Classroom Poetry Learning Centers: Poem of the Week June 16 2009

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Recently one of our Subscribers asked about setting up a Poem of the Week writing center for her 4th and 5th graders.

Poetry is an important learning center in any K-8 classroom and a Poem of the Week center is an easy and fun way to get kids excited about rhyme, meter and lyrical prose.

Our reader asked where to find good poems and poetry activities for her Poem of the Week writing center. She also asked about poetry reading exercises to help get her kids modeling good examples and understanding the elements of poetry.

So, we’ve put together a few thoughts and ideas for you to consider as you design your own classroom poetry learning centers.

The Importance of Poetry in Early Literacy

Poetry learning centers are essential to developing better reading and writing skills for kids of all ages and grade levels.

Reading poetry comes naturally for kids since rhymes help with memorization and sound recognition. But having kids create their own poems improves handwriting, word use and sentence structure and empowers them to think and write creatively.

One tool many teachers find invaluable for teaching poetry to emerging readers and spellers is the ‘fill in the blanks’ approach, which makes it easy for kids to create their own poems while learning the structure and elements involved in various types of poetry formats.

Teaching Poetry to Kids

It is important to make poetry fun, which is why a Poem of the Week center is such a great format. By making it something to look forward to each week you can begin to instill a love of poetry in your students. Put a little humor into it; you can find lots of fun poetry activities over at Giggle Poetry.

The other part of teaching kids poetry involves the formats and parameters of creating poems. Once kids are ready to move beyond filling in the blanks, you want to try activities that help them grasp what attributes make each type of poetry unique and how to recognize what type of poem they are reading or writing.

Poetry Reading Centers and Activities

Below we present a number of activities and learning centers you can use in your classroom to make learning poetry fun and creative for your K-6 students. These ideas are excerpted from our Poem of the Week Book Series by author Betsy Franco:

Choosing Poems

You’re free to use the poems in any order that suits you. Even if you’re on a year-round schedule, you’re set. To help you appreciate the versatility of the collection, the poems have been organized in two ways:

  1. In the table of contents, the seasonal poems come first. Following the seasonal poems is a set of poems appropriate for any time of year.
  2. In the chart on page 3, the poems have been organized by phonemes, and those phonemes are spelled out in the chart. All the poems in the collection are included, and seasonal poems in the list are starred for easy identification.

Teacher Notes

Use Poem of the Week to share the rhythm and cadence of poetry and the joy of poetic language with the children in your class. The topics of the poems were chosen to reflect a child’s world, making this book a natural, weekly link to the family. And if you choose, you can use each poem as the context for raising phonemic awareness and inspiring creativity.

Versatility Plus

You can choose poems by:

  • Theme
  • Season
  • Week
  • Phonemic focus
  • Your particular interests

What You’ve Got

  1. A poem for every week of the year
  2. A set of thematic poems for each season
  3. Suggestions on how to bring out the specific phonemic focus of each poem
  4. Suggestions for making the poems personal and interactive for the children
  5. Poetry strips and an illustration that fit into the Desktop Pocket Chart

Useful Accessories

The following accessories can be useful when extending the poems:

  • Desktop Pocket Chart - Poem of the Week includes strips for each poem that fit into the 12” x 16” Desktop Pocket Chart. You can use the poems for intimate group work with the help of this miniature pocket chart.
  • Word Building Kit - This kit includes letter holders and laminated letters to help children stay organized as they build words and work with onsets and rimes.
  • Magic Wand - A Magic Wand can be truly magical when pointing out onsets and rimes and other phonemic elements in the poems. If you don’t have the official Magic Wand, use the pattern on page 10 to create one. Or you can use our colored Hand Pointers as a magic wand substitute.
  • Wikki Stix - Made of waxed yarn, Wikki Stix temporarily stick to almost any surface, including the student poem and the Desktop Pocket Chart. They are perfect for underlining or circling the phonemic elements or the rhyming words in the poems.
  • Highlighter Tape - This removable, colorful, transparent tape can be used to highlight words, phonemic elements, or phrases on the Desktop Pocket Chart.
  • Sticky Notes - Sticky notes are useful for making poems interactive by covering and replacing words on the Desktop Pocket Chart.
  • Standard Pocket Chart and Sentence Strips - If you choose to, you can write the poems on standard pocket chart strips for whole class or group instruction.

How the Book is Organized

Student Poems

For every week of the year, you have a poem, enlarged for easy reading. You can make a copy of the poem for each child, leaving off the Suggestions for Going Further.

Example Poem of the Week:

Apples in Autumn

It’s hard to eat apples
without my front teeth,
But apples in autumn
are really a treat.
The apples are squooshy
down under my feet,
But those from the tree
are still crunchy and sweet!

Suggestions for Going Further

The suggestions next to the poems are your easy-to-use guides for extending the poems, if the ideas suit your needs. The suggestions point out the hidden phonemic treasures in the poems and how to make use of them. The suggestions also include ideas for extending the poems and making them interactive and personal for the children.

Included among the student poems are twenty-two seasonal poems which are perfect for monthly calendar work. The poems capture the essence of each season.

Example Suggestions for Going Further:

  1. Make word cards from the long e words in the poem that contain the vowel pattern ea or ee. Encourage children to sort the words in different ways; for example, they could sort by vowel pattern, by location of the vowel pattern in the word, or by the number of letters in the word.
  2. Let children use the following frame to change the fruit and/or the season. For example, they could use peaches or cherries in summer.

It’s hard to eat ____

without my front teeth.

But ____ in ____

are really a treat.

  1. Talk about what happens to apples that fall to the ground. On the Desktop Pocket Chart, put a sticky note over the word squooshy in line 5, and write in other possible adjectives that the children think of to replace it.

Strips for the Desktop Pocket Chart

You’re all set for group work. By copying and cutting out the enlarged strips (starting on page 56) on index tag and using them in the Desktop Pocket Chart, you can display a poem for many eyes to see. Groups of children can interact with the poem using this intimate, yet practical medium.

How to Use the Elements of the Book

There are many ways to use Poem of the Week. You can copy the student poems for individual use. You can reconstruct the poem on a Desktop Pocket Chart for group work. You can make your own strips for a Standard Pocket Chart.

Ways to Use the Student Poems

  • Read through and select the poem that suits your needs.
  • Fill in any blanks or add blanks to the poem, if you choose.
  • Make a copy of the poem without the Suggestions. Or cut out the poem and adhere it to the center of another paper before copying.
  • Enjoy the poem for the beauty of the words, the rhythm, and the content.
  • Have each child add the poem to a personal poetry anthology.
  • Follow the Suggestions for Going Further that make sense to you.
  • Send poem books home to be shared with family members.

Going Further with the Student Poems

  • Make the poems interactive. Give children a chance to personalize the poem by creating a blank for them to fill with their own words. It’s as simple as whiting out or taping over a word or phrase in the student poems before making copies.
  • Let children answer questions posed in the poems. Here is an example of an Interview Form to go with You are Special on page 15.
  • Let children illustrate the poem or make an appropriate border for it.
  • Have children highlight or underline the particular phoneme featured in the poem.
  • White out or tape over onsets or rimes in the poem, and let children fill them in.
  • Add new verses or write variations on the poem using poetry frames.
  • Make the poems into word problems.
  • Make lists of rhyming words from the poem. Or make webs of words that share a phonemic element or rime that is emphasized in the poem.

Ways to Use the Desktop Pocket Chart

  • Copy the poetry strips and the illustration onto index tag.
  • Cut out the strips and the illustration.
  • Reconstruct the poem in the Desktop Pocket Chart using the poetry strips.
  • We’ve numbered each line to minimize confusion. You can keep the numbers or cut them off. If a poem has 10 lines, the title has been designed to fit behind the first line in the top pocket.
  • Gather a group of children to recite the poem together and enjoy its rhythm.
  • Work with the poem’s phonemic focus in a relevant context.

Going Further with the Desktop Pocket Chart

  • Use non-permanent markers, Wikki Stix, or highlighting tape to highlight phonemes on the pocket chart strips.
  • Let children use a pointer such as a Magic Wand to identify particular phonemes or rhyming words.
  • Use sticky notes to cover words in the poem. Let children suggest new words to write in their place to personalize or change the poem. Alternatively, you can use blank word cards made from heavy paper to cover and replace words. (Cards should be about 2” long, 1” high.)
  • Cover phrases in the poem with blank strips and let children interact with the poem by rewriting the phrases. (Strips should be about 1” high.)
  • Have children use letters to build banks of words that share the same phoneme as the one featured in the poem.
  • Use chart paper to create banks or webs of words with the same phonemic element as the poem.
  • Make word cards focusing on a phoneme from the poem, and let children sort the cards in different ways.

Order Your Copy of Poem of the Week

To see all of these ideas and many more, order your own copies of Betsy Franco’s Poem of the Week!