I get it—teaching poetry to children can make you want to bang your head on the table. While some of us adults love poetry, just saying “poetry” to my fifth-graders evoked groans and eye rolls.
After teaching poetry for several years, I’ve learned an approach that will have your kids engaged and excited. Try these 3 steps and see if teaching poetry in your classroom seems less of a headache and a lot more fun.
Step 1. Choose Fun First. Funny poetry is a must. Kids love to laugh, and limerick poetry is sure to provide a good one. If you don’t have anything that’s outright funny, at least choose a song or a specific topic that you know will interest them. For example, using Dr. Seuss’ works can both inspire students, and produce some laughs, whether it’s teaching a lesson about protecting the environment with “The Lorax”, or making the right choices with “Oh the Places You’ll Go!” My kids love poetry that’s seasonal or holiday related too!
- Read poems aloud—with feeling. Research proves that older children benefit from read-alouds, even into high school. A child’s reading level doesn’t reach their listening level until about the 8th grade. Reading rich, complex texts above their reading level creates a shared experience, and poetry is the simplest, shortest way to do so. Reading poetry out loud engages students through hearing the patterns and beauty of the language. Good poems beg to be heard like a melodious song.
- Find Patterns. Challenge your students to notice the patterns in a poem. Finding patterns in language entices those students who love order and logical thinking. Poets use repetition, rhyming, and alliteration with structure to convey meaning and to create the beat of the poem. Some students love discovering the patterns of poetry as much as others love the feelings and imagery the poem evokes.
So just remember the three F’s of teaching poetry (Fun, aloud with Feeling, and Find patterns) and you can inspire a love of poetry in your students, maybe their first love of rich, complex language.