More poetry, please.

How often do you  read a poem to your class?  Daily? Weekly? Less frequently?

A  good poem offers so much pleasure : that feeling of awe when reading a poem that expresses a complex idea with incredible economy of language; the unforgettable imagery with which a feeling is conveyed; the  clever use of an extended metaphor; the comfort of re-reading a well-loved poem; the joy of sharing quotes with someone else …

These are fairly sophisticated responses to poetry, granted, but even quite young children enjoy rhyme and rhythm, and the sounds created by alliteration and assonance.  They enjoy the way in which poetry can tell stories, make them laugh, and create pictures and ideas.

As short texts, poems offer many learning opportunities in the primary classroom. Students can

  • practise using reading strategies to construct meaning – visualising, predicting, using language clues, making inferences …. (Poems are effective texts to use as part of a literacy lesson.)
  • learn the necessary metalanguage to be able to talk about the features of a poem and how a poem differs from other texts. (Develop and extend student vocabulary.)
  • learn to recognise various poetic forms such as haiku, limerick, shape poems and free verse.
  • learn to recognise different rhyming patterns. (But also be sure to show students poems that don’t rhyme.)
  • notice how punctuation is an important way of constructing meaning in a poem. (Reading poems aloud helps to demonstrate the importance of punctuation. Remove the punctuation and see how much more difficult it is to understand the poem.)
  • learn about figures of speech and discuss their effectiveness.  (Move on from identification to analysis.)
  • learn about grammar by analysing the poet’s choice of, for example, nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs. (Why does the poet choose this word rather than another?  What would change if he had chosen a different word?)
  • share and discuss with partners and groups. (Encourage students to express and support their opinions of the poem.)
  • create their own written, artistic, musical, digital or oral responses to a poem.
  • write their own poem, using another as a model or inspiration. (Move on from acrostics and diamond poems.)

But don’t always make a poem the basis of a lesson.  If you have a few minutes before the bell rings, or you want to settle the children between activities, simply share a poem with the class.  Do this regularly, express your own enthusiasm, and children will soon be interested in further exploration.

Display short poems around the classroom and invite children to display their favourites, too.  Make poetry an integral part of the classroom experience.

Here is an excellent source of poems for students in years 3 – 5, with lots of ideas and links to further resources.

Start enjoying!