Poetry, with its rhymes and rhythms, is a wonderful way to get children exploring language. At this center, children have a chance to respond to poems we have read during shared reading, and to practice reading the poems on their own.

Organization and Routines

Designate a Table—I set up my poetry center at one of the student tables. Children need to use scissors, pencils, and crayons at this center, so having supplies already available is very helpful. I also place two baskets on the shelf at this table — one for copies of the poem that children will work on, and the other for children’s poetry notebooks.

Choosing Poems for the Centers—The poems I place in the poetry center are ones I have previously introduced during shared reading. I find that it’s important for children to have a clear working knowledge of the poem and to be able to read it independently before it is placed in a center. In addition to the copies I have for students, I hang an enlarged version of the poem near the center for children to refer to and read.

Poetry Notebook—Each child has a poetry notebook. These notebooks are stored on the shelf next to the poetry center table. This gives students easy access to their notebooks during center time. On the cover of the poetry notebook, I include the student’s name and a label to make the notebook easy to locate.

Copies of the Poems—Children paste a copy of the week’s poem into their notebooks. Be sure the copies of the poem you provide are small enough to fit in children’s notebooks. After pasting the poem in their notebooks, children create an illustration that reflects the content of the poem. When they are ready, you can ask them to respond to the poem in writing to show that they have understood it.

Poetry Center Rules—Again, work with students to create rules for the poetry center. Once you have created these rules, post them near the center so that children can use them as a reference. Be sure to use simple language and include pictures whenever possible.

Poetry Center in Motion

Children begin by cutting out the poem from the sheet I’ve provided. I always include a box around the poem so children have lines they can cut along. Cutting out the poem also gives them an opportunity to practice fine-motor skills.

Next, they glue the poem into their notebooks. They should glue the poem onto one left page of a two-page spread. On the opposite page, children can illustrate and respond to the poem. Illustrating the poem enhances children’s comprehension of it, while helping them develop their drawing skills. I have them draw in pencil first, and then color the illustration.

Once students can confidently illustrate their poems, I invite them to respond to the poems in writing. As the year progresses, I increase the difficulty of the types of responses I expect. This scaffolds their learning and both deepens and strengthens their comprehension of poetry.

This is an excerpt from Literacy Centers in Photographs by Nikki Campo-Stallone.