Guest blog: Using poetry in the classroom

December 15th, 2008

Stacey Shubitz from Two Writing Teachers sent us a post this week about how to use poetry in the classroom. She shares some of the strategies she uses with her fourth-grade students to make them comfortable with poetry. Stacey is a NY state certified literacy specialist and a certified 1-6 grade teacher who teaches in Rhode Island.

Many of my elementary school teachers taught me that poems had to rhyme. In fact, the only poet whose poems I ever remember hearing throughout elementary school were that of Shel Silverstein. Funny? Yes. Rhyming? Yes. Intimidating to a kid who had trouble creating rhymes when she wrote? YES!

When I started teaching, I vowed that I would make sure my students realized that all poems didn’t have to rhyme. Though it took some convincing the first couple of years, I think I’ve finally found some ways to make sure students know that not all poems have to rhyme. I do this by purposefully selecting poems that don’t rhyme with my students. I’ve come to believe that showing students the endless possibilities with poetry helps them realize the breadth of poetic forms in the world.

I’ve spent the past few years infusing poetry into as many corners of my classroom as possible. Here are some of the ways I’ve worked to share the joy of non-rhyming poetry with my students:
Poetry Birthday Cards
I create hand-made cards for each of my students’ birthdays. On the front of each card is a birthday poem – a different poem for each student’s birthday. I’ve noticed that many students keep the card with the poem in their desk or in the ephemera section of their writer’s notebook for months to come!
Poetry Friday Sharing
I’ve used the popular blogosphere meme as inspiration for Morning Meeting every Friday. Two students sign-up to read aloud an original poem or a published poem they love. Then, they take three questions or comments a piece. Afterwards, I share a poem, providing the class with copies. I read it a couple of times and then take questions or comments before asking for student volunteers to read it aloud. Once the poem has been read five times, the entire class reads it aloud together focusing on the line breaks and our pacing as we read it aloud together.
Poetry Read Alouds
I read lots of free verse poetry to my students throughout the school year. Some of my favorite free verse novels to share with upper elementary school students include 42 Miles by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, Love That Dog by Sharon Creech, Becoming Joe DiMaggio by Maria Testa, and Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson.
Poetry Station
A poetry station is a center in the classroom that allows students to read a few poems and then write a similar type of poem. The types of poems they read and try to create follow below, with the name of the mentor poem in quotes.

  • An Odd Word List (“Blackberry Eating” by Galway Kinnell)
  • Contrasting Morning and Evening (“City” by Langston Hughes)
  • Diamante (“Square/Circle” and “Dogs/Cats”; authors unknown)
  • Onomatopoeia (“Galoshes” by Rhonda Bacmeister)
  • Start with a Sense (“Morning Memory” by Uber Aymat)
  • Taste and Smell (“Fried Dough” by Taylor Sheldon)
  • Where I’m From Poem (“Where I’m From” Poems by George Ella Lyon)

just four
of the many ways

infuse poetry

For more ideas about poetry in the classroom, check out The Poetry Experience by Sheree Fitch and Larry Swartz, as well as Poetry Goes to School by Bob Barton and David Booth.

Entry Filed under: Literacy

9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Poetry in the Classroom &&hellip  |  December 15th, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    […] 15, 2008 by Stacey I was recently invited to write a post for the Stenhouse Blog. It just went live today. It’s a compilation of ideas about how to infuse poetry into the […]

  • 2. nikita  |  December 15th, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    I’m glad to see there is more people thinking like i do when it comes to writing poems by kids..I always tell them too…poetry is not always about rhyming words! Great post!

  • 3. Gresham  |  December 17th, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    Stacey – excellent post! I love your Poetry Friday Sharing. That sounds like a great way to keep poetry going throughout the year. I also like to focus on non-rhyming poetry. Do you have any favorite anthologies or books that feature a lot of non-rhyming poetry? I’d love to see a list of your favorite books. Thanks for sharing your expertise!

  • 4. Stacey from Two Writing Teachers  |  December 18th, 2008 at 6:24 am


    I have soooo many poetry books! I usually pick and choose from one of them each week. It’s really difficult though because there’s so much out there and so little time.

    That being said, here are a few that I continue to turn to:
    A Jar of Tiny Stars
    Silver Seeds
    All the Small Poems and Thirteen More
    Days to Celebrate
    A New England Scrapbook

    I hope that my short-list is helpful.


  • 5. Gresham  |  December 18th, 2008 at 7:44 am

    Very helpful – thanks!

  • 6. FH  |  December 19th, 2008 at 12:02 am

    Excellent blog. I recently introduced poetry to students (in two enrichment classes) with an extensive study of Shel Silverstein’s poems. This was followed by an introduction to unrhymed poems, list poems, onomatopoeia, etc.The children are now beginning to write their own poems using the array of poems we have read and studied as mentor texts.

  • 7. Kathryn  |  December 19th, 2008 at 11:12 am

    A great book for teachers for non-rhyming poetry is Sara Holbrook’s, Practical Poetry. She ties in each idea with content-area standards, as well. I’ve found it to be tremendously helpful.

  • 8. Annie  |  December 24th, 2008 at 7:22 am

    Thanks for the ideas, am always looking for new thoughts, ideas or suggestions for working with special ed kids.

  • 9. Roxanne  |  December 29th, 2008 at 11:58 am

    When I taught first and second graders I had a rule – no rhymes and I even made one of those signs with the word rhyme on it and a red line through the word. I explained to the kids that the reason for the rule is that, as beginning poets, we want to focus on saying what we want to say and rhyming can make us say something we don’t want to say then I composed a few poems out loud that illustrate this (“the wrinkles on my mom’s face show her…hum…lace? grace? place? mace? etc.). The kids think it’s pretty ridiculous and goofy to use a word that just rhymes and they are eager to write poems that don’t rhyme (of coarse I read many non-rhyming poems to them). I also explained to them that we all love poems that rhyme and that’s great but saying what you want to say AND making it rhyme is something we’ll do together at another time.

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