10 Great Reasons to Teach Poetry

As you may know, April is National Poetry Month, and as good a time as any for some reminders on why it’s so important to teach poetry. Too often, poetry instruction is seen as frivolous, or worse, dull, when really, the exact opposite is true.
Need proof? Check out these 10 reasons to teach poetry…

1.  It can connect with larger instructional themes. Poems can beautifully complement themes of every topic – from aging to rebirth. A poem can help you take a different angle on a complex historical period, like the Civil Rights Movement, and make it more personal.  For instance, you could easily link poetry to Black History Month with a Poet and Poem study on Langston Hughes or Maya Angelou.

2.  It can be a means of teaching some literacy rules. By showing students what happens when poets break or pervert the rules – e.e. cumming’s lack of capitalization comes to mind – they can form a better understanding of what purpose those rules serve in communicating clearly.  Students can investigate how and why traditional grammar and spelling conventions were ignored by analyzing poems like "In just."  Of course, in order to do so, they'll need to know the literacy rules, first ;).
3.  It can be a welcome break from the rules. For the student hampered by spelling, conventions and grammar, poetry can be a safe place to express herself in writing without having to worry about those things. ELL students, especially, may find poems a relief from the demands of English.  Encourage creativity and free expression as students write different types of poems.

4.  It can be quick to teach.  Poetry can be done in relatively little time. You don’t need to dedicate a whole unit to poetry. Try a poem a day (poets.org offers some great resources https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem-day), or just once a week. There are tons of great poems in literary magazines like Cricket. And song or rap lyrics work, too.  Or, bring out a poetry lesson on a holiday.  Free lessons like this Limerick Writing Lesson are always a hit with students!

5.  It can explain. In this mixed-up, crazy world, a lot of bad things happen. Heck, just opening the newspaper (or its online equivalent) can be a scary prospect. Poems about tough stuff – mortality, race, aging, politics, war – can provide a softer, more human context than your average news story.

6.  It can confuse. Not all poetry is meant to be understood. Don’t worry about analyzing every poem you present to the class. Some poems are simply meant to be heard, read and felt.  You can find my favorite poems to read aloud to students by downloading the FREE lesson and handout that goes along with a video about how to teach poetry analysis.

7.  It’s an acceptable way for students to express emotion. Students may be too self-conscious, or lack the vocabulary to convey what they’re feeling about themselves and the world. A poem read aloud, or recited by students, gives them the words they need to start a conversation. Or maybe it is the conversation.  These journey poems are perfect for adolescents.

8.  It improves reading and writing of all kinds. Poetry, which begs to be read more than once, gives students the chance to practice close reading strategies, as they analyze the structure, word choice and even the shape of the words before them. With its generally concise format, poetry can help you teach skills necessary in other forms of writing, like using precise words and imagery. One of my favorite ways to just that, is with interactive poetry flip books.  They help students closely read and analyze poems in engaging and approachable ways!

9.  It’s relatable. For every student who feels no one else could possibly understand what he’s going through, there’s a poem by or about someone in the same place. When read in class, a student might see that others around him are connecting to it, too.

10.  It’s a chance to practice speaking and listening skills. With so much emphasis on reading and writing, students don’t always get explicit instruction on how to annunciate, project and listen closely.  There's nothing better than a class full of students who want to read and share poetry that they've written.  Encourage speaking and listening skills by hosting a Poetry Reading after students finish a poetry writing unit.  It's easy!  Just have students select one poem to share.  Give them lots of opportunities to practice reading their poems.  Then, find a space like the library and auditorium for the event.  Finally, send out invitations.  That's it!

If you're ready to infuse your classroom with fun poetry lessons and ideas, then you might want to sign up for my series of FREE poetry lessons.  You'll receive a bunch of free poetry tips and lessons right in your email inbox!  Oh, and you'll get an exclusive freebie for "Nothing Gold Can Stay," right away!  

    Thanks so much for stopping by!
    Mary Beth

    No-Prep, No-Excuses, No-Hassle Vocabulary Games

    Ready to make mastering vocabulary fun?  Then, check out this set of 3 No-Prep Vocabulary Games!  Students love them!  Plus, there's an exclusive FREEBIE with everything you need to play!
    As the old adage goes, if you teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime. It turns out the same can be said about a student’s vocabulary: Teach her what a word means, and she’ll become a stronger reader.

    Even better, say researchers, teach your students what eight to 10 words mean, over the course of 37 to 50 weeks, and even your lowest readers could experience a 30 percent increase in word knowledge… And the more words your students know, the more likely they are to comprehend what they read.

    But as any of us who has memorized lists of vocabulary words knows, it can be – well, boring. As with many things school-related, the key to your students’ success with building their vocabularies is to make it fun!

    Check out these three No-Prep, No-Hassle, No-Excuses Vocabulary Games you can use with any sets of words. Tip: These work best as a review, after students have already heard the words and had a chance to use them (either during class warm ups or in homework). And...great news!  I've compiled everything you need to play the games in an EXCLUSIVE FREEBIE!

    Guess Who?
    Write the vocabulary words on index cards (or have students do this). Here's a set of figurative language vocabulary cards...
    Play "Guess Who?" to review critical figurative language vocabulary in a fun way!

    Without letting the students see, tape the cards to their backs. 
    Just write important vocabulary words on cards and then place them on the students' backs.  Then, have partners give each other clues while they play this fun and easy vocabulary game!

    Have the students walk around the room and give clues to one another about the word on their backs. (For example, if Sam is wearing the word “onomatopoeia,” his partner may say, “The bacon sizzled in the frying pan.” Sam then takes a guess at what the word is. And so on.)

    When In Doubt, Bluff
    Divide your class into two teams. Write a vocabulary word on the board or write the words on cards and just display them inside this poster...
    Play "When in Doubt, Bluff" to review vocabulary words from any unit!  Easy and fun vocab game!

    This game is not only fun, it's also a great way to review vocabulary!  Play this vocab game with any set of words!

    Students who know the definition should stand up. Students who are bluffing and don’t know the definition also should stand. (Students who are unsure also may remain seated.) Call on a student at random to define the word. If the student gets it, his team gets points for every team member that is standing. If the student does not get it, the team loses points for every team member standing. The team with the most points at the end wins.

    Fast Talker
    Type the vocabulary words onto a SmartBoard or Powerpoint template (or use a visualizer) and project each word, one at a time, so the class can see it. Or, write the words on strips of paper for students to pull out of a bag or basket.
    Have students pick a vocabulary word and roll their "vocabulary fate" with this super fun and easy vocab game!

    Once students have a word, instead of asking for the definition of the word, call out alternative commands:

    ·         Part of speech
    ·         Synonym
    ·         Antonym
    ·         Roots
    ·         Use in a sentence

    (You can also write those commands on a beach ball and have students toss it to each other as you go through the words.) Or, you can put the commands on a paper cube that students roll for their "vocabulary fate."
    Make learning and reviewing vocabulary games super easy with this set of 3 no-prep, no-excuses, no-hassle vocab games!

    See how quickly the students can come up with an answer as you randomly call on them.

    It's a great idea to keep throwing in old words as the year progresses, so your students have a better shot of retaining the vocabulary words. Consider giving points or prizes when students identify vocabulary words in their reading material or outside of class.

    They’ll have fun. They’ll become better readers. And you won’t break a sweat! Everyone wins!

    Since we're on the topic of vocabulary, I thought I'd share my favorite way to teach vocabulary words.  It's through doodling!

      Yes, doodling!  I've found that combining vocabulary instruction with doodles...and then writing, is an amazing way to expand students vocabulary.  

    I even created a set of 160 Daily Doodle Vocabulary words for grades 3-5 and grades 6-8

    Just click and print a set of 3 fun vocabulary games.  Use in any classroom.  Use with any set of vocabulary words.  Make learning vocabulary so much more fun with these easy vocab games!

    Thanks for stopping by!
    Mary Beth

    Teach and review critical vocabulary with this fun and educational vocabulary games!  Easy to set up!  Easy to play!  And the best part?  Students are excited about learning vocabulary!  Oh, and there's an exclusive FREEBIE, too!

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