written by: Linda M. Rhinehart Neas
• edited by: Donna Cosmato
• updated: 2/8/2012
Educators who avoid teaching children poetry from the English Language Canon will find these lesson plans refreshing. These different forms of poetry will get children involved, creating poems, using vocabulary, and developing a passion for the written word. Teaching children poetry can be fun!
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Too often, educators of younger students skip over the poetry standard of the language arts requirement because they dread teaching poetry. This dread comes from his or her learning on the subject.
Historically, poetry was taught based on a strict Canon that consisted of the writings of mostly old, dead men who wrote in iambic pentameter (i.e., Mary had a little lamb...) or in language that was antiquated and difficult to understand (i.e., Beowulf). Not until the end of the last century, did other forms of poetry appear in textbooks.
However, this usually only happened in high school texts, which is self-defeating as most teenagers already form strong opinions by the time they enter high school. Anyone who has tried to teach poetry to a group of teens who have never really been introduced to it can attest to this.
Teaching poetry to children in a manner that is enjoyable as well as exciting and allows for fun-filled inquiry helps to dispel the belief that poetry is only for old people in tweed jackets and lace gloves. There are several poetry forms that nurture the creative intelligence of students and allow the classroom teacher to enjoy teaching the unit.
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What's In a Name?
During the first days of a new school year, or during special times throughout the year, creative writing can help students and teachers learn about each other as well as practice the various skills needed to meet language arts standards. Acrostic poems accomplish this.
An acrostic poem is a poem in which letters within the poem spell out a word or phrase. Usually this is done with the first letter, which is the simplest way to teach acrostics to young students.
Each student writes his or her name down the left side of the paper. Depending on the age of the students, the teacher can instruct them to either think of one word that starts with each letter or a phrase that begins with each letter. As a "name poem," the words or phrases chosen should reflect the interests or personality of the writer. Another option for this poetry form is to have students write about another person; for instance, a president, a historical figure, or an author.
This example is of both a single word acrostic and an acrostic that is written with phrases as well as the other poetry forms described below.
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Diamantes Are a Teachers Best Friend
Diamante poems are great to incorporate into a geometry unit because they literally form the shape of a diamond. In addition, students get to practice the use of various parts of speech, thereby scaffolding on prior language art lessons.
To create a diamante, the lines of the poem are written in this manner:
Line 1: one word subject (noun)
Line 2: two adjectives describing Line 1
Line 3: three participles (verbs) ending in -ing or -ed describing Line 1
Line 7: one word (noun) that is the opposite of Line 1
Line 6: two adjectives describing Line 7
Line 5: three participles (verbs) ending in -ing or -ed describing Line 7
Line 4: four words - two related to the noun in Line 1 and two related to the noun in Line 7
Line 1: Winter
Line 2: Cold, frigid
Line 3: Slipping, sliding, skating
Line 7: Spring
Line 6: Warm, sunny
Line 5: Chirping, peeping, sprouting
Line 4: Cross-country skiing, garden planting
When the student finishes writing the lines of the poem, the lines are placed in numerical order and a diamond is formed.
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Lantern poems are also a way to develop language skills in young students, while creating poems that are enjoyable to view as well as fun to make. Lanterns can be used to scaffold knowledge of social studies or science units.
Lantern poems are created as follows:
Line 1: A noun
Line 2: two words describing the noun
Line 3: three words describing the noun
Line 4: four words describing the noun
Line 5: a synonym for Line 1 (one word)
Here is an example of a lantern poem that scaffolds a science lesson on the rainforest.
Line 1: Rainforest
Line 2: Lush, Mysterious
Line 3: Wet, Green, Wild
Line 4: Animals, Flowers, Trees, Butterflies
Line 5: Jungle
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Language of the People
Some writers call poetry the language of the people. Certainly, poetry is a creative way to "paint" pictures with words, to express emotions that overwhelm the senses and to record moments in time. Teaching children different forms of poetry by utilizing: Acrostic, Diamante, and Lantern poems, opens the door of language arts, scaffolding onto other subject matter, for students allowing them to have a creative voice in their world.