Teaching Elementary Poetry

› Poetry

Research shows that using elementary poetry as part of a balanced literacy approach can produce significant gains in reading. Here are tips and lesson plans that work!

Ready to get kids reading? Reading poetry aloud has been shown to make significant gains in students' oral reading fluency.

Also, discussing the meaning of a text (poems) and providing avenues for students to respond to it is one of the most important ways of developing thoughtful literacy and metacognition (Allington, R.L. What Really Matters for Struggling Readers).

teaching poetry

Teaching poetry provides richer vocabulary experiences that students just don't get from everyday oral language.

But you have to choose carefully and keep the experience fun for the students.

If they begin to love it and look forward to your lessons, they will be open to learning and that is when you will see the biggest gains.

Teaching Reading with Poetry

1. Introduce the Poem
Always introduce the lesson by reading a poem aloud to the students - let them hear the text first and be drawn into it! Do not let them see the poem yet - just listen.

Do everything you can to make if a lively reading, using good read aloud techniques. Modeling prepares the students for the reading fluency activities to follow, as well as the comprehension piece later in the week.

2. Show the Poem and Scoop It
Display the poem on the SmartBoard (or you can use a transparency on an overhead). Read it again, using the same intonation and expression, along with actions if appropriate.

After the second reading, scoop the poem together (usually as an echo reading), and clarify any unknown vocabulary words that are essential to the meaning of the poem.

"Scooping" refers to how we read in phrases, not short words. 3-4 words is a scoop. Give a visual representation of a scoop by using your finger to scoop up the words as you read them out loud. Do an echo read after each scoop (the children repeat what you just read).

This is essential when teaching reading with elementary poetry. It provides modeling, a lot of support and opportunities to scaffold instruction. You are showing the children what it sounds like to be fluent, they have the security of reading with others and it provides a way to re-read the text.

3. Hand out copies of the poem and break your students into small groups for reading poetry aloud
Keep the groups to no more than 4-5 students. If you go too large, the less fluent readers will be lost amongst the stronger ones, instead of being adequately supported. They will give up and not try, so keep it small and less intimidating.

Give specific instructions for how to practice in a group: students must scoop the phrases, use the expression and intonation you modeled and stay on task.

4. Perform the poem in small groups
Reading poetry aloud is my students' highlight of the lesson. They love to get up as a small group to perform elementary poetry.

Realize that they will mimic you and whatever your actions and intonations were with the poem. That is a good thing as that means you modeled well (hopefully!) and they feel that it is valid support to rely on and copy from.

Some students will get very creative and put their own expressions and intonations into the poem - that's great because they are applying the meaning of the poem in a way that is applicable to them (reading comprehension!). Support their efforts and encourage this.

This is resulting in many repeated readings. The students will feel confident enough to revisit this poem independently throughout the week and with a buddy. They will be taking charge of their own learning without even realizing it!

5. Reading Poetry Journals
Each child should have an elementary poetry journal. This is a composition book that will contain any elementary poetry you read as a class or poems that the students have found during their Independent or Buddy Reading time.

Have the students glue the poem on one page and illustrate it on the page beside it. The illustration could show the setting, problem, solution and/or characters. This is part of best reading comprehension activities.

Discuss the story elements before they illustrate so they know what you are expecting. Tell them what you want - it is not a lesson on guessing what the teacher is asking for. To guide you, use the summary of a story chart.

You should also have an assessment rubric to guide and self-assess their work. This is not a rubric for how well a student draws, but for the quality of work you expect.

6. Reading Comprehension and Word Work
This reading comprehension lesson most likely occurs on a following day.

First do a choral reading with the students to scaffold the lesson on the previous one(s). Hand out another copy of the poem along with comprehension and word work questions.

Teachable Poetry for Fluency and Comprehension

Chubby Snowman Five Fat Turkeys
Five Little Pumpkins The Cheese Moon
The Continent Song Albuquerque Turkey

These poems are from Teachable Poems for Fluency and Comprehension

This is over 100 pages of elementary poetry and accompanying fluency, accuracy, comprehension and vocabulary work. The samples are from the three different ebooks. They are available by season (fall, winter and spring), or for a reduced price as one larger ebook for the entire year.

Try using the poems the way I described above. Give it a few weeks and I bet even your lowest readers will start to make gains!

You can have instant access to all of the poems in the ebook: 120 poems with activities for $34.99.

It's a huge value for something you will use every week and every year across multiple grade levels!

reading fluency strategies

This is an instant download ebook that is not available in hard copy.  Your download link will be sent to you from eJunkie - where ebooks are kept safe on the web!

Tip:  Many schools filter their emails to prevent downloads of large files.  Our recommendation is to use a different email address to ensure you get your ebook immediately.

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