This is the final blog post in the How Do I Teach ______? Series
In this blog post you will walk away with clear steps for how to launch and teach your next poetry unit.
Teaching students how to read or approach a genre or text is important and tantamount to teaching students how to plan for a road trip to a particular location, using a specific route. In this episode we will talk about the what, the why and the how of teaching students how to navigate reading poetry.
What is Poetry?
Let’s start by defining our terms. Poetry is a type of literature, or artistic writing, that attempts to stir a reader’s imagination or emotions. The poet does this by carefully choosing and arranging language for its meaning, sound, and rhythm. Some poems, such as nursery rhymes, are simple and humorous.Now that we’ve talked about what poetry is, let’s talk about why we teach students how to read or approach poetry.
Why Teach Poetry?
Teaching poetry allows students to be able to learn how to see the deeper meaning behind what a poet is trying to convey. Although all genres utilize figurative language to paint a vivid image in a reader’s mind, the use of figurative language in poetry is more commonplace. This makes it the ideal genre to use to teach students the difference between literal and figurative language. We’ve talked about what poetry is, and why we should teach students how to read nonfiction. Now we are going to talk about how to teach a poetry reading unit in your classroom.
How Do I Teach Poetry?
- Teach students the elements of the genre
- Teach students how to monitor their comprehension
- Teach students the difference between Inferential and literal language
- Teach students how to make inferences
- Teach students how to respond to what they read orally and in writing
Teach students the elements of the genre. Teach them that poetry:
- Can fall within a certain form or type i.e. haiku, lyrical, free verse
- Can follow a particular structure ie rhyme, stanzas, lines, rhythm
- Can have a poet and/or a speaker
- Often uses figurative language
- Is written with a specific purpose or audience in mind
To do this give students the opportunity to dive into poetry . I would highly recommend attaining at least two to three texts that have a variety of poetry examples. Be sure that one of these is a book of humorous poetry for kids, this can be one you study during your unit or just one you read for fun in order to add a little joy and levity to your poetry unit.
Read these books aloud to students over a series of days, pausing to read a couple of poems to students. Take time to discuss what they notice about the poems and jot these thoughts down on an anchor chart. Exposing students to a variety of poets and poetry books will also allow students to see that lots of different people are poets and also see that poetry can be written in many forms. Exploring books in this way also allows your students to notice a variety of features about poetry and gives you the opportunity to know what they know and don’t know regarding this genre.
Some book/text suggestions for this genre are:
Where the Sidewalk Ends
If I Were In Charge Of The World
Bravo- Poems About Amazing Hispanics
Words With Wings
Choose two or three of the above mentioned texts for your poetry unit. From these poetry books you will choose three poems to revisit throughout your unit in order to teach your mini lessons.
Teach students how to monitor comprehension- one of the challenges of reading poetry is keeping up with all of the new information that you are learning. Readers need to be given a way to keep track of what they are reading one stanza or one chunk at a time. My favorite way to do this is to teach students how to read a chunk of text and then ask themselves who was the text about (or what was the subject) and what happened or what did they learn and then jotting the answers to these questions off to the side of the text. This approach helps students stay engaged with the text as they read and increases their comprehension. Let’s take a closer look at each of the steps I listed above.
Teach students the difference between literal and inferential language:
- Define the terms for students
- Use pictures to teach students the difference
- Model your thinking and give students an opportunity to practice differentiating the two
Teach students to make inferences. Do this by:
- Defining an inference for students
- Teaching students how to make an inference using an I do, We do, You do method
- Teaching students how to infer: the author’s purpose, the author’s message, the meaning or intent behind figurative language
Teach students how to respond to what they have learned by:
- Modeling your thinking
- Providing students with the steps you took to get there
- Giving them an opportunity to practice
- Providing students with stems to communicate their thinking orally and in writing
So to recap we teach poetry by,
- Teaching students the elements of the genre
- Teaching students how to monitor their comprehension
- Teaching students the difference between inferential and literal language
- Teaching students how to make inferences
- Teaching students how to respond to what they read orally and in writing
One tool you can use to help you execute this model is my poetry reading response choice boards. These choice board units include a roll out plan, a teacher rubric, a student checklist and a reading log.
In this blog post we talked about the what, the why and the how of teaching students how to read poetry. Teaching the poetry text unit in this way will give students the opportunity to learn how to read, analyze, and learn from the elements of poetry as well respond to their reading both orally and in writing.
Next steps: Use the steps you learned in this blog post to teach students how to navigate poetry text. If you need one-on-one coaching support with this endeavor or want me to talk to your school about how to teach their students to love reading, let’s set up a discovery call. If you want to work alongside other educators in a group coaching container then get on the waitlist for my mini lesson revamp bootcamp.Getting on the waitlist will ensure that you are the first to know when the group coaching program opens for enrollment.
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