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Curriculum Laboratory

Teaching Ideas Showcase: Starred Ideas for Teaching Poetry

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If they give you ruled paper, write the other way."

"Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting with the gift of speech."
-Simonides (556 B.C.-468 B.C.)-

"Poetry and Hums aren't things which you get, they're things which get you.  And all you can do is go where they can find you."
-Winnie the Pooh, Pooh's Little Instruction Book, inspired by A.A. Milne-

Use Georgia Heard's Practical Books on Teaching Poetry

  • Heard, Georgia (1999).
  • Awakening the heart : exploring poetry in elementary and middle
    school.  (372.64)

  • Heard, Georgia (1989). For the good of the earth and sun : teaching poetry. (808.1 Hea)
  • Heard, Georgia.
  • Writing toward home : tales and lessons to find your way. (808.02 Hea Gr.7-9) 
    While not a practical book on teaching poetry, it will inspire its readers to take a journey to that inner place called "home", from where all of us want to write prose or poetry. "There are many times when I've felt that there was not poetry inside me, that I had nothing valuable to say....When we begin to speak in the language that is ours and tell our own stories and truths, we are surprised that this too is poetry (p. 9)."  This title is part of the grade 7-9 Language Arts curriculum in Alberta.  Each short chapter concludes with a writing exercise.
  • Georgia Heard has a number of excellent resources full of simple and practical ideas for teaching poetry. Anyone who has read her books, or attended one of her numerous workshops, realizes she has a deep and abiding love the power of poetry to express who we are, as well as a teacher's desire to spread this love to students. Some of the ideas below are taken from Georgia Heard's workshop at Kaleidoscope 7 called, "Teaching Poetry--Giving Students the Vision and Tools to Reach for Wider Possibilities as Writers", Calgary, October 2000. These, and many other ideas, can also be found in her books.
  • The danger of teaching poetry is that the students get so bogged down in the mechanics of poetry writing, they lose the sense of wonder and enthusiasm that should be in the forefront in enjoying poetry. Jean Little expresses this in the poem, below:
After English Class
    By Jean Little

I used to like "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."
I liked the coming darkness,
The jingle of harness bells, breaking--and adding to
--the stillness,
The gentle drift of snow. . . .
But today, the teacher told us what everything stood for.
The woods, the horse, the miles to go, the sleep--
They all have "hidden meanings."
It's grown so complicated now that,
Next time I drive by,
I don't think I'll bother to stop.

(Little, J. (1986).  Hey world, here I am! Toronto: Kids Can Press.)

  • Poetry should be experienced a three different levels. Never skip a level when introducing poetry to children. Do not destroy the joy of poetry by going right to step 3:
    • Step One: Introduce students to "user friendly poems", such as humorous poems by Shel Silverstein or Jack Prelutsky (See the list at the end of this handout).
    • Step Two: Have students pick a poem that means something to them: Some aspects of their lives are expressed in the poem. The poem becomes a self-portrait or autobiographical poem, in some way.
    • Step Three: Analyze the poetry.
  • Read a poem every week, or even every day. Have the students pick the poems.
  • Designate one window a poetry window, as an activity centre. When the students come to that centre, they must look out, and find one thing with poetry in it, and write a poem about it. Post all the poems written through the poetry window on display around the window.
  • Word Awareness Centre--Post generic sentences. Have students expand on them.
    • Generic sentences could include "We had a lot of fun," or, "She was a good person."
      E.g. "It was a nice day" becomes, "The day smelled of freshly cut grass, as the newborn sun poked its head over the horizon, spreading its life-giving rays over the landscape."
  • Parts of Speech Centre--Color code parts of speech, and place on magnets. Each person using the centre gets a package of color coded parts of speech, and must create sentences from them, posting the sentences on a magnetic surfaces.
  • Illustration Centre--Have a collection of small poems copied. Have students divide up sentences, and make picture books of poem. Students could make picture books of their own poems.
  • Listening Centre--Students can record their favourite poems. Other students can listen to them.
  • Reading Centre--Display baskets of favourite poems for the students to read.
  • Editorial Centre--Display interesting, funny, or disturbing news articles. Students write an editorial poem on an event of their choice.
  • Line Break Centre--Rewrite short poems without the line breaks. Students must put in breaks where they think they belong, following the rule that a line break equals a pause.
  • Revision Centre--Students take a poem, and must condense it into a story, taking out all embellishments. Students could also try this in reverse, and compare it to the original poem.
  • Poem Analysis Activity--Once the basic poetry elements are taught, give a poem to the whole class. Split class into these groups: metaphor simile group, beginning and ending group, rhyme group, repetition and pattern group, physical form group. Each group gets ten minutes to analyze the poem based on their topic, and report back. Students should then find their element in one of their own poems.
  • Missing Words Activity--Take out the most "poetic" words of a poem, and leave blanks in their place. Students must fill in the blanks. Share their poems, and then share the original. Students can then do this to their own poems in groups, and have other group members brainstorm other picture words to use in the blanks of each student's poem.
  • Poetic Description Sheet:
    E.g. Description of Trees:
    Ordinary Description: (First words that come to mind): Poetic Description: (Words that paint a picture in the reader's mind)
    Green Greener than a coral sea
    tall towering
    old more wrinkled than a 100 year old man's face
  • Poetry Toolbox (Image Rooms Tool):
Georgia Heard, in her very practical book called, "Awakening the Heart" talks about the idea of a poetry toolbox (p. 62-72).   Just as a carpenter carries his/her tools in a toolbox, a poet should carry his/her poetry toolbox to the writing table.  The meaning toolbox includes expressing oneself through visual and sensory tools (e.g image, metaphor, similie, line-breaks, etc.).  The music toolbox expresses feelings and experience through musical and rhythmic tools (e.g. rhyme, patterns, rhythm, alliterations, onomatopeia, etc.).  Her book includes many practical tools for the poetry writer's toolbox. One of the tools in the meaning toolbox is the image rooms tool:
    Image Rooms Poetry Writing Tool:
    Image:  Think of something interesting, and describe it as clearly as a photograph Light:  Think of the same image as the image room, but focus on the quality of light in the image
    Sound: Are there voices, other sounds that are part of your image?  Describe them. Questions:  Do you have questions about the image?
    Feelings:  How does the image make you feel?  Repeating Words(s):  Look at the other 5 rooms about this image, and select a word or sentence that feels most important about this image, and write it 3 times.

    Other rooms can be added, such as smell, taste, touch, similies, metaphors, etc.
    The students can then write a poem using the information in their image rooms.  Students could also work from an actual photograph they have been given.


Search Your Library Catalogue Unders Some of These Subject Headings

  • Poetry -- Authorship
  • Poetry -- Study and Teaching (You can add Elementary, Middle School or Secondary, to narrow it down)
  • Search by types of poems:  e.g. Concrete or Visual Poetry, Humorous Poetry, Limericks, Haiku, Nonsense Verses
  • Poetics
  • Poetry collections


Use the Poetry Box Activity Kits

Thomas, Sue (1982). The primary poetry box [flash cards]. (808.1 Tho)
Seasonal and theme cards contain a poem on one side, followed by a number of activities for each poem.

Boultinghouse, Ann (1979). The poetry box [activity cards]. (808.1 Bou)
100 activity cards lead the student through all aspects of poetry writing. e.g. alliteration, couplet, haiku, limerick, metaphor, rhyme, stanza, etc.

Use "Yes You Can Write Poetry" Binder

Lashmar, Patrick (1992). Yes you can write poetry : a whole language unit for ages 9 through 13. (808.1 Las)
Contains 36 poetry-writing activities, with student handouts for each activity. Some of the activities are autobiographical poems, acrostically speaking, visual sound poems, writing limericks, write your own alphabet poem/newspaper poem/ dinosaur poem, etc.

Use Reader's Theater Activities to Involve Students


Bauer, Caroline Feller (1987). Presenting reader's theater : plays and poems to read aloud. (792.022 Bau)
A treasure trove of plays and poems designed to read aloud.

Fleischman, Paul. I am phoenix : poems for two voices. (811.54 Fle)
The noise of birds is recreated in these poems for two voices (or two groups of voices).
Students could also adapt other poems for "choral reading."

AUTHOR Fleischman, Paul (1985). Joyful noise : poems for two voices. 811.54 Fle
The noise of insects is recreated in these poems for two voices (or two groups of voices).

Hoberman, Mary Ann (2001).You read to me, I'll read to you:  very short stories to read together. (811.54 Hob)
"This unique book in two voices uses traditional reading techniques - rhyme, rhythm, and repetition - to invite young children to read along with an adult."

Use Other Practical Books for Poetry Teaching Ideas


Hint:  Browse the 808.1 on the Curriculum Laboratory shelves.

AUTHOR Ambrosini, Michelle
TITLE Poetry Workshop for the middle school: activities that inspire meaningful lnaguage learning
Describes a poetry workshop in detail, including 17 workshop activities, each with objectives, procedures, student samples, poems, and assessment techniques.
SUBJECT Poetry -- Study and teaching (Middle school)

AUTHOR Behn, Robin
TITLE The practice of poetry
SUBJECT Poetry -- authorship
CALL # 808.1 Pra

AUTHOR Cheyney, Arnold B.
TITLE The poetry corner
CALL # 808.1 Che

AUTHOR Harley, Avis
TITLE Leap into poetry:  more ABCs of poetry
SUBJECT Children's poetry -- Canadian

AUTHOR Hopkins, Lee Bennett
TITLE Pass the poetry, please!
Includes sections on acquainting students with poetry,  ideas for sparking children to write poetry, ideas for motivating the appreciation of poetry in the classroom, and a bibliography of great poets.
SUBJECT Poetry -- Study and teaching (Elementary)
SUBJECT Poetry -- Authorship -- Study and teaching (Elementary)
CALL # 808.1 Hop

AUTHOR Janeczko, Paul B.
TITLE Opening a door: reading poetry in the middle school classroom.
Sample poems include detailed lesson plans, including student response sheets. The book also contains many reproducibles that could be used for many types of poems, and poetry listening and writing. The bibliographies and web site suggestions are also excellent.
SUBJECT Poetry -- Study and teaching (Middle School)
SUBJECT Oral interpretation of poetry
CALL # 808.1 Jan

AUTHOR Kirkland, Glen
TITLE Inside poetry
SUBJECT Poetry -- Collections
CALL # 808.1 Kir Gr.12

AUTHOR Kovacs, Mary Anne
TITLE Participating in the Poem:  An introduction to poetry
CALL # 808.1 Kov

AUTHOR Lashmar, Patrick
TITLE Under the hose : poems and poetry writing activities
SUBJECT Poetry and children.
SUBJECT Poetry -- Authorship
SUBJECT Children's poetry
CALL # 808.1 Las

AUTHOR Leggo, Carl
TITLE Teaching to wonder : responding to poetry in the secondary
SUBJECT Poetry -- Study and teaching (Secondary)
CALL # 808.1 Leg

AUTHOR Mallis, Jackie
TITLE Mosaics : pathways to poetry
SUBJECT  Poetry -- Study and teaching
CALL # 808.1 Mal

AUTHOR Michaels, Judith
TITLE Risking Intensity:  reading and writing peotry with high school students
SUBJECT Poetry -- Study and teaching (Secondary)
SUBJECT Poetry -- Authorship
CALL # 808.1 Mic Gr. 10-12

AUTHOR Perry, Aeren Yeatts
TITLE Poetry across the curriculum : an action guide for elementary teachers.
PUBLISHER Allyn and Bacon, c 1997
CALL # 808.1 Per

AUTHOR Sartor, Jim
TITLE Write poetry now : ready-to-use lessons using creative thinking
techniques / by Jim Sartor. --
PUBLISHER Hamilton, ON : Tree House Press, c1990.
CALL # 808.1 Sar

AUTHOR Scannell, Vernon
TITLE How to enjoy poetry / Vernon Scannell. --
PUBLISHER Loughton, Essex : Piatkus, 1983.
CALL # PN 1031 S318 1983

AUTHOR Steinbergh, Judith
TITLE Reading and writing poetry:  A guide for teachers
PUBLISHER New York : Scholastic Professional Books,  1994.
CALL # 808.1 Ste

AUTHOR  Wainright, James
TITLE  Poetivities:  Involvement activities that teach children to write creatvie poetry (Primary and Intermediate) / by James Wainright
PUBLISHER  Carthage:  Good Apple, 1989
CALL # 808.1 Wai

AUTHOR Wooldridg, Susan
TITLE    Poemcrazy
SUBJECT Poetry -- authorship
CALL # 808.1 Woo

Search for Poetry Lesson Plans on the Web

  • Teaching Ideas Showcase: Never Write Poetry in Science Class! (Poetry Centres Writing Marathon for Grades 4 to 6) -- Objectives of this web site:
    1. To define poetry as a genre.
    2. To integrate the teaching of poetry with the teaching of science in the curriculum and/or other subjects.
    3. To enjoy various science poems.
    4. Students will learn about, and write, in these poetic and literary forms: acrostic poetry, similes, concrete poetry, cinquain poems, alliteration, kennings poems, expanding poems, and senses poetry.
  • "ReadWriteThink" is a partnership between the International Reading Association (IRA), the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), and the MarcoPolo Education Foundation." This site provides "educators and students with access to the highest quality practices and resources in reading and language arts instruction through free, Internet-based content." Simply use the Search feature to search for the specific type of poetry lessons you are looking for.
  • Browse the Telus Learning site for ideas, links, and articles.  Search by Title, and look under "Poetry."
  • A number of lesson plans on this topic can be found on SchoolNet by doing a "poetry" search.
  • Search the Lesson Plans links under "Great Sites for Educators" on the Curriculum Laboratory Web Page.
  •, from the Academy of American Poets, contains poetry, teaching tips, lessons and essays on teaching poetry.
  • ProTeachers' Poetry Site contains many thematic units and lessons on poetry.
  • Online Classroom Poetry contains a "wealth of resources, including Teacher Forums where teachers can share ideas and seek help from colleagues; Pedagogical & Critical Essays about poetry; extensive links to relevant websites; Curriculum Units & Lesson Plans; biographies of hundreds of poets; and nearly two-thousand poems housed."
  • The United States of Poetry, originally a PBS series, is a portrait of United States, through poetry. However, Canadian Leonard Cohen is represented, and the site contains poems in universal themes, such as Love and Sex, The Land and the People, etc. It is obviously a site for more mature students of poetry. The Curriculum Laboratory also has the book, and the videotape.

Getting Students to Read Poetry


Keep a box of high interest poetry in your classroom, for students to browse through in a spare moment.  Try including these great books, to get elementary students interested in poetry:

AUTHOR Charlesworth, Roberta A.
TITLE An anthology of verse
CALL # 808.81 Cha.

AUTHOR Heidbreder, Robert.
TITLE See saw Saskatchewan: more playful poems from coast to coast
CALL # 811.54 Hei.

AUTHOR  Hopkins, Lee Bennett
TITLE The sky is full of song / selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins
NOTE An anthology of poems celebrating the seasons.
CALL # 811 Sky.

AUTHOR  Hopkins, Lee Bennett
TITLE Surprises / selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins
NOTE A collection of short poems by Marchette Chute, Myra Cohn
Livingston, Aieleen Fisher, Lee Bennett Hopkins, and other
CALL # 811.54 Su.

AUTHOR Lee, Dennis
TITLE Dinosaurs / poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins
NOTE A collection of eighteen poems about dinosaurs, by authors
including Lee Bennett Hopkins, Lilian Moore, and Myra Cohn
CALL # 811.54 Din

AUTHOR Lee, Dennis, 1939-
TITLE Alligator pie / the poems were written by Dennis Lee
CALL # 811.54 Lee

AUTHOR Lee, Dennis, 1939-
TITLE Garbage delight / the poems were written by Dennis Lee
CALL # 811.54 Lee

AUTHOR Lee, Dennis, 1939-
TITLE The ice cream store : poems / by Dennis Lee ;
CALL # 811.54 Lee.

TITLE Meadowbooks [kit] includes: Animals from Mother Goose / Lee Bennett Hopkins --
People from Mother Goose / Lee Bennett Hopkins, The lap-time song and play book / Jane
Yolen -- The lullaby songbook / Jane Yolen, etc.
CALL # 372.4 Mea Gr.1

TITLE MeadowBooks [kit] : level B, adventure : where a tall tree stands. --  Includes: The sea is calling me : poems / selected by Lee Bennett
CALL # 372.4 Mea Gr.2

TITLE MeadowBooks [kit] : level C, adventure : follow the river. --
Includes: Extra innings : baseball poems / Lee Bennett Hopkins
CALL # 372.4 Mea Gr.3

AUTHOR Prelutsky, Jack TITLE Beneath a blue umbrella : rhymes
CALL # 811.54 Pre

AUTHOR Prelutsky, Jack
TITLE For laughing out loud : poems to tickle your funnybone
CALL # 811.5 For

AUTHOR Prelutsky, Jack
TITLE My parents think I'm sleeping : poems CALL # 811.54 Pre

AUTHOR Prelutsky, Jack
TITLE The new kid on the block : poems
CALL # 811.54 Pre

UTHOR Prelutsky, Jack
TITLE Nightmares : poems to trouble your sleep
CALL # 811.54 Pre

AUTHOR Prelutsky, Jack
TITLE The Random House book of poetry for children
CALL # 808.81 Ran

AUTHOR Prelutsky, Jack
TITLE Read-aloud rhymes for the very young
CALL # 808.81 Rea

AUTHOR Silverstein, Shel
TITLE Falling up : poems and drawings
CALL # 811.54 Sil

AUTHOR Silverstein, Shel
TITLE A light in the attic
CALL # 811.54 Sil.

AUTHOR Silverstein, Shel
TITLE Where the sidewalk ends : the poems & drawings of Shel
Silverstein. --
PUBLISHER New York : Harper and Row, c1974.
CALL # 811.54 Sil

AUTHOR Yolen, Jane
TITLE Bird watch : a book of poetry
CALL # 811.54 Yol

AUTHOR Yolen, Jane.
TITLE Jane Yolen's Mother Goose songbook / selected, edited, and
introduced by Jane Yolen ; musical arrangements by Adam Stemple
; illustrations by Rosekrans Hoffman. --
PUBLISHER Honesdale, PA : Caroline House, Boyds Mills Press, c1992.
CALL # 398.8 Jan.

AUTHOR Yolen, Jane. TITLE Mother earth, father sky : poems of our planet
CALL # 811.5 Mot

By Bill Glaister, Curriculum Lab Coordinator, 2000
Updated July 2006.
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