Introduction to Poetry Lessons

Interested in hearing about some of my introduction to poetry lessons?  Poetry doesn’t have to be scary or intimidating at all. It also doesn’t have to be “cute” or silly.  Intrigued?  Read on!
A blog post about teaching poetry to elementary students
When I grew up, poetry was all about rhymes, and rules, and patterns.  I remember writing couplets.  And cinquains.  And all sorts of other “rule” poems where the pattern was more important than the message.  Times have changed in my world–and although we READ a million types of poems in my class, we really focus on free verse writing–where we try to capture topics we feel passionately about and express them in a way that helps us make our reader “feel” too. I am also mindful of studying the poems of others in our introduction to poetry. Throughout the unit, we try to “dig deep” into our own thoughts and feelings as well as the thoughts, feelings, and messages of other poetry we explore.
Kicking of a meaningful poetry unit

Our Introduction to Poetry

To launch our unit, we begin by having a discussion about where poets get their ideas–and I have to say, I am always flabbergasted by the depth of some of my students’ thinking.  We first worked in pairs to do some thinking, then came back and shared out in the whole group.  I jotted everyone’s ideas down on the easel and then we consolidated, elaborated, and discussed our ideas.  Check out this amazing list that resulted from our brainstorming.  Pretty impressive, right?
I mean…”Poets sometimes write about their passions, Mrs. A–so others can feel what it is to love something so much.”  Ummmm…really?  You are 9.  You know this?
“Sometimes poets might be inspired by something they read or hear.”  Inspired?  I asked him to explain what he meant by “inspired” and he explained it so eloquently that there was no need for me to say another word.
“Sometimes poets might want to write about their feelings so they don’t keep them inside.”
“When you write about your wishes and dreams, it’s a way to remember them.”
So–needless to say–I was pretty impressed and felt like we were off to a pretty amazing start.  #happiness
Poetry lessons for elementary school and poetry anchor charts

Next Steps

So our next lesson involves talking about how to “study” a poem so that we really understand it at a level that is respectful of the time and energy the poet put into writing it.  We talked about how many poets (not all) try to capture their feelings or ideas in very few words–so sometimes we, as readers, need to work a little harder to uncover the meaning.  This is the chart I use with my students.  The ideas are a combination of my own and some other reading I have done about poetry over the years.
How to study a poem anchor chart
So…to kick things off, I selected a poem I have used in the past for our introduction to poetry because, at first glance, it seems like a poem about a little girl learning to roller skate.  I ask the students to read it to themselves and–as the first bullet point on our anchor chart suggests–read it several times.  In addition, I printed off the poem and glued it to the middle of a piece of chart paper, ready for action!
Poetry lessons for fourth grade

Using Our Anchor Chart

I kept the anchor chart handy and as we discussed, and I recorded our thinking on the “poem page”. Then I drew arrows and annotated ideas as we went.  We started adding highlighter to text we wanted to focus on…and the discussions built.  When you start to hear your students making observations like:
“This must be in a city like New York because small towns wouldn’t have a 74th Street.”
“At first I thought it was weird how we never learned the girl’s name–but now I’m thinking that maybe the poet just saw this happen and didn’t even know the girl.”
which was followed by…
“I think the poet saw this happened and was inspired by the fact that the girl never gave up and had a growth mindset even though she kept getting hurt.”
And the discussions continued.  We turned and talked…we debated…we asked questions…and after a while I had a few more things to point out that no one had noticed…
Introduction to poetry lesson ideas and anchor charts
 It took a little prompting…but look what happens when I started highlighting the first words of some of the lines!  The students started going crazy!  We had a little lesson on verbs–and then talked about WHY a poet might do this…
Poetry lessons and ideas

The Verdict?

By the time we finished our introduction to poetry, we determined that this was NOT a poem about a girl learning to roller skate–it was much, much more.  And that, after all, is what we are going for–readers that think.
free poetry lesson ideas
I’d love to hear your thoughts if you try this lesson. I even have a little freebie in my store to help you out if you want–with another poem to use.  Just click the image below to grab it!
Free poetry lesson
Want to try even more poetry explorations?  Check out this set of ready-to-use poetry templates that can help you help your students write and publish amazing poetry.  To make it even better, each poetry template includes a special literacy lesson that goes beyond the poetry.  Click HERE or the image below to check it out!
Poetry templates and poetry lesson ideas

Want more writing ideas?  Check out these posts!

How about writing summaries using a gradual release model!  CLICK HERE to learn more!

Do you teach narrative writing?  Here’s a great post to show you some of what I do!

How about opinion writing?  Check out THIS POST to learn more!