The Best of Teachers' Mentor
How to get started
How to choose the poems
Using poems to practice skills
Poems and the Copyright Law
Some Favorite Children's Poets
Links to Poetry Sites
Part of teaching reading is motivating the children to practice, practice, practice. I have found that using children's poetry is one way to do this. Who can resist the joy of poets such as Jack Prelutsky or the late Shel Silverstein?
Begin the school year by preparing a pocket folder for each child labeled "Poetry" and by preparing copies of two poems. (I used a school theme.) On the first day of school, begin this activity by reading a poem to the students. Then pass out a copy of the poem to each child and reread it to the students as they follow along. Then read the poem together chorally. Poetry lends itself to choral reading because of its rhythm. Follow the same procedure with the second poem.
On the second day, reread the poems chorally. Use the poems to do some word study activities. You might have the students search for rhyming words, or synonyms of words you give them.
On the third day, introduce another new poem by reading it to them, passing out the poem, reading it again, and then have the students read it chorally. Then read the "old" poems.
By the third day the children usually will have become fluent reading the "old" poems. So if the poem contains conversational parts (and try to pick many poems that have this feature), assign an individual child to read a character's part. The remainder of the class chorally reads any parts that would be considered narration. The children will enjoy the opportunity to read the individual parts. They have to be really alert and tracking to come in at the proper place.
Continue to follow this procedure throughout the school year:
Relating skills to what is actually being read is always a good practice. Skills practiced in isolation on a worksheet do not always transfer to actual reading. The one caution here is that you not do this to excess. The main purpose of reading the poems is to create enthusiasm for reading. Always turning it into a skills drill can defeat that purpose.
Examine the poem to decide which skill to work on. If the poem has numerous contractions, then use that poem to work on contractions. If it has many short vowel words, use it to work on short vowels. You can make these oral activities or make up a worksheet for the children to complete as a written assignment.
Some of the skills I worked into these sessions:
Everyone has to work out his/her own management system, but I will share with you what worked for me. Maybe you will find something that you can use.
Before you go copying every poem you see, you need to be aware of the copyright law as it pertains to "fair use" and poetry. Remember that any artwork on a book page is also copyrighted.
Below is a link to one source of information on the copyright law. Be sure you scroll down far enough to read the section, "Rules for Reproducing Text Materials for Use in Class".
You should read other sources as well. Copyright law is not exact, and is open to interpretation. Your school system may also have copyright procedures that you must follow.
Stanford Copyright and Fair Use (This link will open in a new window.)
Unless permission for duplication was indicated on the page or for the book, I typed out the poems rather than copying them from the books and added my own clipart. I included the poet's name and the name of the book from which the poem was taken.
Look for books and magazines that give you permission to reproduce poems for classroom use. I have found some really good poems in professional magazines, such as Instructor. If you or your school subscribes, look back through the old issues. Look in theme resource books or teacher's manuals. Old reading manuals can be a good source.
I have several books that are now out of print that contain poems that can be reproduced. No, these are not the quality of a Shel Silverstein or Jack Prelutsky, but they do work. I have noticed some newer books on poetry for teaching phonics or content subjects. I did look them over at my local teacher store, but since I was retiring, I didn't make a purchase. Check them out. You might find something that you can use.
Even if you can't copy all of the poems you would like, you can still expose your students to them by reading the poems aloud to the class. Put copies of favorite poets' books in your classroom library. Point out to the children that they can check out books of poetry in the school library or purchase them in their paperback book order. And, if the children, upon hearing a poem, say, "Let's add that poem to our poetry folder," wouldn't that meet the test of spontaneity? (Caution: I am not a lawyer, so make your own decision.)
I admit to having favorites among the children's poets; Jack Prelutsky, Shel Silverstein, Judith Viorst, and Eloise Greenfield immediately come to mind. Below I am listing of few of their books. But put their names into the search engine at Barnes and Noble.com or Amazon.com to see a more complete selection. I am not suggesting that you purchase from them, but the sites are a good place to see what is available. In fact, you can probably find a better deal going to your local brick and mortar bookstore. Many of them give discounts to teachers. Scholastic carries a lot of these books at discount, also. If you don't receive their catalog, ask your school librarian if she has it. Or go the Scholastic website and request the paperback book catalog.
Symbolism In Poetry - a site suggestion from Liam
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