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April 21, 2017

Dig Deeper Into Poetry With Close Reads

By Genia Connell
Grades 3–5

    Over the past few weeks my students have been studying the poetry genre. My third graders have truly loved reading and writing poems. They quickly anointed authors like Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky, who entertained them with hilarious prose, as their favorite poets of all time. I was thrilled that a few days into this unit students began arriving at school each morning with poetry books, pages bookmarked, asking if they could share a few poems with the class. Of course they could! Then last week, one of these poetry-loving students asked me when we were going to go back to “real reading.” Ouch.

    While they were loving poetry and reading it voraciously, I realized my students were only just scratching the surface — looking for funny content without truly understanding a poem’s meaning or the poet’s message. Wanting my students to think of poetry as “real reading,” I decided flip my normal script and spend time treating poetry just as I do other genres. Instead of simply studying imagery, rhythm, and uses of similes and metaphors, we read for comprehension, digging much deeper into our favorite poems than we had been. We began discussing main ideas, mood, and author’s intent; there were quite a few a-ha moments as students realized what some of their favorite funny poems were really about. This week I’m happy to share with you some of the “real reading” strategies I used last week to get my students thinking more deeply about their favorite poems.

    Getting Started — Not Quite as Easy as I Thought

    My students are familiar with close-reading strategies. We often dig deeper into text, marking passages, details, and key words that help our understanding. I assumed applying those same text-marking strategies would come easily to my students when they used poetry as their text. Well, you know what they say about assuming...

    Trying to apply the close-reading strategies I use with fiction and nonfiction text to poetry was a lot like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. By studying several different poems we had already read, I realized how unique each poem truly was. Some poems relied on imagery while others tried to influence mood with groupings and repetitions of certain words or phrases.

    The bottom line was, I needed to make a close-reading organizer just for poetry. Click on this link or on the image above to download your own poetry close-reading organizer.

    Modeling

    When we first started our close reading we worked through the poems together. Using a couple of favorite Silverstein poems, we read the text, then read it again. The second time through we began looking for words or phrases that repeated. We highlighted key words and underlined parts that helped us understand better. For the first time, we began talking about the main idea, setting, and author’s intent in each poem. Students began treating poems the same way they did books they read, and they began understanding them much better.

    On Their Own

    After doing some poems together, I decided to see how students would do on their own. I knew I wanted a printable poem appropriate for third graders so I used Scholastic Printables, which has a great collection of poems for all grade levels.

    Success!

    With each poem we tried, the students seemed to be getting better and better at comprehending poetry at a deeper level. They were able to determine main idea and explain how the author set the mood with word choice. They also began noticing how authors repeated certain lines for emphasis and were able to cite specific evidence from the poem to back up their answers. 

    Because there are so many literary terms related to poetry, we began by sticking to the basics, thinking of our poetry in a story framework. While my students still love reading poetry, I’ve been noticing them discussing the poems they’re reading at a deeper level with their partners during reading time. Instead of carrying poems around to share because they are funny, I’ve had a few students come up to me with their bookmarked poetry books telling me what the author really meant. Sounds like real reading to me.

    Try It Out!

    If you would like to try this activity, you’ll find the three Scholastic Printable poems I used below. Print and go! These printable poems are free to Top Teaching readers through May 15! Not only that, you are also welcome to a 30-day free trial subscription!  

    ·      If Dogs Could Talk

    ·      The Princess and the Pea

    ·      In a Dark, Dark, Wood

    Take care and thanks for reading!

    Genia

    Over the past few weeks my students have been studying the poetry genre. My third graders have truly loved reading and writing poems. They quickly anointed authors like Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky, who entertained them with hilarious prose, as their favorite poets of all time. I was thrilled that a few days into this unit students began arriving at school each morning with poetry books, pages bookmarked, asking if they could share a few poems with the class. Of course they could! Then last week, one of these poetry-loving students asked me when we were going to go back to “real reading.” Ouch.

    While they were loving poetry and reading it voraciously, I realized my students were only just scratching the surface — looking for funny content without truly understanding a poem’s meaning or the poet’s message. Wanting my students to think of poetry as “real reading,” I decided flip my normal script and spend time treating poetry just as I do other genres. Instead of simply studying imagery, rhythm, and uses of similes and metaphors, we read for comprehension, digging much deeper into our favorite poems than we had been. We began discussing main ideas, mood, and author’s intent; there were quite a few a-ha moments as students realized what some of their favorite funny poems were really about. This week I’m happy to share with you some of the “real reading” strategies I used last week to get my students thinking more deeply about their favorite poems.

    Getting Started — Not Quite as Easy as I Thought

    My students are familiar with close-reading strategies. We often dig deeper into text, marking passages, details, and key words that help our understanding. I assumed applying those same text-marking strategies would come easily to my students when they used poetry as their text. Well, you know what they say about assuming...

    Trying to apply the close-reading strategies I use with fiction and nonfiction text to poetry was a lot like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. By studying several different poems we had already read, I realized how unique each poem truly was. Some poems relied on imagery while others tried to influence mood with groupings and repetitions of certain words or phrases.

    The bottom line was, I needed to make a close-reading organizer just for poetry. Click on this link or on the image above to download your own poetry close-reading organizer.

    Modeling

    When we first started our close reading we worked through the poems together. Using a couple of favorite Silverstein poems, we read the text, then read it again. The second time through we began looking for words or phrases that repeated. We highlighted key words and underlined parts that helped us understand better. For the first time, we began talking about the main idea, setting, and author’s intent in each poem. Students began treating poems the same way they did books they read, and they began understanding them much better.

    On Their Own

    After doing some poems together, I decided to see how students would do on their own. I knew I wanted a printable poem appropriate for third graders so I used Scholastic Printables, which has a great collection of poems for all grade levels.

    Success!

    With each poem we tried, the students seemed to be getting better and better at comprehending poetry at a deeper level. They were able to determine main idea and explain how the author set the mood with word choice. They also began noticing how authors repeated certain lines for emphasis and were able to cite specific evidence from the poem to back up their answers. 

    Because there are so many literary terms related to poetry, we began by sticking to the basics, thinking of our poetry in a story framework. While my students still love reading poetry, I’ve been noticing them discussing the poems they’re reading at a deeper level with their partners during reading time. Instead of carrying poems around to share because they are funny, I’ve had a few students come up to me with their bookmarked poetry books telling me what the author really meant. Sounds like real reading to me.

    Try It Out!

    If you would like to try this activity, you’ll find the three Scholastic Printable poems I used below. Print and go! These printable poems are free to Top Teaching readers through May 15! Not only that, you are also welcome to a 30-day free trial subscription!  

    ·      If Dogs Could Talk

    ·      The Princess and the Pea

    ·      In a Dark, Dark, Wood

    Take care and thanks for reading!

    Genia

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