There tends to be two types of teachers when it comes to poetry. Ones who love it and bring it into the classroom freely and often. Then there are others who stay clear. This may be because they don’t think it fits with the curriculum and what they are teaching. They may not “have time” to fit it in. Or they may not enjoy poetry themselves and this prevents them from introducing it in the classroom.
If the love is not there *yet* for you, I give you this challenge. Give it a try! Open a book of poems. Read the odd poem to your class. Find a poem that goes along with your classroom theme and share. Ask children about their experiences with poetry and how it makes them feel.
Poetry has a place in our curriculum. It can be taught as part of reading, writing, and language lessons and it fits easily into classroom themes, projects, and celebrations. It can add additional value to our studies. Poem of the week activities can be easily implemented to strengthen language arts lessons.
This post includes 5 reasons to teach poetry in the classroom. If you are a poetry advocate already, I hope you gain some additional insight and ideas to strengthen your program. If you are reluctant to teach poetry, I encourage you to read the reasons why and to find out for yourself. The reasons listed, as well as FREE activities to try, will help guide you in the right direction!
1. Build Reading, Speaking, & Listening Skills
Children need to learn to read a variety of text and poems are one of those forms. The special thing about poetry is that it is often read aloud, repeated often, and shared in groups. When children are listening to poems being read orally, they are building their listening skills. They learn to attend to the words they hear and to think about what those words mean together.
When poems are shared in a classroom, they are often looked at and read together. Children are strengthening their reading skills and build reading fluency through repeated reading. The dots are being connected in a child’s brain when they see it, hear it, and say it aloud. Children begin to hear the rhythms and rhyme present in poems. Reading fluency develops as poems are practiced and read many times. Rachel Clarke says “As teachers when we use poetry with children we are modeling how to read it, building familiarity with it, and widening children’s reading horizons,”
Reading comprehension also results through discussions about meaning, connecting, and visualizing. Encourage children to visualize the poem as it is being read aloud. They can draw a picture or think quietly about what they hear. Ask children to share what they think a poem is about or what they think a word or line means. Naturally, children will connect to what they hear. Ask children to share their connections to their own experiences.
2. Explore Language & Vocabulary
Poetry provides teachers with a special tool. A tool that can be broken down and evaluated in parts. A tool that can use used to teach many literacy skills.
Poetry often contains words that rhyme for effect. Children can learn about phonics and letter sounds by listening for and locating rhyming words. A poem can be used to teach sentence structure, parts of speech, and many grammar skills. Teaching grammar in engaging ways can be a struggle. Poetry can help!
Poetry builds vocabulary. Children are exposed to words they have not heard before and they hear them in context. Discuss new words with children and ask them to point out ones they are hearing for the first time. This provides a venue for ELL learners to learn and build language. Not only are children hearing new words, they are learning how words are chosen for effect and to create imagery.
Explore a poem of the week during a class meeting. Encourage children with activities such as locating sight words, finding new words, or focus on a particular skill you are teaching in class. Poetry Mats are a valuable resource for practicing many skills. Poetry offers a way to teach that is memorable and motivational. The opportunities to learn through poetry is endless!
3. Inspire Writing
Learning how poems are constructed and the words they contain is the first step to writing. Different types of poems have different components. In poetry, we learn how to put words together to form meaning and context. We learn how to choose the right words to create imagery and effect.
When we break poems down into their parts, we learn a lot about how writing comes together. We learn how to follow a pattern and put words in a certain order. The simple patterns found in some poems are fun to follow and great places for children to start learning to write. Writing poetry is a transferable skill that will help children write in other ways and styles.
Start teaching poetry to children early as they begin to learn to write. A good poetry writing unit includes planning and brainstorming activities, templates to practice and write, and ways to display poetry. Start by teaching simple poetry forms that follow a pattern and that children can easily connect to. Try these free lessons as a fun start: acrostic poetry, shape poetry, autobiography poetry.
4. Encourage Creative Thinking
Poetry is a form of expression. Writing it lets us get out our feelings and thoughts on a subject while, reading it encourages us to connect and find meaning in our experiences.
Poetry can have a positive impact on the social and emotional learning of children. It may offer them a new way of thinking about something. It can put things into words that children may not know how to express otherwise. Poetry encourages children to express themselves and their feelings.
Jeanette Winterson, a poet and writer, once said “It isn’t a hiding place. It is a finding place.” Poetry inspires children’s imaginations to run wild.
5. Build a Love for Reading
As children learn to read, they should be exposed to a variety of styles and types of text. As teachers, we want them to love the act of reading and what they read as they learn. Learning to read can be hard work and the books children learn first often lack that unique ingredient. Poetry is different. It has that special sauce that children crave and so much more!
Children have a natural curiosity to foster and encourage with poetry. It creates enchantment and wonder in a child’s mind. Poems encourage kids to imagine new worlds and experiences.
Poetry is great to share with children, but also have available for them to them to choose and read independently. Poems provide enjoyment and laughter. Poems are engaging and fun to read! They encourage kids to move with the rhythms they hear and add actions.
Teach poetry to children otherwise, they may miss out on it completely. Children tend not to choose books of poems to read if they haven’t been exposed before. Break this barrier and share it with them. Build the love for poetry together!
The following resources can be easily integrated into the primary classroom and into any language arts curriculum. Each offers a wealth of engaging poems and activities to build a ton of skills and a love of poetry!
Children’s Poetry Books
It is important to find great examples of poems to share with children. Jack Prelutsky, Dennis Lee (a Canadian poet fav), Dr. Seuss, and Shel Silverstein are a few amazing authors who have written a variety of poetry and books for children. I guarantee if you share any of the selections below you will build a love of poetry that will last a lifetime!
FREE Poetry Mats
Click the image below to download a FREE sample poem and activities from on Poetry Mats!