verbs, pronouns, adjectives…

Be sure to hop back soon for more ideas about using poetry in the classroom.

You can find more possibilities for teaching with poetry in --

Sunday, May 13, 2012


It's about time, teachers, to describe more ways I use poetry in the classroom . . .

Poetry is absolutely wonderful for phonics instruction.  Consider the following poem:

By drawing your students’ attention to the rhyming words at the end of the lines, you can quickly establish an understanding of rimes.  For example, dressed rhymes with best.  The rime, however, is spelled quite differently.  Similarly, cheer and hear illustrate 2 rime spellings for the same phoneme.  

Certainly, phonemic instruction with poems is not limited to rimes. I use the following poem to focus on vowel sounds:             

I’m a big fan of anchor charts that remind students of phonemes we have studied.  Using an enlarged copy of the poem, I ask the children to find words with the long /e/ sound.  We record them on a chart.  Then I have them find the words with the short /e/ sound and we record those words.  We collaborate to add more words to each side of the chart and, thereby, extend the learning.

/ea/ as long e
/ea/ as short e


I use the following poem to work on consonant blends.

Given the number of times it appears in this poem, /wh/ would likely be the focus of my instruction.  

Hopefully, it is now clear that the possibilities for phonics instruction are nearly limitless!

Building on phonemic awareness naturally leads to another important reading skill – using the context.  The following poem is great for exploring the sounds of /ow/:

After conducting a guided reading lesson on the 2 sounds of the vowel digraph /ow/ and making an anchor chart,

/ow/ as in know
/ow/ as in cow

I have the perfect opportunity to introduce or review using the context to decide which sound of /ow/ is appropriate.

Next time, I will explore grammar lessons that can be taught through poetry.

If you would like more ideas for teaching with poetry, you may be interested in:

Friday, May 11, 2012


It’s about time, teachers, to describe more ways I use poetry in the classroom.  
Poetry lends itself to guided reading lessons so seamlessly.  In my previous post, I referred to using poetry to teach compound words.  The following poem is one I use for compound word study.

Depending on the students, this poem can launch a study of compound words, or allow them to review that concept.  For first graders, I begin by having the students identify words they believe to be compounds, after explaining what compound words are.  For older students, I might challenge them to highlight all the compound words they can find.  (Using a pencil is a good idea in case they mistake a polysyllabic word for a compound.) 

For young learners, one of the most dramatic ways to explain compound words is to write some on sentence strips and then cut them apart in front of them.  Using a pocket chart, you can “rejoin” and “separate” the words until the concept is clear.  This is also effective in showing them why some words may sound like compound words, but actually are not. 

Using an example from the poem above, “middle” may seem like a compound word to emergent readers.  However, when you cut it apart, it becomes clear that it is not, in fact, 2 smaller words.  A bit trickier is “carrot.”  When cut in two, it certainly appears that it is composed of car + rot.  Understanding that the compound word must represent the essence of its components can be tricky.  Carrot, however, is in no way representative of a rotting car. 

In my next post, I’ll describe skill lessons that poetry readily proffers.

If you like this, you may be interested in:


Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Recently, I was asked to describe how I use poetry in my classroom.  I guess it’s about time that I explain that.  Let me begin by saying that I {heart} poetry.  I read it.  I write it.  I teach it.  I love every kind of poetry from nursery rhymes to sonnets, with one exception: Beowulf.  Just couldn’t embrace that one way back in high school.

Bringing my love of poetry to the classroom is natural and no timeline or common schedule will stop me from teaching with poetry.  You see, you can work on Common Core Standards while teaching with poetry.  In fact, I believe poetry can make many lessons easier than prose because…

  • Poetry is fun.  It’s fun to listen to and fun to read.  Poetry with rhythm and rhyme is simply engaging for children.
  • Poetry uses an economy of words.  Thus, it looks different.  When I was teaching Title I, my students really brightened up when I presented a poem rather than prose.  I have no empirical data to support this, but I believe it was because that economy of words and the extended white spaces made the reading less intimidating. 
  • When teaching with rhymed poetry, the rhyme pattern makes the reading at least somewhat predictable.  Young children crave and thrive on predictability.
  • The structure of poetry makes it ever so much easier to teach concepts and skills.  If, for example, you wanted to teach compound words, finding them in a poem is much easier than searching through a page of prose.
  • Whether it’s because of the condensed message, or the engaging lilt of a poem, or both, I believe comprehension is easier for struggling or beginning readers.
Undoubtedly, I could extend this list of reasons, but the purpose of this blog message is to describe how I use poetry to teach.  So, let me begin by saying that poetry appreciation is NOT my primary focus.  When presented with enthusiasm, students will naturally come to appreciate verse (unless, of course, it’s Beowulf!)

That said, I consider the anthologies we construct throughout the year to be a form of poetry appreciation.  My Title I students certainly prized their anthologies and would practically hound me for reassurance that they could, indeed, take their anthologies home at the end of the year to keep forever. 

We collect our poems in 3 ring binders.  I keep the binders on a bookshelf when we are not actively using them.  This keeps them from being gobbled up by the messy desk gnomes and reduces the chaos in those desks.  It also sends a subtle message that poetry is special.

I try to add at least 1 poem per week to our anthologies.  Frequently, we add more, or at least some students do as we use poetry in small group instruction.  The pride with which they fetch their anthologies convinces me that my students have a love for poetry.  Then again, it could be the thrill of using the 3 hole paper punch to prepare them for the notebooks.

In general, I photocopy the poems we put in the anthologies, rather than asking the students to copy them in their own handwriting.  This reflects a respect for the timelines I am expected to follow.  As a reading specialist, I simply didn’t have the time to ask my students to copy a poem.  Moreover, some kiddos can’t read their own writing.

In a similar vein, much of the poetry has clip art on it.  Again, this expresses respect for teaching time.  Nevertheless, those little first graders still want to know when they can color the pictures.  (That, BTW, is a great activity for my students when weather does not allow them to go out to play at lunch recess.)  Some poetry, however, is art free.  There are poems that just demand to be illustrated by the students.  Those illustrations can tell me something about the accuracy of their comprehension. 

Collecting poetry in anthologies is just 1 component of poetry’s role in my classroom.   In my next post, I will describe using poetry in guided reading groups.

If you like to use poetry in the classroom, you may be interested in: