Teaching Poetry to Elementary Students

Poetry is an engaging way to teach literature to kindergarteners. In this article, I’ll show you what they are, their many forms, and why it is a good idea to introduce them to your students. After that, I’ll recommend to you activities that you can do with them to understand poems and make it a fun learning experience.

What is poetry?

This is the only form of literature that makes use of words to create sounds and images for its reader. Its point is to be able to express the writer’s sentiments with the use of shorter phrases. A person who writes a poem is called a poet. Some of the famous poets many people are familiar with are Edgar Allan Poe, Dr. Seuss, and Hans Christian Andersen.

Parts of a Poem

There are various elements that can be seen when you look at a poem. They are:

  • Lines – one phrase, word, or sentence in a poem
  • Stanza – a group of lines
  • Syllable – an unbroken sound from a spoken or written word
  • Stressed syllables – long-sounding syllables found in a line
  • Unstressed syllables – long-sounding syllables found in a line
  • Meter – group of stressed and unstressed syllables found in a poem
  • Rhyme scheme – a rhyme pattern that appears in the end of a line or verse
  • Couplet – a stanza with two lines
  • Tercet – a stanza with three lines
  • Quatrain – a stanza with four lines
  • Cinquain – a stanza with five lines
  • Sestet – a stanza with six lines

Types of Poetry

Poems can be written in lots of ways depending on the poet. Here are some of the common examples of its types:

  • Haiku – also known as hokku, is a popular Japanese tercet poem that does not need a rhyming scheme with the first and last lines having five syllables and the second line has seven syllables
  • Free verse – a popular form of modern poetry that lets the poet dictate the rhyming scheme, number of lines, number of stanzas, and number of syllables in the poem
  • Sonnet – an old form of poetry popularized by Willian Shakespeare that makes up 14 lines and talks about love
  • Acrostic – every first letter of the line in this poem form a name, word, phrase, or message
  • Villanelle – an old form of French poetry that is made out of five stanzas of tercets and a final quatrain where it uses the ABA ABA ABA ABA ABA ABAA rhyming scheme
  • Limerick – made popular by Edward Lear during the 19th century, this is a cinquain poem type that can be either funny or rude written in the AABBA rhyming scheme
  • Ode – a form of Greek poem that is usually written to praise a person, event, or thing and were originally performed with a musical instrument
  • Elegy – a poem that is written about someone’s or a group of people’s passing that usually ends on a hopeful note
  • Ballad – a poem that uses quatrains and use either the ABAB or ABCB rhyming scheme to tell an emotional or dramatic tale

Benefits of introducing your students to poetry

As you can see, poems are so much more than rhyming! So, why introduce poems to your students? Here are several reasons:

  • Makes it easier to introduce new words
  • Trains a child’s breath coordination with their mouth and tongue movements
  • A fun way to teach and recognize patterns
  • Use poems as a way to recognize feelings of themselves and others

Recommended poetry books for Elementary Students

Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young

This book is a popular collection of poems that you can either read to your students or let them read on their own. Compiled by Jack Prelutzy, it is presented with lots of colorful pictures paired with a varied selection of 200 poems across various poets.

Here’s A Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry

In this collection compiled by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters, they used 60 poems from various poets paired with the illustrations of Polly Dunbar. What makes this different from the other collections is that it highlights events that your students can relate to from sunrise to sunset.

Rainy Day Poems: A Funny Poetry Book For Children

For a change of pace, this collection features poems that have something to do about life when it is raining. James McDonald made sure to choose great works that will help students appreciate rainy days and even get a good laugh about it.

Where the Sidewalk Ends: Poems and Drawings

My final recommendation is a collection of poems written and paired with illustrations by Shel Silverstein. What’s great about this collection is that it helps readers flex their imagination while appreciating how powerful poems can create an image in your own mind.

Recommended activities to teach your students poetry

Finally, let’s take a look at what activities you can hold for your students to help them appreciate poetry. 

Poem read-alouds

A great way to help them appreciate poems is to read it to them and then have them repeat it back to you. It is fun to chant poetry outloud especially if it is rhythmic. 

Writing poems in class

Aside from listening to poems, you can help students to write their own poems. This starts by brainstorming what theme they want the poem to be. You can help them by thinking of what they did when they got home yesterday or using their five senses. Here is a resource I created to help you teach poetry writing using the five senses! Once they know what to write, guide them in writing a poem for their own until they’re done!

Spot the parts of a poem

The final activity I will recommend to you is letting your students break down the poem into parts. First, you separate it line by line and interpret its meaning. Second, guide them to notice how many lines there are in one stanza. Third, help them recognize the rhyming scheme.

You can have them do tasks such as:

1) Have students find the target letter in the poems.

2) Have students find the sight words in the poems.

3) Cut the poem up into sentences and have students arrange it in order.

4) Use the poem as a model to create their own poem.

5) Record themselves reciting the poem.

That’s the general gist of what poems are, its many forms, and its parts. There are also four out of the many poem books that you can read out to them as part of appreciating this form of literature. I hope that you will have a fun time introducing them to poems in to your students.

Which poems do your students like most? Comment it down below!