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April 5, 2012 Playing With Poetry in the Primary Grades By Jennifer Solis and Jenifer Boatwright
Grades 1–2, 3–5

    Teaching poetry is a fun way to get in some extra standards practice and teach those essential skills for writing stories. It helps students build their knowledge of descriptive language and helps them think outside the box and utilize their imaginations.

    In this post, we'll share a few activities we use to teach poetry in our classrooms. We spend about a week on each one, devoting time to brainstorming, pair sharing, and working up the final product.




    Teaching haiku strengthens students’ knowledge of syllabication and broadens their cultural knowledge. If you used lessons from our immigration post a couple of weeks ago, this is a great follow-up. Haiku is an ancient form of Japanese poetry that is generally about nature. No matter the season, students can practice this form of writing. We recommend you visit Scholastic's Poetry Idea Engine to start exploring haiku with your class. This is an awesome and engaging tool that you can use to play with poetry.

    Since we have experienced an unusual number of rainy days lately, we decided to have students write about the rain. We did a lot of brainstorming and pair sharing activities to come up with ideas for what we could write about. We talked about how it sounds, feels, looks like, what we can do in it . . . you get the idea.

    We made a raindrop template with three lines on it. The students needed to come up with three phrases about the rain. The first phrase needed to be five syllables long; the second, seven syllables; and the third, five. We colored them, cut them out, and displayed them in the room.


    Sensory Poem

    This one really kicks things up a notch! In this activity students express their emotions and senses through the use of color. Here is the pattern to follow:

    [Insert emotion] is [color].
    It sounds like ___________.
    It smells like ___________.
    It tastes like ____________.
    It looks like ____________.
    [Same emotion] feels like ____________.

    Have students keep a journal about the emotions they feel and what makes them feel that way. Again, you will want to brainstorm and pair share ideas before doing the final project. It was hard for some students to tell us what a color smells like or tastes like. We had to model this several times and provide many examples.


    Acrostic Name Poem

    I am sure many of you have done some kind of acrostic poem with your class. What about having students do one using their names? This is a great way to build self-esteem. Start by having students write nice things about each other on slips of paper (they can be as simple as one word) and deliver them to each other. This gives students their very own word bank to work from when they have to write nice things about themselves. It also makes them feel great knowing all the wonderful things the other students think about them.



    Alliteration is always our favorite because we make a silly class book and each of the children gets their very own copy to keep. We begin by writing an alliterative phrase or sentence together as a class. To start, we decide on the letter we are going to use, and then we brainstorm a list of words that begin with that letter. We make sure to list nouns, verbs, adjectives, and words that describe when or where. This list is very helpful for the students. Students then use a sentence strip to write an alliterative sentence using words from the list. Many students end up writing similar sentences, but that is OK because we are practicing.

    To write our class alliteration book, each child is assigned a letter from the alphabet. We pair up some of our students who need extra support. The alliterations are published in alphabetical order and copies are made for each student. The students love reading their classmates' work. This activity is a must!


    What activities do you have planned for National Poetry Month? We would love to hear!


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Susan Cheyney