Problem: I would love to study poetry with my class but I’m not sure how to go about it.
Solution: Read on! Here is a way to structure a week-long study of poetry:
Preparation – Choose a few poems for you kids to work on all week. For 2nd graders I would choose 4 to 7 poems depending on their length. I liked to make copies and give each student a packet so they could underline and make other marks on the poems. Make note of vocabulary words used in the poems that your students might not be familiar with. I found it was helpful to make a simple Powerpoint slide show with these words, their definitions and a picture cue.
Monday – Read each poem aloud to your class so they can sit back and enjoy them. You can choose to talk about new vocabulary words before or after reading the poems. I like to have students go through and underline the new vocab words after we read the poems so we can focus on how those words are used all week.
Tuesday – “Poetic devices” sound intimidating but they’re just the tools that poets use to create meaning and make their poems interesting. Here are a few poetic devices I have found that students can usually handle pretty well:
Choose an appropriate number of poetic devices to introduce to your students based on their age and their amount of experience with poetry. I like to introduce a few of the more basic poetic devices (perhaps line breaks, imagery, and rhythm) the first time we study poetry, and then add on as we revisit poetry later in the year.
Explain the poetic devices that you chose. Then challenge your students to listen for these as they read the poems again.
Read each poem chorally as a class. Stop and identify poetic devices and maybe even mark them with a star.
Wednesday – Remind your students of the poetic devices they just learned yesterday. Read the poems chorally together. Dig into the poet’s craft. They used those poetic devices for a reason. Discuss why. Here is a chart I created with my class about the poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost.
Thursday – It’s important for students to know that not all poems rhyme, but some of them do. Most kids are good at identifying rhyming words but they will be surprised to see that some poets use a predictable pattern of rhyme over and over again in their poems. Here is an example of marking a poem’s rhyme scheme.
If you start marking lines and you have A, B, C, D, E, etc. and you’re not finding lines that rhyme, then you can conclude with your students that the particular poem you’re looking at doesn’t have a rhyme scheme.
Friday – After studying the poems all week I think it’s fun to have some kind of extension activity. I especially love art activities and since poets “paint pictures with words” there is almost always some kind of art connection you can make with poetry. When we read the poem “Trees are the Kindest Things I Know” by Harry Behn, we responded to the line “they are the last to hold the light, when evening changes into night” with these silhouette paintings:
You could have kids perform the poems with their best expression or act the poems out. They could write their own poem in a style similar to a poem you have studied.
I like to throw in a week-long study of poetry every 6 weeks (because that corresponds to when my language arts units are coming to a close). I feel like the first time we look at poetry during the year the kids aren’t as excited and I feel like I must not be teaching it well. But then when we do “poetry week” the next time and the next time it gets a whole lot better. They start to recognize the poetic devices on their own and can take a lot more meaning away from the poems. So…if you feel like teaching poetry flops at first, give your kids another shot at it a few weeks later.
Here’s a fun resource over at my TeachersPayTeachers store to help you if you’d also like to get your class going on writing poetry. It includes planning graphic organizers, posters, lesson plans, vocabulary activities, and writing project templates.
Follow along on Pinterest for more literacy ideas: