Poetry Read-alouds

For Upper Elementary Students

Upper elementary students can tackle more complex poetic forms, pay more attention to craft techniques, and relate what they see in poetry to what they’ve studied in Language Arts—simile, metaphor, alliteration, personification, point-of-view, etc. They may also be ready to appreciate more serious poems and poems written about topics in content areas such as science or math.

Use TeachersFirst’s keyword search to find ideas for poetry lessons and activities in all grades or narrow the grade range with the pulldowns. Here is a sample search for “poetry lesson” in grades K-12. Our lesson on figurative language (gr 3-5) includes related resources.  You can also find "like" resources specifically for figurative language and other poetry-related “tags” by clicking these at the end of descriptions in TeachersFirst reviews.


Before reading
Survey the class to find out what they already know about poetry and how much experience they’ve had writing it in the lower grades. Introduce vocabulary that will be important in your unit. Include words for crafting poetry as well as the words for the poetic forms you’d like to explore.

Turn the students loose in the 800’s section of your library. Let them choose a variety of poetry to have in the classroom library for a few weeks. Encourage reading the poems independently, sharing them, responding to them in a writer’s notebook, trading with others, practicing several for performance pieces, etc.


After reading
Look for opportunities to get outdoors or provide sensory experiences for students to write from.

Consider some healthy competition, either among poems (which published poems are most popular in our class?) or among poetry performances. Jonah Salsich gives directions here for a Poetry Madness “competition” that’s reminiscent of March Madness in basketball, complete with the Final Four.

Stage a poetry reading during a lunch time or in the evening. Bring out the round tables, the linens, maybe some candlelight, and celebrate your students’ voices!

Have students try their hand at fridge magnetic poetry. They can email their creations to three friends. Fun!


A Kick in the Head: an Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms. (selected by Paul B. Janeczko)ISBN: 076360662-6.
Twenty-nine different poetic forms are showcased here! Couplets, tercets, senryu, clerihew, double dactyls, roundels, etc. are shown (in groups of two or three) and then briefly explained in the back of the book. Even your most reluctant poets can find a form that they can have success with!

A Poke in the I: a Collection of Concrete Poems. (selected by Paul B. Janeczko) ISBN: 0-329-41368-6.
Sometimes called shape poems, this collection shows many clever ways words have been arranged to reflect the topic. Visual thinkers and graphic artists will enjoy this.

Fletcher, Ralph A Writing Kind of Day: Poems for Young Poets. ISBN: 1-59078-276-3.
Older students will definitely see themselves in the narrator of these poems. Fletcher reflects on parts of speech, writer’s block, five-paragraph essays, metaphor, the creative process, etc. The message here? Poems can have layers of meaning; it’s the emotion that counts.

Harley, Avis. Sea Stars: Saltwater Poems. ISBN: 978-1-59078-429-7.
Inspired by Margaret Butschler’s lush photography of marine life, Harley created short poems in a number of styles (haiku, tanka, acrostic). Use with Yolen’s book (below) as a jumping off place for students to start with an image and sthen create poems.

The Place my Words are Looking For: What Poets Say about and Through their Work (selected by Paul B. Janeczko). ISBN:0-02-747671-5
Thirty-nine amazing poets have some of their work represented here. Besides some excellent examples of poetry for your students, the book also gives a glimpse into the process poets use. Each poet reflects in a few paragraphs about their writing, or the back story of the poem that’s represented.

Prelutsky, Jack. If Not for the Cat. ISBN: 0-06-059678-3.
Rich vocabulary abounds in this collection of haiku poems about different animals. Great to reinforce how important it is to use just the right word, especially when economy of words (and syllables!) is so important.

Raczka, Bob. Lemonade: and other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word. ISBN: 978-1-59643-541-4.
Fun to read, and challenging to write, these short poems all tell a story using only words spelled with the letters used in the topic/title. Nice introduction by the author. Students who enjoy word play will love this one!

Sidman, Joyce. Butterfly Eyes and other Secrets of the Meadow. ISBN: 978-0618-56313-5.
This book (and the selection below by the same author) is a great example of integrating poetry into the content areas. Sidman writes about the creatures of the meadow and the pond in poems that truly celebrate the habitat and all of its sights and sounds. Interspersed with the poems are scientific facts and beautiful scratchboard and woodcut illustrations by Beckie Prange and Beth Krommes.

Sidman, Joyce. Songs of the Water Boatman and other Pond Poems. ISBN: 978-0-618-13547-9.

Singer, Marilyn. Mirror, Mirror: a book of Reversible Verse. ISBN: 978-0-525-47901-7.
Older students can really appreciate this clever collection. Singer uses fairy tales as the basis for her poems and crafts two very different stories using the exact same words in reverse order. Challenge students to name the narrator for each. These would be great performance pieces for a duo.

Whipple, Laura. If the Shoe Fits: Voices from Cinderella. ISBN: 0-689-84070-5.
The poetry in this volume brings to light many aspects of the familiar tale of Cinderella from the point of view of all of its players, right down to the slipper itself! A logical extension would be to have students create similar assortments of poems from other familiar tales, or books from their Literature Circles or Readers Workshop.

Wonderful Words: Poems about Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening. (selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins) ISBN: 0-689-83588-4.
Use this one as an introduction to your unit of study about poetry because it is foremost an homage to words themselves and the magic they create. Individual poems deal with metaphor, punctuation, the writing process, etc.

Worth, Valerie. All the Small Poems and Fourteen More. ISBN: 978-0-329-57336-2.
This book is a wonderful example of the ways poets take ordinary things and experiences and turn them into something extraordinary. Topics include coins, chairs, shoes, garbage, tractor, etc. Great for discussion.

Yolen, Jane. Least things: Poems about Small Natures. ISBN: 1-59078-098-1.
Inspired by a quote about nature from Henry David Thoreau, Yolen teamed up with her photographer son to create haiku poems about “least” things such as snails, crabs, and spiders. Each poem is also accompanied by brief facts about the creature.


For lower elementary students

For middle elementary students

For upper elementary students

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