“Roses are red
Violets are blue
If you’re hesitant to teach poetry
You’re not alone”
Is that the world’s worst poem? Probably. But, it makes a point. While poetry is an important part of literature, it’s not something every teacher embraces. Some of the greatest writers of all time (think Shakespeare and Chaucer) were poets, but your students may still dread the P word. You may understand the importance of poetry, but getting your students on board might be challenging. You need strategies to make poetry relevant, meaningful, and interesting to your students.
Why Poetry Matters
Poetry reinforces important literacy skills, including rhyme, rhythm, and sound, and plays a part in helping students develop memory skills.
Poetry encourages creativity, as students explore what language means and how words can be used in different ways. Poetry can even introduce children to made-up words that will challenge their impressions of the English language. Check out any classic poem by Dr. Seuss for examples.
And, poetry can help emerging readers gain confidence with their reading skills. Poems offer a shorter, more manageable option for new readers, and both rhyme and rhythm play a part in helping readers decipher unknown words.
10 Ways to Incorporate Poetry into your Classroom
- Look for poems that let students laugh. The Scholastic Kids and Reading Report found the majority of students ages 6 to 17 seek out books that make them laugh. Start with poems by Jack Pretlusky, Shel Silverstein, or Judith Viorst to get students giggling.
- For younger students, nursery rhymes are particularly helpful when it comes to basic literacy skills. Older students can build skills and stay engaged with rap song lyrics (pending lyric approval by you first, of course).
- Consider joining The Poet Warriors Project. The project highlights the importance of poetry, encouraging students to write poems that focus on life experiences and tell a story. And, the project believes in the power of poetry to make a difference in the world.
- It doesn’t officially happen until April, but try celebrating Poem in Your Pocket Day. Encourage students to choose a poem, carry it with them, and share it with others throughout the day. You can have students choose from a list you provide or have them write their own poem.
- Make a classroom “poetree.” Devote a bulletin board to a tree with leaves full of students’ poems. Just search for “poetree” on Pinterest and you’ll find tons of ideas.
- Let students get hands-on with poetry by creating sets of magnetic poetry cards. They’ll be able to create lots of poems—from silly to serious—using their imagination. See instructions for making class sets of magnetic poetry here.
- Sometimes, students need a little support to really get into poetry. Try matching up pairs of students and focusing on partner poetry in your classroom. This fun idea lets kids explore poetry while also learning something about each other.
- Remember to include a variety of poetry styles in your lessons. Show examples of acrostic poems, haiku, rhyming poems, free verse poems, and more. Consider including shape poems, which work well for older elementary and middle school students.
- If students are stuck on what to write about, let them roll a pair of dice for inspiration. They just need to add up the total of each roll to determine the number of syllables in each line of their poem. See full instructions here.
- And don’t forget to create poetry portfolios to collect students’ work when your poetry unit is finished. You’ll give students a sense of pride in their efforts, and you’ll provide them with a keepsake to look back on in future years.