Poetry should be fun for students and it's our job as teachers to help students love the sound of written language. We model our passion through our lessons, memories from our childhood, and our enthusiasm. I remember my dad reciting Lewis Carroll's "The Walrus and the Carpenter" word for word...the whole thing! I was amazed and it soon became a poem I could recite and fall in love with as well. My students were amazed that I, too, could recite much of the poem from memory.
Here are some tips to get you started teaching poetry in your classroom!
Tip #1: Start by reading your own favorite poem to students. It helps them see that you enjoy poetry, and that they, too, can enjoy poetry. If you don't have a favorite, Shel Silverstein is great poet to begin with, because 4th graders love the humor and can relate to the poems. Make sure to read the poem with great intonation and emotion. It will really hook them. When you've finished reading the poem, talk about the mood, the speaker in the poem, the setting and the problem in the poem. Then you can challenge students to find the figurative language. Once you've done all of this, re-read the poem so your students can see the poem from a whole new perspective.
Not sure which poems to read? Here is a list of some of my favorite poems:
"Sick" by Shel Silverstein
"Sarah Cynthia Silvia Stout" by Shel Silverstein
"The Giving Tree" by Shel Silverstein
"Paul Revere's Ride" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
"The Walrus and the Carpenter" by Lewis Carroll
"Sneezles" by A.A. Milne
"The Owl and the Pussycat" by Edward Lear
"Wynken, Blyken, and Nod" by Eugene Field
"Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" by Jane Taylor
Tip #3: Introduce different forms of poems. This allows you to teach about the rules of poetry. For example: Haikus have a very specific 5, 7, 5 syllable rule that must be followed, while other poems simply use rhyming words, while others have no form at all. Challenge students to find the rule that is followed within each poem.
Tip #4: Introduce the vocabulary of poetry. This will really help students understand what they are reading and learning about. Try using an interactive notebook to engage kids even more. If you are searching for something to get you started, check out this interactive notebook of figurative language. Students also love reference posters that are posted on a word wall for easy reference. Last but not least, let students play a game to learn the vocabulary of poetry. Students don''t even realize how much they are learning when they see how fun Cootie Catcher Vocab is!!
Tip #5: Let students try their hand at writing poetry! I know it sounds crazy, but you will be surprised. Give students the reins, and let them write about whatever interests them. I think you will be surprised at how much students take ownership of writing poems, and find their own style, even the boys! Not sure where to start? This 6 week poetry unit gives you all that you need to introduce poetry writing, guidelines, templates, poetry outlines, templates, and so much more!
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