I LOVE teaching poetry writing! I mean, I really love teaching poetry. But I didn’t always feel that way. Free verse poetry used to scare me!
How One Student Changed My Attitude Toward Teaching Poetry
My poetry-teacher-life changed one day when Joey Q. wrote this poem:
First, let me tell you a little bit about Joey. He was in my second-grade class and looped with me to third grade. Now I am pretty good at reading primary students’ developmental spelling, but I really struggled to read Joey’s writing in second grade. As I learned more about Joey, I discovered that he didn’t talk until he was three years old. He struggled to hear until he was two years old when they got his chronic ear infections under control. Joey had a lot of phonological awareness gaps that really surfaced in second grade.
In any event, Joey really struggled with writing. But the year that I had Joey in my second-grade class was the year that I decided to take the plunge with free verse poetry. Joey took to poetry immediately and wrote this poem all by himself. He became a poetry superstar. The other kids noticed and they caught the bug, too.
Honestly, it wasn’t a fluke. Every year that I have taught free verse poetry writing, budding poets have emerged!
Minilessons for Teaching Free Verse Poetry
How about you? Have you tried it? If not, would you make this the year? I promise that you won’t be disappointed!
Not sure where to start? I did a round-up of some of my favorite poetry lessons on our website:
- Free Verse Poetry
- Ordinary to Poetic
- Fishing Expedition for Poetry
- Put It on the Page So It Looks Like a Poem
- Found Poems
- Six-Room Poem
If (when) you try them, would you let us know how they go? We’d love to be inspired by your budding poets!
Professional Book Recommendations
I’d also like to share a few of my favorite poetry resources:
Kids’ Poems by Regie Routman
This is where I got my poetry teaching start. I just taught the lessons exactly like Regie suggested and I showed my students the student samples in the back of the book. That’s it, and boy was it magical—every time! (The link above will take you to the first-grade version but there are books for grades K-4. If you teach above 4th grade, the grades 3-4 book is very relevant for older students). Here is a link to examples of my students’ poems after just a handful of lessons from these books.
Poems Are Teachers: How Studying Poetry Strengthens Writing in All Genres by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
I haven’t read this yet. Why am I recommending it then?! Because I am currently reading it on my spring break vacation to Gulf Shores (yes, I read professional books on the beach). I’m also recommending it because the author became a friend of mine two years ago, and she is an amazing teacher and author. I KNOW this book will be awesome, and I don’t want to wait another year to recommend it!
Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School by Georgia Heard
Once I dipped my toe into free verse poetry writing with Regie Routman, this book was the natural next step. In my opinion, Georgia Heard is THE poetry princess for writing teachers. If you read or have read her books, you will see her influence on me in the blog posts linked above.
I hope these poetry resources inspire you to ignite a poetry passion in your students.