I'm a big fan of teaching kids poetry. Read on to discover why and to get the skinny on the eight steps that you might want to follow when teaching poetry!
One of my favorite traditions to come out of our homeschooling experience has been poetry tea time. Every Thursday morning, the girls and I take out our pretty tea cups, light some candles, and sit down with a warm drink and something delicious to eat. Then, we each read two or three poems to each other. All three of us look forward to this time every week. I highly recommend implementing your own poetry tea time—even if you don't have kids! Take a little time each week to slow down with some meaningful words, a warm mug of tea, and the glow of a flickering candle. (Julie Bogart of Brave Writer introduced me to this idea. Thank you, Julie!)
Why teach kids poetry?
- Memorizing and reciting poetry builds confidence.
- Poems give children an easy way to remember a lesson or value.
- Poems inspire us.
- Poems capture emotions and ideas in lyrical phrases that are often easy to remember.
- Poems offer a chance to build connections within multiple areas of a child's curriculum.
- You can use poetry to teach grammar and vocabulary.
Eight Steps for Teaching Kids Poetry
I know from firsthand experience that finding the right poetry for kids can be a difficult task.
Aside from finding the right poem, the actual teaching may also be a bit daunting for you. Many of us were not taught poetry when we were children. (I wasn't.) But, we can still enjoy teaching kids poetry and learning it ourselves!
Please know that there are many ways you can teach poetry, ranging from a less formal study of the poem (like the poetry tea time mentioned above) to a more formal study of the poem (covered below).
If you'd like a more formal way to study poetry with children, these eight steps will help you feel comfortable teaching kids poetry, and they'll help your students or kids get the most out of it.
1. Read the poem aloud.
Have students listen to you as you read the poem aloud. If it is a difficult poem, you may want to give them some background information before you begin.
2. Identify and define words the students do not know.
Ask the students for words that they are unfamiliar with. Then, have the students write each word's definition on their sheet. You can either have a student look up the words in a dictionary, or you can have the definitions prepared ahead of time.
3. Read the poem aloud again.
Listening to a poem a second time will help students to understand it.
Before you do this, you may want to ask students to listen for something in particular. You might ask, "How does the author of this poem feel about flowers? How do you know?"
4. Summarize the poem.
For this step, you will ask the students to summarize the poem in his/her own words.
This can be very helpful when you are teaching more complicated poems to older students. But even with young students, it's important to know that they understand the general idea of the poem.
It helps if you come to class with a prepared summary that the students can copy.
5. Discuss the poem.
This is the time to ask them key questions about the poem and the characters in it. You may ask them to choose one word to describe the main character in the poem. I like asking students to support their answers using language or information from the poem.
For instance, if they say that the main character is bossy, they should be able to give examples from the poem of the main character actually being bossy.
6. Ask students for their experiences.
Ask students to relate the poem to their lives. You might say, "Describe an experience that you have had when you felt as carefree as the poet."
This is also a good time to make connections with other parts of the child's curriculum. You may say, "Does this poem remind you of any of the literature characters whom we have read about?"
7. Memorize the poem.
If you are teaching a long poem, break it into smaller chunks and assign doable sections for students to memorize.
Everyday, recite part of the poem as a group. This really helps to ingrain the poem in the child's mind.
8. Recite the poem.
You may want to have students recite the poem in front of the class, or possibly at a recital where you invite parents or other students. Yippee!
Free Lesson Plan
Feel free to use this free poetry lesson plan that I wrote for the poem, "Columbus."