When children hear, write, and recite poetry, they understand more deeply the qualities of verse — the importance of sound, compactness, internal integrity, imagination and line. Working collaboratively on poetry provides a safe structure for student creativity.
Using resources available through EDSITEment, make poetry exciting for your students as they listen to, write and recite poems that are sure to please.
Recommended poetry read-alouds
Recommended picture books for inspiring art and poetry
Review each lesson in this unit and select archival materials you'd like to use in class. Bookmark these materials, along with other useful websites, if possible; download and print out selected documents and duplicate copies as necessary for student viewing.
The poetry templates used in this lesson (Activity 2) are also available from EDSITEment in .pdf format. You may wish to download the templates and make copies for students to use in their individual or group work on poems; you could also copy the templates onto overhead film and display them for writing poetry as a whole class.
The collaborative writing of a class poem is a non-threatening approach for introducing students to poetry writing. Students contribute one sentence or less, yet feel the pride of accomplishing an entire poem.
Poetry can be an exciting classroom activity when poems remain the center of the learning. Focus on the poem itself, rather than generalizations about the nature of poetry. The activities to follow allow for many teachable moments of content about poetry (rhyme, meter, form). Only you can determine what is most appropriate for your class.
While conducting this unit, you will serve as a model for your students by reading poems with enthusiasm and understanding, contributing to the writing of poems, and remaining actively involved in the design of the class's poetry recitations. Your interest and personal touch will help engage and motivate students to appreciate and enjoy poetry.
This lesson plan offers a variety of activities and resources (including links to child-friendly poems available online and recommendations of useful books) to enable you to locate material appropriate for your class. Using a variety of poems will encourage students to form their own relationship with the genre of poetry. Given the great variety of poems and poetry-writing techniques offered, as well as the unpredictable nature of student responses, remain flexible, but focused as you present this lesson to students.
Poems appeal to the senses. Involving the senses as part of your teaching strategy will increase the likelihood of appealing to students with a variety of learning styles and abilities. When the students come in from the rain, read "Weather" by Eve Merriam. Use R.L. Stevenson's "Block City" after the students have been working with blocks.
Look for opportunities to create poetry assignments around curriculum content. For example, one "rule" for a collaborative poem could be, "Write a line with a vocabulary word from our reading lesson."
Geared to the primary grades, Wishes, Lies, and Dreams, by Kenneth Koch (Harper Perennial Library, 2000; ISBN 0060955090), offers a much more complete investigation of class collaborations than is possible here, plus many assignment suggestions and examples of student work.
Begin the unit by reading poems aloud to the class, one or more per day for a few days. This reading can be done during the traditional story time or whenever appropriate. When you read a poem for the first time, students should simply listen. If desired, use a motivator — a read aloud, a picture, an experience — to establish an anticipatory set. If you plan to pass out copies of a poem, wait until after the first reading and the brief discussion that follows.
Read each poem at least twice. In classes with strong volunteer readers, encourage students to read small sections of the piece to create a second reading (or third, if the poem is brief and a second reading by you is most appropriate). Different voices will bring something different to each reading.
After the first reading, ask students to tell what they noticed about the poem. What word or lines "jumped out" at them? All answers are correct; students are simply telling what happened to them as they listened to the poem. When appropriate, students can be asked to hypothesize why particular elements were memorable. Look for teachable moments here, but be brief and to the point.
Should a student cite "checkerberry cheddar chew" from Jack Prelutsky's "Bleezer's Ice Cream" as memorable, you might point out the "ch" sound that begins each word. In some classrooms, it might be appropriate to add that poets call such patterns alliteration. The best terms to introduce are those that will make discussing poetry easier. Use these terms yourself when you talk about poetry. Keep enjoyment of the poem itself the top priority.
Before the second reading, if desired, ask the class to listen for something in particular, especially an element brought into the discussion by a student. For example, if someone had pointed to a funny line, ask the students to listen for other lines they think are funny.
After the second reading, ask the students what they notice or remember this time. If you asked the class to listen for something specific, find out what students noticed.
The following books contain poems ideal for reading aloud in class. The books listed in the Other Resources section also contain poems suitable for reading aloud.
The following poems, available online through EDSITEment resource The Academy of American Poets, were written specifically for young people or have been traditional staples in the elementary classroom. Choose poems appropriate to your particular group.
Other recommendations may be found at:
Streaming audio/video recitations of the following poems are available on The Favorite Poem Project, a link from the EDSITEment resource Internet Public Library. All the videos are available on this page.
After a few days, begin the poetry writing and recitation activities that follow; continue to introduce poems to the class throughout the year.
Writing sessions should be based on a model poem, read aloud to the class as in Activity 1. (Note: Poetry templates included in this lesson are also available on EDSITEment in .pdf format; download the Adobe Acrobat Reader) The model should suggest a starting "rule" (or rules) for individual lines of poetry, which will be composed by each member of the class. The class can add to the rule, as desired. For example, if the model poem dictates that each line must contain a color followed by the word "as" and a comparison, the class might add that the color should refer to something in the classroom. The result might be something like this:
Our reading couch is as green as a Sour Apple Jolly Rancher.
Assignments can also be completed independently by able individuals. In such cases, the assignment "Write a poetry line that includes a color followed by the word 'as' and a comparison" might become instead: "Write a poem in which almost every line includes a color followed by the word 'as' and a comparison. Locate the poem in a familiar place."
Collect the individual lines from students, put them in order — randomly or intentionally — and read the poem aloud as a whole. Discourage students from changing other students' lines, but allow authors to change their own lines, if desired. The poem can be revised with additions and/or order changes. For example, ask the students to suggest one more line to serve as an ending. Whenever practical, include student work in the poetry recitation activities in Activity 3.
For classes in which students cannot write their own lines, consider "buddying up" with an older class. Students can dictate lines or poems that their buddies can write down.
Where students are writing independently, maintain folders of their work for use in a class poetry reading and/or anthology.
The following poems, available on the EDSITEment resource The American Academy of Poets unless otherwise noted, are suitable to use as writing models. Assignment ideas are included.
Some additional ideas:
As your students continue to hear and write poetry throughout the year, give them opportunities to participate in recitations by the whole class, small groups or individuals. "Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices," by Paul Fleischman, written for students age 9 to 12, serves as a terrific model for choral reading of poems.
The following poems, all available on EDSITEment-reviewed websites, work well as group recitations. Make sure the title and author are always recognized as part of a recitation.
Other poems that work well for group recitation include:
Once the class has experience with recitation, put together a class poetry reading for an audience. Use a mix of student-written poems along with professional work. To maintain variety, employ a range of recitation strategies, with individual, small- and large-group recitations, and some occasional dramatic renderings in which students act out the text or strike poses to demonstrate specific sections.
Recommended poetry read-alouds
Recommended picture books for inspiring art and poetry
3-4 class periods