Poetry: the best words in the best order.
-Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Guest Post by Debbie Linville

At the most basic level, literary works are categorized as either poetry or prose. April is National Poetry Month; therefore, it is the perfect opportunity to liberally sprinkle the curriculum with an abundance of poetry reading and poetry writing. Besides the fact that poetry crosses all genres and content area topics, making it the smart choice to bridge ELA and content area standards, children love poems

Nursery rhymes, finger plays, jump rope songs, and hand clapping games - the rhythmical, rhyming, and succinct messages are irresistible to children and help explain why beloved classics stand the test of time...  

Hey diddle diddle
The cat and the fiddle...

The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the waterspout
Down came the rain and washed the spider out...

Cinderella, dressed in yellow
Went upstairs to kiss a fella’…

Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack
All dressed in black, black, black…

Prose is a plentiful classroom staple easily spotted on bookshelves and in the hands of teachers and children alike, but poetry does not always boast the same level of prominence. Take a peek at your classroom library and if you find that poetry offerings are scarce, begin growing your inventory with a few titles each year. Collecting titles by these top ten children’s poets (as shared by an article on PBS) is a great place to start!

  • Shel Silverstein
  • Jack Prelutsky
  • Kenn Nisbett 
  • Jon Scieszka
  • Roald Dahl
  • Paul Janeczko
  • Marilyn Singer
  • Sharon Creech
  • Allan Ahlberg
  • Barry Louis Polisar

A couple of terrific online resources for poetry collection suggestions are Children’s Poet Laureate Recommendations (monthly recommendation for children’s poetry) and NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry.

In addition to purchasing or borrowing titles to make poetry more accessible in your classroom, there are many wonderful online resources:

Poetry Foundation Videos - Listen and watch poetry come alive!
Poem-a-Day - Sign up to receive one selected poem each day.
The Children’s Poetry Archive - Listen to children’s poets read and discuss their poems.

Research supports listening to/reading poetry as a way to enhance early reading success and increase student engagement. There is equally compelling data to promote writing poetry toward the goal of supporting proficient readers, writers, and thinkers! Love That Dog by Sharon Creech provides a great introduction to poetry. Creech utilizes a diary format to chronicle young Jack’s transformation from a boy who wants nothing to do with reading and writing poetry (“I don’t want to because boys don’t write poetry. Girls do.”) to his realization that not only is reading poetry enjoyable (“That was the best, best, BEST poem you read yesterday.”), but writing poetry has the capacity to heal painful memories. This text will surely foster grand conversations!

Be purposeful in selecting poems to share with students.  Not only can poetry enhance and extend curriculum, support reading and writing, promote community as rehearsed poems are shared, and optimally fill those spare minutes during transition time, but poems can serve as mentors to inspire and guide young poets. A few of the easiest styles of poems to write are the concrete poem, the list poem, and the acrostic.

Short on time and ideas for weaving engaging poetry offerings into the curriculum? Check out these bookmark-worthy websites for poetry lesson plans, activities, and resources:

It is always important to provide an authentic purpose and audience for child authors. The same holds true for child poets. During April there are many opportunities to write, publish, and share poetry far beyond the classroom walls. One inexpensive, fun, and easy way to bring a smile to the face of both the poetry giver and the poetry receiver is to participate in the national Poem in Your Pocket Day (April 30, 2015).  While students can certainly read widely and select that “perfect” poem to share with others, how much more rewarding to pen their own!

A poet is not something you become. A poet is something you are.
-Jack Prelutsky

About the Author: Dr. Linville has been teaching for over 30 years and her passion is enabling educators to promote the proficient, joyful reading and writing lives of children.

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