Lee & Low Webinar: The Power of Poetry with Poet and Storyteller Pat Mora featured tips and strategies about how to use poetry with students in various educational settings. Watch it here:
Poetry Power: Word Play in Schools
Poetry is my favorite genre. I like reading it and writing it and find that, like me when I was young, children of all ages enjoy poetry, especially when it's presented with enthusiasm. For ideas to help introduce your students to poetry's music and fun, consult the various books on the topic. Enjoy Poetry Aloud Here! Sharing Poetry with Children in the Library by one of my favorite poetry champions for young people, Dr. Sylvia Vardell. Another good resource for including poetry in your planning is Give Them Poetry! A Guide for Sharing Poetry with Children K-8 by Glenna Sloan. You will find such books full of helpful ideas.
Do you want your students to be better listeners? Try poetry. Do you want your students to be better readers? Try poetry. Better writers? Try poetry. Do you want your students to notice the world around them? You guessed it: try poetry.
Some teachers confide to me that they find poetry intimidating. They have unpleasant memories of having to memorize long poems and of panicking at the question, “What does this poem mean?” They worry that because they don’t write poetry, they can’t teach it.
I’m writing to say: relax and savor the pleasure of word play. We are all born poets. Even before birth, we sense the rhythm of our mother’s heart beat. Our hearts and lungs work rhythmically within us, and the exterior world has its rhythms too—the sun rising and setting, the seasons, the ebb and flow of the sea. And we all know the pleasure of hickety-pickety, hickory/dickory, pig/jig, thumb/plum, or I-do-love-you rhymes.
When I work with writers of any age, I tell them that I experiment with words as I would with finger paint. I encourage them to join me.
into word play and bring your students with you. You will find them quick to create their own listen-to-me poems, “Free, free, free as confetti.” Some teachers read a poem a day; others use the first lines as a prompt for all kinds of discussions in various subject areas. Social studies teachers have students writing poems on historical persons, community, cultures, cities, states, our global connections. Science teachers re-enforce concepts by having students write poems on animals, habitat, weather, space, sound, and the color spectrum. Poems can be integrated with the math curriculum by inviting students to write about shapes and numbers.
In language arts, students pattern their poems on poems in their books, try poems in different forms and voices, create their own books, illustrate their work or present it as a choral reading or in dramatic form. Students set poems to music and dance their poems. They create anthologies on a theme as we did in Love to Mamá: A Tribute to Mothers. Groups can create poetry book clubs or mother/daughter book clubs.
Celebrations and poetry are fine combinations—poetry and brunch, poetry and dessert. Poems are, of course, natural learning opportunities for holidays and special events.
Students tell me they like to write poems because they can express their feelings. How grand that they’re discovering that aspect of language. Teachers too often write along with their students, discovering that poetry is a source of reflection and experimentation.
Add ZING! to your learning day: explore the power of poetry.