I have had this blog post in my drafts for such a long time as it’s such a work in progress, but it feels right to publish it now as we enter a new academic year.
Poetry can sometimes be shoehorned into a classroom as an afterthought, often in the last week of term when it is realised the children haven’t written any yet. This often results in very guided and structured poems instead of the creative pieces that could be produced.
For me, poetry is absolutely central to what I do in my classroom. Here’s why:
Why is poetry central in my classroom?
- Poetry is super rich in vocabulary. I cannot express enough how much glorious vocabulary can be found in even the simplest of poems. By exposing children to poems daily, you are also exposing them to the richest pool of words. If you unpick that vocabulary, you are handing them the most delicious plate of words imaginable!
- Poetic devices. It is difficult for children to master poetic devices if they are only exposed to poems during a rushed poetry unit at the end of a term. If they listen to a range of poems daily, they build up an excellent understanding of different devices which make their own poetry writing much more effective and creative.
- Poems are fun! This possibly should have been the first reason I stated, but if you have ever read a class full of children a silly poem, you will know how much fun and laughter it creates. Poems are written to be read aloud and enjoyed.
- Reading fluency. Poems are great for working on fluency. Children can practise speed, volume, tone, expression and experiment with different effects created by how they read a poem.
- There are no rules! Some children find writing hard. There is so much to think about and they often find it anything but an enjoyable experience. Poetry is amazing in its own right, but it can also be a way in for reluctant writers. The fact that there are no rules for poetry – they can be single words, they can rhyme or not rhyme, they can be written backwards, punctuation missed, etc. means that for some children, there is a lot of freedom in writing poetry. It can be a great way to build confidence in a writer.
- Play on language. Children can be silly with writing poems. They can giggle and snigger. They can play with language, which often makes them better at other types of writing. It’s a great way to emphasise the review and editing process of writing. Why is this word better? What effect does this word have over this word?
- Creativity and understanding. Poetry can be a way for children to be creative. It can also be another way of them showing their understanding of the world. A child writing a poem about something they know about or have learned about can be a great way at seeing their understanding or even misconceptions.
- Emotional intelligence. I have used poetry throughout different times in my life to help me express or process different emotions. It can be a powerful tool for children too. The explosion of ‘Instagram’ quotes, which are often extracts of poetry further show how powerful poetry can be to read and write to help regulate different emotions. For some children, reading and / or writing poetry can help them through difficult times and can give you an insight into how they are feeling.
Quick wins to add more poetry to your classroom:
- Read more! There are always the odd minutes where you have a bit of time to read a poem. My children beg me at every opportunity to grab a poem book and read some. In my class we have two main ways of choosing a poem: children choose one of our books, then they can either say STOP as I flick through all the pages so it’s a random selection or they can choose a page number (they quickly learn where their favourites are!) Often, they learn these poems by heart too so you can work on speaking and listening and performance objectives 😉 I’m all for quick wins!
- Have poetry books in your class library. I have a large selection of children’s poetry books and they are some of the most popular books. The children love them and will mimic the choosing process above with each other and read each other poems which is a delight.
- Use poetry in lessons. Unpick them in reading lessons, R.E. lessons, P.S.H.E. lessons. Discuss the language, the devices, the vocabulary. Use songs too. It is always amazing how much better children sing hymns and songs after you have explained some of the vocabulary / language within them. (The same with prayers!)
- Curate a class poetry collection. Take pride in EVERY poem that the children write. I always have a scrap book that the children add to throughout the year. They write poems at home, at lunchtime, during wet play. There are no rules – they can be written on anything, and they all get added. We do regular poetry recitals too where children have the option to share and celebrate their poems with each other.
- Ensure poetry choices are diverse. Just as it is vital for children to see themselves and others in books and in their curriculum, they need to have the same diversity in the poems they read. Don’t just have white, male poets.
There will be so many more reasons why I feel poetry is more important than an afterthought writing unit and you can see why it’s taken so long to write.
It would be great to hear your thoughts on poetry and how you will or do make it more prevalent in your classroom.