National Poetry Month is not until April, but students need access to poetry all year long. It is unlike any other genre of reading, and many of the writing skills we think are specific to poetry can make students’ writing in other genres come alive. Focus Poetry, a program of shared reading, provides multiple opportunities to teach a wide variety of skills in a small amount of time each day. Many teachers at my school have put Focus Poetry into their daily schedules. As a result, students are gaining a deeper understanding of how to read and write poetry. They are becoming poetry pros! Read on to learn how to implement this structure in your own classroom.
First, you’ll need some wall space that you can dedicate to Focus Poetry. It will need to be large enough to accommodate the following elements:
Below are several Focus Poetry areas in 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms at my school:
Take a look at your standards, whether they are local, state, or Common Core standards. What poetry skills are expected of students? If they aren’t in a specific order, you may want to prioritize them and decide which ones will need to be revisited most. Next, search your standards for grammar and/or convention skills that your students are expected to master. Prioritize these as well. The 3rd grade team at my school made the checklist below from our Texas state standards. (Click on the picture to download a PDF.)
Once you know what you want to teach, it becomes a lot easier to narrow down the possible poems. For example, if you've chosen to study prefixes and line breaks this week, you would choose a poem (like "Science Fair Project" by Carol Diggory Shields) that provides opportunities to study both of those.
Write the poem on a large piece of chart paper — make sure the words are big enough that they can be read by the whole class. You will also need to have a smaller version of the poem to give to each student at the end of the week. As the year goes on, they will build a poetry anthology.
One of my favorite things about Focus Poetry is the predictable structure. Each poem is typically studied for one week, and the daily activities stay the same. Plan your week by choosing the skills you will cover in this poem. Here is one possible schedule:
Remember, this should take no more than ten minutes each day. The time commitment is small, but the possibilities are endless!