Poetry In Schools

I’m a huge fan of teaching poetry in our schools. I’m a Kindergarten and first grade teacher, and I use poetry in my classroom in a variety of ways. My students read at least 2 poems a week in my classroom, and enjoy a variety of poetry center activities, such as illustrating them, piggybacking on them, and singing them. When I teach sight words, phonics skills, or science and social studies concepts, I try to teach or reinforce the concept through poetry whenever possible. Rhyming poems make great mnemonic devices for young children, and are just plain fun to read aloud. I actually teach a lengthy poetry writing unit in which kids learn how to distinguish between their scientific and poetic observations, and use both in their writing. It’s my absolute favorite writing unit, and it lifts their writing to a new level unlike anything else. I love how they begin to “hear poetry” in picture books and in each other’s writing…they simply begin to appreciate beautiful language for what it is.

But everything seems to be about the Common Core these days, and if you read the K and Gr. 1 standards, poetry is noticeably absent. Even Lucy Calkins has moved the Poetry Writing unit to second grade in her newly-revised Units of Study.  Really, poetry isn’t for the very young anymore? How sad!

I recently bought The Poetry Friday Anthology (poems edited and compiled by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong), and was delighted to see that not only does this collection of wonderfully-fun poems lend itself to easy use in the classroom, but the CCSS-aligned activities give teachers all the justification they need to teach poetry in schools, even at K and first grade. The poems are organized by suggested grade levels, although this is certainly adaptable.

I found this super duper article today about why we need poetry in our schools. I agree so strongly with all five of the reasons stated in this article that I could have written this one myself! But I’d like to add a sixth reason: Poetry makes us more aware. When you read a poem, you may see something extraordinary in the ordinary for the very first time. You may learn something new about something you knew everything about already!, or you may change your own perspective on something you’ve always known to be true and steadfast. Poetry is truth, revealed through words.

Eileen Spinelli’s poem (from The Poetry Friday Anthology, K-5 Edition) tells us why we need poetry in our schools, today and always:

TODAY by Eileen Spinelli

“Today I’m going to pay attention.

To the broken blueness of the sky.

To the high weeds in the vacant lot.

To the rusted pot in the alleyway.

Today I’m going to leap across puddles and steep in green

and all the wild colors in between.

I’m going to listen to

what the birds are singing about,

and to the happy shouts of toddlers on swings.

Today I’m going to gather all my heart can hold

of lemony light and yawning cats

and the bright blur of traffic on the bridge.

Today I’m going to pay attention.

Today I’m going to find myself a poem.”


Today’s Poetry Friday host is Betsy at I Think In Poems