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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

February: Do What You Love

One of the things I love to do with my students is immerse them in poetry because it offers so many teaching possibilities. Naturally you can focus on poetic structures and poetic devices. But have you ever used poetry to teach reading skills? Because poetry is usually short and the message concise, it's a perfect venue for studying vowel sounds, contractions, punctuation, parts of speech, syllables, rimes, inflections, .... The  possibilities are nearly endless. It's always good practice to relate these skills to what is being read. Practicing skills in isolation may transfer to reading skill building; then again it may not.  

Does it sound daunting to combine poetry with ELA skills?  It doesn't have to be. As the ELA coach for my elementary building, I determined that poetry was generally intimidating to my teachers, or at least viewed as a luxury that may not receive much attention. Resolving to change that, I began giving my teachers units of poetry with "possibilities" for using it in the classroom.  Since I work with K-5 teachers and students, these Poetry Possibilities units have applications for all elementary levels.

Poems have reading skills already built into them.  All you have to do is look at it with a "reading skills eye." Thus, if the poem is replete with a particular consonant blend, use it in a guided reading lesson about that blend.  If the poem has a sprinkling of contractions, devise a review lesson about contractions using the poem.  As an example, look at the following poem, noting that it has several compound words in it.

Due to the structure of a poem, it is easier for young children to locate the compound words. If you reproduced this poem on sentence strips for use in a pocket chart, that would facilitate identifying the compound words as a group.  With a little magic and masking tape, you could make the compound words come apart. Alternately, you might focus on the punctuation and how it helps the reader to read with expression and fluency. Or, you might choose to conduct a mini-lesson on contractions. For example, the Possibilities for the above poem include:

If you are interested in more seasonal poems with teaching points and skill suggestions, visit my TpT store here. For February poems and possibilities, I have 3 (!) products: Black History Month Poetry Possibilities, February Poetry Possibilities, and  Poetry Possibilities for Winter.  Another unit, 100th Day of School Poetry Possibilities, is useful this time of year, as well. (Better yet, it's FREE!!) 

As a reading specialist, I highly recommend using poems for guided reading lessons and review lessons.  It has always been a favorite activity of my remedial students if for no other reason than they had less text to conquer.  Just a word of caution: reading poetry is principally about creating enthusiasm for reading.  Take care not to defeat that goal by always turning poetry reading into a skill drill.

As proof of just how much I love teaching with poetry, I present my Poetry Possibilities units:

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