Shadow Poetry Logo
Home Poetry Types Japanese Poetry Handbook Poetry Guide Resources Bookstore
Introduction   |   1   |   2   |   3   |   4   |   5   |   6   |   7   |   8   |   9   |   10   |   11   |   12   |   13   |   14   |   15   |   16   |   17   |   18   |   19   |   20   |   21

Chapter #17 - How to Teach Poetry to Children

Start today, now, tonight. Read poetry to children. It doesn't matter whether they understand any more than it did that you talked to them when they were babies. It starts out way over their heads; but miraculously they learn much faster than you would expect. There are child development standards you can use to measure a child's mental growth, but they are all too reactive not proactive. All children learn much more than expected and thrive on challenge.

What poems should be read to children? If you want to grossly underestimate them, read them only children's poems. If you want to see dramatic results read them a wide variety and include things beyond their age level and probable comprehension.

If you are timid you can start with these simpler poems that are guaranteed to interest most children: Shel Silverstein books like The Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends, Mother Goose and other nursery rhymes, Kids Pick the Funniest Poems and A Bad Case of the Giggles with poems selected by Bruce Lansky.

Read a lot of children's publications and the poems in them. Sunflower Petals published by Kansas State Poetry Society 302 N. 5th St. Atchison Kansas, 66002 is a publication to read. It periodically publishes many children's poems as well as adults' poems.

Immerse children in any kinds of poetry that the teacher enjoys. Read several poems at nap time.

Look for the book, Poetry Writing Handbook by Lipson, published by TLC Teaching and Learning Company. It teaches how to introduce poetic forms to middle school age children and is a good resource book for teachers who want to learn more about teaching poetry.

Preschool poetry activities:

1. Try making up rhymes.

2. Teacher writes and reads back each child's words.

3. Teacher listens for unintentional poetic word usage by kids and writes it down.

4. Teacher writes down phrases of ordinary child conversation and reads it back as free verse poems. Capture the phrasing that is unique to children.

5. Write the dialogue you overhear between children in short excerpts.

6. Sensitize children to internal rhyme by making up lines like: "Crank a bank and thank Frank."

7. Introduce children to nonsense end rhymes and sing- song patterns: dipedoo just for you wear a shoe

8. Make up new poems about yourself or each other from the patterns in nursery rhymes and mother goose. Little Jack Horner sat in a corner eating his Christmas pie. Be tolerant of very bad rhymes, as having fun is more important than perfect rhymes at first and probably always.

9. Make up verses of similar patterns for "This Old Man" , or other children's songs. Be aware that songs are excellent teachers of rhymed poetry.

With children a little older who understand the instructions you can use more complex ideas about internal rhymes and patterned end rhymes such as abba, abab, aabb. Abba is a rhyme pattern in which the first line rhymes with the fourth line and the second line rhymes witth the third. At this stage you can give children forms like diamante, a form which has centered lines with a short word in the first line a long line in the center and a short word in the last line. A diamante can be as many lines as you like but must fit on one page. Here is an example of an unrhymed diamante:

Sparkles like
A glittering jewel
At the top of a Christmas tree
But gives a glow
Of warmth in
A lamp

As you can see, it looks like a diamond. Don't be too demanding of meaning or perfect diamond outline.

Think up rhythm patterns by drumming out repeating patterns on the desk. When you have a pattern, try making a poem to follow the beat. A limerick is just such a pattern. Try drumming out the beat of a limerick and then write a limerick. It is good to learn to write a limerick, as it is a fun pattern, and teaches children to listen carefully for different numbers of syllables in a foot.

da-DA-da, da-DA-da, da-DA-da
da-DA-da, da-DA-da, da-DA
da-DA-da, da-DA
da-DA-da, da-DA
da-DA-da, da-DA-da, da-DA

For children about age ten or twelve you may want to introduce some more complex rhyme patterns such as sestina, villanelle, sonnet (both forms), concrete shape, haiku and tanka, As you teach children to write any regular form of poetry you should first read examples of the form to them and then try writing one. Definitely check out books from the library about teaching children poetry. Mix any other ideas with the ideas given here.

To get examples of poems for older children you may want to look at school literature books including college texts. If you know a poet, you may get examples from him or her. If you have access to the Internet you should look up different forms to see examples.

You do not need to wait to teach free verse exercises. Free verse may be included at any point of your work with children. As with any other form it should be introduced in examples by reading to the class or having them read if they are comfortable with that. Have children write parts of conversations they have heard between adults or other children. Write poems that sound like the words of the teacher. They can learn to identify and copy different people's speech patterns. Many books give lists of ideas about which to write poems. You can also find these on the Internet. If you can't find ideas, use any book of children's poems as an idea book for your own poems. Keep the first line and change all the other lines to make your own poem.

Article written by Don J. Carlson. All Rights Reserved

For more information, please contact: Don J. Carlson

  Back to Top

Introduction   |   1   |   2   |   3   |   4   |   5   |   6   |   7   |   8   |   9   |   10   |   11   |   12   |   13   |   14   |   15   |   16   |   17   |   18   |   19   |   20   |   21
Home Poetry Types Japanese Poetry Handbook Poetry Guide Resources Bookstore
Copyright © 2000-2013 Shadow Poetry | Privacy Policy | Contact Us