Common Core Connections: The Power of Poetry
Getting Started: Give Poetry a Place
Assess students' ideas about poetry. What do they already know--or think they know-- about poetry? Does their background include exposure to nursery rhymes, jump-rope chants, and simple songs? These are natural pathways to poetry.
Introduce questions such as:
What is a poem? How are poems different from other things we read?
Why do people write poems? Why do people read poems? Do you know any poems?
Complete an activity that gets students thinking about the vast array of poetry choices. Assemble a large collection of poetry books for them to examine in small groups. Rubber-band “like” books together (books of poems by one author, anthologies, thematic poetry books, etc.) and challenge students to discover why they are banded together. How are they alike? How is one bundle different from another?
Embrace poetry and look for ways to incorporate more of it into your program. For example, poetry can provide mini-breaks during the day as you transition from one thing to another, or experience “wait” time before an event or activity. Anthologies of poetry for children usually include poems with topics such as friendship, seasonal experiences, the weather, food, holidays, etc. so it is easy to find themed poetry to share—at Morning Meeting, calendar time, science, just before or after lunch. Assemble a collection of favorites over time that can be typed, bound, and added to your classroom library, or framed and hung in spots around the room. You could even create a few poetry slides to show as the “standby” screen on your projector or interactive whiteboard before you start a new lesson or as students enter the room from recess. Collect a few class favorites that can reappear like visits from an old friend. Return to these periodically and discuss why they have become class favorites.
Provide lots of poetry in your classroom library. In the same way that you have shifted your instruction to include more informational text, be deliberate in your plans to purchase more poetry anthologies, picture story books set in rhyme, and poetry works by single authors. Scour children’s magazines for single pages of poetry that you can laminate and include in a poetry tub. You will want to be sure to have a variety of poetry types and poetic forms. (Students who only know the humorous work of poets like Jack Prelutsky or Shel Silverstein will need to broaden their scope.)
Find poems about items in your classroom and post them near the item as a way of calling attention to them. Poets take ordinary things and look at them in fresh, new ways. Use books like Valerie Worth's All the Small Poems and Fourteen More and Jane Yolen's Least Things: Poems about Small Natures to expand the way we think about everyday objects, living things, and occurrences.
Experience the joy of poetry using different modalities. Singing, creative movement, drawing and painting can all be ways for students to connect with a poem.
Be sure to provide ways for students to share their thoughts and to make their thinking about poems visible. Remember that students will “dig deeper” in a social context as they discuss interpretations with peers, an important speaking and listening skill. Model for students how to hold meaningful discussions with partners, giving open prompts such as “It made me think of,” “It made me feel,” “I didn't understand,” etc. Provide older students with poetry response journals in which they collect words and phrases that stood out for them. Encourage them to “lift a line” and free-write about it, to ask questions about confusing parts, to express feelings and personal connections, perhaps to try writing their own poem. Younger students might draw in the margins of poem copies, create mind pictures of what a poem helps them to visualize, and share sticky notes of portions that demonstrate sensory words or feeling words. Thoughts can be shared on T-charts, Venn diagrams, and graphic organizers.