I hated learning about poetry as a child – it always confused me and I felt unsuccessful at it because I didn’t have a knack for rhyming (I still don’t). It wasn’t until high school that I started to appreciate poetry and realize that poetry doesn’t have black and white rules – poetry can be anything. It was this exciting revelation that I want to instill in my students.
Poetry is not new to my students when we start to write it. Each student gets a poetry folder at the beginning of the year and we add a new poem each week that has to do with a sight word, and usually a seasonal theme. When it’s time to teach poetry writing to my students, we first discuss a few different examples of poems, including the poems they have read all year.
I also show my students a book that I made that showcase 5 different poems about rain, to show them that poems can be so different even if the topic is the same. These are not poems that I have written, and I do not take credit for them.
What do poems have?
Next lesson, we discuss what poems have, and I make sure to clarify that this list is what SOME poems have – not ALL poems. We talk about how there are no rules for poetry! There is nothing that poetry has to have. Some poems rhyme, but poems to have to rhyme. Some poems include a beat or a tune, but not all poems. Poets might also include onomatopoeias, alliteration, action words, or repetitions. Then, we find examples of these in our poetry folders.
Types of Poems
The next few lessons all showcase different types of poems: color poems, shape poems, acrostic poems, object poems, and songs. I start each lesson with an example of this type of poetry and then we plan and write one together. Students get a planning sheet and some poem writing paper. I make sure to have options with lines and options with no lines.
Feelings and Line Breaks
I end the unit talking about feelings and line breaks. Using a few examples, we talk about how poems make you feel. Then we think of words that we can use in our poetry to make our readers feel what we want them to feel. Then, we talk about line breaks. I love showing my students how different the poems can sound depending on the line breaks. All year we talk about how they have to fill the lines all the way across, so it takes some time to “unlearn” this for poetry writing. After reading some examples of different kinds of line breaks, I show an example of a poem with no line breaks. Then, we, as a class, break apart the words and form it into a poem and try many different ways of adding line breaks. We read each way and compare how the different formats sound.
To celebrate all of our poetry learning, I have the students pick their favorite poem. Then they paint a watercolor picture to go with it. Finally, we share it with friends and families. The students love writing poetry, especially after learning about all the different styles of poetry.
Do you teach poetry with your students? Comment below with any tips!
Want to learn more about teaching poetry to ELL students? Check out this blog post!