Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Poetry Month in the Primary Grades: 3 Simple Tips

Every April, Poetry Month used to make me feel kind of guilty when I taught in the primary grades. I'd think,  "How can I teach these little ones anything about poetry beyond rhyming?" This post includes affiliate links, which will provide a small percentage of each sale to me without increasing your price.

And then one day, I realized that I already was teaching poetry! And chances are that you are, too, or you easily could be with these three easy tips!

Tip #1

Use what you already have! Incorporate poetry into the daily procedures you already have in place!

Above all, this means that Poetry Month is a great reminder to build more poetry reading into your daily read alouds. Point out to your students that a poetry anthology works kind of like a chapter book. Read some, put in a bookmark, and then return to it later.

You're probably already reading poems from Shel Silverstein and others like him to your students. But there are lots of sources for poems and songs (which are pretty much interchangeable with poems, when it comes to the little learners).

Here are a few of my favorite poetry books.


I love reading poems from a variety of authors. If you're only buying one book, an anthology is going to give you the broadest selection on a variety of topics. With more than 600 poems, the Poetry Place Anthology (at the back in the photo above) is a great collection. Click here if you'd like to take a closer look at this gem! Because this book is arranged by topics, it's easy to come up with a poem whenever you need it!

Have you tried doing a read aloud by displaying the poem on your interactive board? It's a great way to focus on the fact that poems look different than prose. Show your students that a poem has different structure (it's "look"), capitalization, and punctuation, and that when you read a poem you don't necessarily stop at the end of a line.  By second grade, you'll probably introduce the term line break, and see them start popping up in some of your students' writing.

As you're reading, stop as time allows to point out what we called the Beautiful Words - descriptive language and imagery that can make poetry so unique! 

If you make occasional reading of poetry the norm in your classroom throughout the year, you might even find that kids start asking for poetry, and when April comes, they might just be excited about celebrating Poetry Month!

Tip #2

Try writing a poem with your students as a part of shared writing, or as a mini-lesson before a writing workshop lesson.  

Don't be intimidated and think that you're not a poet!  Get your students writing poems by teaching them this super easy format - list poems

Creating a list poem with your students will be easy for you to model on chart paper at your easel or on your interactive board.  The skill will also transfer easily to independent writing. Plus, list poems are a writing form that seems to come very naturally to many children.

You and your students can turn just about any topic into a list poem... pets, playground games, kinds of vehicles, dinosaurs, colors,... you name it!

Start with a topic sentence. I like to repeat it twice, and talk about how "that's what some poets do!"  to help your students start to think of themselves as poets. We repeat the line again at the end. Want to give your kids a fun way to remember this? It's silly but we all know that silly works in the primary grades!

A list poem wears a hat on its head and shoes on its feet.

After you've tried a few list poems, it's time for your students to brainstorm some possible topics for you to write together... and then it's time to release your eager young poets to write their own list poems!

You might even want to have a little Poetry Festival (Poetry Cafe?) to give your students the opportunity to read their poems to the class.  Celebrate the fact that they are POETS! This is an easily accomplished event (even if you're teaching online!) and a great way to put a check next to some speaking and listening standards, too!

If you'd like to give your students a supportive structure when they write their own first list poems, click here or on the image above to get your copy.

#Tip 3

Choice reading, free time, reading, DEAR time, self-selected reading, ... whatever your district is currently labeling it, this is so important for our students. It's valuable for the newest readers to spend some of that time on rereading. 

And that's where those poems you've been writing will come in handy!

My students always loved reading from their personal Song and Poem Notebooks, individual collections of familiar songs and poems that had been part of our shared reading experiences.

And when you are reading a poem that you actually wrote ... well, that's Literacy Gold, in my book!

Click here or on the picture to read about how you can get Song and Poem Notebooks up and running in your classroom, plus lots of ideas for implementing them in your classroom!

So, that's the 1,2,3 of it ... read poems, write poems, reread poems.

I hope this helps make Poetry Month in the primary grades easy and exciting for you and your students!

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