Search This Blog

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:

No comments:

Post a Comment