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Friday, October 11, 2019


It's about time, teachers, to explore more possibilities for using poetry in the classroom.  Today's focus is GRAMMAR.

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.  Your grammar lesson can be as simple as identifying the punctuation marks, reviewing the role of these marks, or more in-depth instruction about the correct use of less common punctuation such as dashes and semi-colons.

A focus on punctuation in poetry also provides a wonderful opportunity to teach your students to “read the punctuation.”  Modeling the expression that punctuation invokes is an invaluable aid to teaching fluent reading.  In fact, reading poetry is the #1 way to improve fluency!  When you model reading the punctuation, overemphasize the changes in pace, voice, breath, etc.  By teaching your students to "read the punctuation," you will be enhancing comprehension, too!

Poetry can also be used to study PARTS OF SPEECH.  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…

Check back soon for more ideas about using poetry in the classroom. 

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

POETRY UNIT 100th Day Poetry Activities Poetry Elements Poetry Forms Writing

POETRY TASK CARDS Poetry Unit Poetry Elements Grammar Literacy Centers

POETRY UNIT Fall Activities Poetry Elements Poetry Forms Writing

Friday, October 4, 2019


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, high rhymes with dry.  The rime, however, is spelled quite differently.  Similarly, crawl and fall 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 /a/ sound.  We record them on a chart.  Then I have them find the words with the short /a/ sound and we record those words.  We collaborate to add more words to each side of the chart and, thereby, extend the learning.

The following poem could be used to work on consonant blends.

My learners are asked to look for and circle all the consonant blends they can find.  Students should be reminded that the blends are not limited to the beginning of words.  BTW, I require my students to work in pencil so that mistakes can be corrected.

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

You may be interested in these poetry resources:

Thursday, September 19, 2019


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

Poetry lends itself to guided reading lessons so seamlessly.  Virtually any reading skill can be taught through a poem. The following is one I use for compound word study.

Depending on the students, this poem can launch the study or allow them to review the concept.  For primary students, I begin by demonstrating that compound words can be broken into 2 separate words. 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 the group.  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.  Then we hunt for compound words on an enlarged copy of the poem.

For older students, I would challenge them to highlight all the compound words they can find on their copies of the poem.  Using a pencil, rather than a marker, is a good idea should they mistake a multisyllabic word for a compound. 

Using an example from the poem above, “believe” may seem like a compound word to some readers.  However, when you cut it apart, it becomes clear that it is not, in fact, 2 smaller words. Spelling counts!  (lieve vs leave) 

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

Resources you may like:

Sunday, September 15, 2019


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 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.  While I have no empirical data to support this, 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 prize their anthologies and routinely hound me for reassurance that they will, indeed, take their anthologies home at the end of the year to keep forever. 

We collect our poems in 3 ring binders, aka anthologies.  The binders are stored 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.

At least 1 poem per week is added 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 don’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, students still want to know when they can color the pictures.  (That, BTW, is a great activity 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 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.

Resources you may like:


Tuesday, August 6, 2019



It's about time, teachers,... that I admit I am a word collector. I {heart} words. I {heart} interesting phrases. Although I do not feel a need for an intervention, I will (gulp) admit that as a child I used to read the dictionary.  

This love affair with words has continued throughout my adult life and I strive to share my passion with my students. That is what led me to create a graffiti wall in my writing center.  

My graffiti wall is simply a bulletin board dedicated to posts of interesting words and phrases. Both the students and I can write words on strips of paper and post them on the board. At the beginning of the year, I demonstrate this by extracting words and phrases from our read-alouds to post on the board. Before long, my students are pointing out the words they find interesting. I invite them to copy them and post them on our graffiti wall. Students who "catch my fever" even bring phrases in from home.

I've forged an alliance with the computer teacher to further spur our graffiti. When he introduces fonts to my class, he uses some of our graffiti wall words. Using the SmartBoard, he gives our words "life" by applying cool fonts to them. You should hear the oo-s and ah-s! Naturally, there is a marked increase in graffiti after that lesson!  

As a corollary to our graffiti wall, I have a "tired words" board. We put overworked words to bed and list alternatives on the foot board. I use a blackline picture, allowing a student to color and cut it out before adding it to the  board.

This, too, gains momentum over time. Before the year is over, we have a dormitory of beds with tired words!  

Both of these boards have improved my students' writing markedly. They are easy to accomplish and the payoff is huge. Try it. You'll like it.

Sunday, August 4, 2019


I have 15 boards that are open to new collaborators.  It's easy to join.  Just follow the board(s) and/or me.  Then send me an email with your Pinterest profile name and the board(s) you wish to join.  Easy peasey!