Saturday, July 28, 2012

What's Your Poetry Story?

Mother Goose Reading Poetry
Poet Janet Wong suggests that many adults dislike poetry because of their experiences with poetry during their school years. As teachers, we don't want to ruin poetry for children. In order to teach poetry to children, I think we should ask some questions about our own childhood experiences with poetry.

What's your poetry experience? I hope you'll leave a comment answering one or more of these questions.

  • How do you feel about poetry? List some of your own experiences with poetry both positive or negative.
  • Do you read poetry for your own pleasure now?
  • At what age should teachers encourage children to learn the formal elements and forms of poetry?
  • When should children be asked to write poetry?
  • What would you like to tell your former teachers about how to teach poetry?
  • Compile a list of how to turn adults on to poetry.
  • Extend this to your classroom. How do you think children will be turned on to poetry?

Poetry Resources - What would you add to this list? Please leave links in the comments section.

Think, Kid, Think - Ed DeCaria uses poetry to help kids embrace:
Poetry Foundation's good for children poems - The Poetry Foundation is "an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture."

ETTC Poetry Forms - A great resource with scaffolds to write your own poems. 

Giggle Poetry - Funny poems for children, edited by Bruce Lansky.

Favorite Poem Project - Learning to reading, discussing and appreciating poems. Favorite Poem Project's Lesson Plans.

Book Spine Poetry - A great poetry form to try with your students.

Image by mrsdkrebs

Mother Goose is from iClipart for schools subscription image.


  1. Denise,
    I've taken a long time to comment on this one, because I don't really have memories of poetry... at home or at school.

    So I mulled over what I would write, wondering if I should skip this post because I have nothing useful. HOWEVER... You did help me reflect on my childhood, and I realized something. Growing up, I was entrenched in music. Music was my poetry. I was Gretle while my mom was a nun when I was 7, Pepper from Annie when I was 12 (?), and chorus, Vocal Connections, and now?? I am a karaoke star and the best singer in my vehicle and shower!

    Lyrics to songs make me laugh, cry, ponder, fear. I am a lover of poetry when it's SUNG. Singing and listening to all kinds of music is one of my passions. Life is sung, through many voices. I imagine the same is true of written and read-aloud poetry. ??


    1. Joy,
      I'm so glad you made this connection! When we make poetry books at school each year, and the students have to choose their favorite five poems, they can't believe it when I say songs count. "You mean I could pick five songs?" Yes, I say, they are just poetry put to music. I love it! Thanks for bringing that up.

      I love it that you are the best singer in you vehicle and your shower! I guess at times I am too. I should sing more!


  2. A great amount of information on POETRY can be found at

  3. Thanks for sharing this! Lee Bennett Hopkins is a very important poet and anthologist in children's literature!


  4. I have always loved to read poetry. This is dating me, but we had THE BOOK OF KNOWLEDGE and an accompanying set filled with literature. I read all the poetry I could find. I loved Robert Louis Stevenson and can still recite some of his poems from memory, I read them so much. When I got into school, and discovered the paperback book clubs, I loved GIFT OF WATERMELON PICKLE AND a book of story poems that I still have.

    I still love to read poetry and share with students. Here is a project I did with 4th graders:

  5. Kathy,
    Thanks so much for the great comment and reminiscing! I loved The Book of Knowledge when I was a kid too. I remember reading them all day when I was home sick from school.

    Thanks for sharing your 4th grade poetry blog project too. (I added a link here, so others can click on it easily.)

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. I must admit that I wasn't too excited about our poetry week. After reading the chapter and delving more into it, I have an appreciation for poetry. I don't recall any experiences in school with poetry and I don't read any poetry for enjoyment. I like the idea of introducing students to poetry early on. I would say as early as kindergarten, students could start writing some poetry. Reading aloud is a great way to incorporate poetry into the classroom. If introduced early, it's a natural process. I think that’s why I feel so awkward with this- as I haven't had much exposure.

    1. Great, Carie, I'm so glad you are gaining an appreciation for poetry! That's what this class is all about, I believe! It's too bad you didn't have good poetry experiences as a child, but I suppose it's good that you've had no negative experiences either.

      I think reading and writing poetry in kindergarten would be awesome! Kindergarteners are geniuses and they know it. If you tell them they are poets, they believe it and rise to the title.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

  7. Denise,
    Your post has me thinking and reflecting why I only touch on poetry if I have the time at the end of the year. When I read great poetry I am moved but why is it so scary for me to teach? There must have been something in my school years that influenced my hesitation with poetry. Maybe it was the rigidness with which it was taught. Possibly having to do the standard haikus and rhyming over and over just did not connect.

    I have to wonder what made the difference for my son who enjoys reading and writing poetry. At a very young school age he was producing poetry that some felt should be published. As a first year university student his English choice was a poetry course and he has registered for a second one this year. Where did his love come from, what influenced him, who impacted him and why? These are questions I will need to ask him.

    Maybe through his experiences I can gain insight into how I can become less hesitant to teach poetry in my class. I know when I am passionate about a topic, my students are too. If I am unsure of my footing with poetry this is what my students will feel as well.

  8. Anne,
    What a great reflective comment! It will be interesting to hear what your son has to say about what sparked his interest in poetry. My daughter took and enjoyed two poetry classes in college too! Very interesting.

    I hope thinking about this and talking with your son will help you become more passionate about reading, writing and teaching poetry yourself! :) Let me know!

    Thanks so much for sharing!


  9. Denise,

    I'll admit, I'm not a poetry kind of guy, but when we do talk about it in class, I look for the poetry that will strike the students the best. Shel Silverstein always is a big hit, and for my students who do like it, he always inspires them to move into other authors and types. There's giggle poems as well that we like to read simply for the silly factor which always draws in those who are similar to me.

    Sorry I can't be the cheerleader for this genre, but I can help guide those who are interested, and encourage their own writing. :)


  10. Darin,
    Thanks for the note! I am glad you mentioned Shel Silverstein--such an important voice for poetry, especially for silly boys who can hardly believe that a guy that looks like that spent his career as a poet! I love people who mix up our pre-conceived notions!

    Thanks for sharing & keep giggling with those silly kids,


  11. I think poetry is a beautiful way for someone to express themself, but to be honest, I had a hard time comprehending it in school. Especially the poetry we covered in high school, the vocabulary was too difficult for me to actually enjoy reading. I enjoyed reading and making my own poetry when I was younger, but as a became older it was more difficult for me to enjoy. I remember reading Shel Silverstein, and I actually received one of his books as a Christmas present. I do enjoy those.
    Since I don't have such a positive experience with poetry, it's going to be important for me, as a future teacher, to be positive about it when I teach it to my students. If I learn more about poetry, hopefully I'll gain a better insight to it and become a fan of it. Opening up and showing my students that I will be learnign about poetry with them will hopefully give them a better reaction when I introduce it.
    I'm hoping to learn much about poetry this week! :)

  12. Emily,
    BINGO! I especially love the last two lines of your post. Donald Graves said that the teacher should be the chief learner in the classroom. That's exactly what I long to be! You and your students will go far when you have that attitude! You will learn everything from poetry to robotics together. You will change the world!

    One of my favorite poems is "After English Class" by Jean Little. It reminds me of your experience in high school. It's really helped me to back off of over-analyzing, and instead we enjoy reading poetry aloud, hearing the rhythm and rhyme of it.

    After English Class
    I used to like “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”
    I liked the coming darkness,
    The jingle of harness bells,
    Breaking—and adding to—the stillness,
    The gentle drift of the snow . . .

    But today, the teacher told us what everything stood for.
    The woods, the horse, the miles to go, the sleep—
    They all have “hidden meanings.”

    It’s grown so complicated now that,
    Next time I drive by,
    I don’t think I’ll bother to stop.

    From: Little, Jean. 1989. Hey World, Here I Am! New York: Harper & Row

    Great post, Emily! I hope you enjoy reading poetry this week!


  13. Hands down, BEST EVER book to help you "teach" poetry to kids is "Kids' Poems: Teaching 3rd & 4th Graders to Love Writing Poetry" by R.Routman. She also has a companion one for 1st-2nd grade. I teach 5th, but would recommend the book to anyone 3-8th grade. Fabulous resource with minilessons and REAL student examples. L.O.V.E. it! Now I have PLANNED units on poetry and many kids actually ASK if they can write poems when they have free writing time. :)

    -Michelle TG

  14. Hands down, BEST EVER book to help you "teach" poetry to kids is "Kids' Poems: Teaching 3rd & 4th Graders to Love Writing Poetry" by R.Routman. She also has a companion one for 1st-2nd grade. I teach 5th, but would recommend the book to anyone 3-8th grade. Fabulous resource with minilessons and REAL student examples. L.O.V.E. it!

    Now I have PLANNED units on poetry and many kids actually ASK if they can write poems when they have free writing time. :)

    -Michelle TG

    1. Great, Michelle!

      Thanks for sharing it. That's a new one for me. Your passionate review has caused me to add it to my very long to-read list!

      Your review also reminded me of another book that transformed poetry for my students and me. Kenneth Koch's Wishes, Lies, and Dreams: Teaching Children to Write Poetry, first published in 1970. I had found an old copy in the late 80s. I believe at that point it was already out-of-print. However, now it's for sale again, reprinted in 1999.