- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5
The National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry brings the world of animals to life with vivid photographs and poetry collections. See how this collection of over two hundred poems can turn your classroom into a lyrical animal kingdom by inspiring your young writers to create animal pieces of their own.
The National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry is for all ages. With the variety and number of poems included, you can read a new poem every day of the week!
This book offers a fun and engaging way for students to learn about animals as well as poetic form. To kick off your study, open the book and have students give you feedback on the illustrations. Then flip to the back of the book. There you will find a number of resources for students to extend their knowledge of animals and poetry with writing ideas as well as a bibliography of children’s books on wordplay and poetry.
Clifford F. Wohl created a teacher's guide that offers several good lesson ideas. Many of the activities my class did originated from his lesson bank or from the back of the book, which I modified for my classroom.
Where to Start
I began this lesson with a “poetry walk.” Sharing copies of the books, students skimmed the pages and wrote down on Post-it Notes different pages that captured their attention. For example, one student noted, "The picture of the ant on page 41 caught my eye." I used one such notation to have the class find the page and focus on the thought that the student had. Did the picture of the ant catch everyone's attention? What did the poem have to say about the ant?
This activity helped the kids to dig deeper into the book. The different suggestions shared by classmates brought pages to my students’ attention that they might have overlooked originally. It allowed every student the opportunity to have a voice and share during a classroom discussion. The only tricky part with a book as rich as this is that we were putting Post-its Notes on almost every page!
We all wanted to read and share every poem in the book, so we decided to do just that. Taking another idea from Wohl’s lessons, we now read one or sometimes two poems a day. At the end of the reading we share our thoughts about what we noticed about the poem (things we liked, things we connected with, questions we might have, and what the poem made us think about).
For the next step, I invited students to become authors themselves. We started at the back of the book where suggestions are given on "Writing Poems About Animals.” Students accepted the first challenge of writing about a zebra without using the words, “black,” “white,” or “striped.” Talk about a challenge! This was a group activity. It was interesting to see how the students worked together in teams to find a more intriguing way to describe a zebra. In small groups students created collaborative poems about a zebra and a pig.
As an extension to this activity I had each group create a poem about a mystery animal (an animal I privately assigned) and then asked other groups guess which animal the first group was describing in their poem. Students had the opportunity to research, look at word choice, and present their findings to their peers. The guessing groups shared what they really liked about the poem and why, and gave a suggestion to consider. Based on these critiques, the writing groups were able to go back and make changes where they felt it was necessary.
Free Form Poetry
The other form of poetry we incorporated into our classroom learning with the help of this book was free form. I always like to keep the door open for students to come up with their own ideas for writing. I had one group of kids that wanted to create poems similar to the ones that they were reading. I had a group of students who love art and wanted to focus on the artistic elements and then incorporate a poem around artwork. Another group watched the video of J. Patrick Lewis reading a poem and wanted to create a photo slide show while reading the poem in the background. The free form poem — where kids see, think, and then create — is where I see the power of this book coming to life.
Celebrate poetry month with a book that can incorporate poetry, a love for all animals, and so much more. Your class will be so happy that you did!
Do you have this book in your classroom? I'd love to hear how you use it with your students!
Thank you for reading!