Explore Types of Poetry and How to Teach Poetry in Your Homeschool
Depending on how you feel about poetry, you may be apprehensive about teaching poetry to kids. Many kids—and adults—will roll their eyes at the mention of the word “poetry” while others are nurtured by the complexities of language and emotions expressed through poetry as poets explore the deepest mysteries of life. Whether you are a fan or not, you can inspire your homeschooler to not only appreciate poetry but also enjoy the reading, performance, and writing of poetry.
|How to Teach a Poetry Unit|
|Free Poems and Poetry Activities Online|
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Why is Poetry Important?
Poetry can be overlooked in a child’s education or be left behind in the wake of reading, writing, math, and more. It shouldn’t be! This underdog of language arts has great potential and can add some fun to your homeschooling. Why is poetry important to include in your homeschool? Reading and listening to poetry can build skills in decoding and comprehension, specifically with respect to words with multiple meanings, new and unique vocabulary, and sensory imagery. Teaching poetry to kids can also help children understand the viewpoints of others and learn to express themselves, and it is fun to read aloud and perform. Writing poetry requires skills in specific word choice and builds the ability to write concisely. For our kids who are deeper thinkers, poetry can allow them to explore themes in ways that other language arts activities may not reach while supporting their creativity and eliciting a range of emotions. Best of all, poetry activates parts of the brain that other school subjects do not!
How to Teach a Poetry Unit
There are so many great poets and wonderful poems; where do you start? You may be overwhelmed and not feel like you know how to teach poetry. No worries! We have some suggestions for you:
Begin by finding some great poems. Surf the Internet or go to the local library and ask your librarian for suggestions. There are many wonderful poetry books for children, including poetry picture books for the young ones!
- Look for poetry in your surroundings—on posters and billboards and other advertisements, in songs, and in movies and television shows.
- Rather than just reading poems, make poetry time fun! Plan a rehearsed poetry performance or a poetry teatime event!
- Discuss poetic devices, starting with rhyme for the little ones and building to more complicated techniques like alliteration and metaphor.
- Dabble in some online poetry activities (see below) or create poetry stations with several poetry activities for your child to enjoy.
- Have your child try verbalizing or writing original poetry, anything from a simple couplet or acrostic poem to a more complicated limerick or sonnet.
- Connect poetry and math by exploring different rhyming schemes and patterns in poetry. Read some short rhyming poems, try writing a square poem, or challenge your child with a Fibonacci poem!
Types of Poems
There are many types of poems with different structures, lengths, rhyme schemes, and topic areas. Here are just a few:
- Ballads: Musical poems consisting of four-line stanzas, each containing a rhyme at the ends of lines two and four.
- Couplets: Simple two-line poems that rhyme.
- Epics: Long, narrative poems that traditionally tell the adventures of characters from the past.
- Free Verse: Poems of any length that usually do not rhyme.
- Haikus: Short poems based on an old form of Japanese non-rhyming poetry, usually focusing on nature, with seventeen syllables in three lines of five, seven, and five syllables each.
- Limericks: Five-line poems with one stanza in an AABBA rhyme scheme telling a short and often humorous story.
- Sonnets: Fourteen-line poems with a particular rhyme scheme, often focusing on the topic of love.
Poetry Lessons for Kids
You can certainly play around with teaching poetry informally, but you may want more formal poetry lessons with a bit more structure. Try planning an entire poetry unit study or check below to find poetry classes or lesson plans:
Join a poetry class taught by a teacher with some expertise in the area. Put in your child’s age and any days or times you need and then search for available poetry classes.
Playing with Poetry Class | Bravewriter $
“Discovery enrolls you with your child(ren) in this class. Poetry allows your kids to set aside grammar and punctuation rules and just play with language, discovering the magic of imagination and poetic form in a relaxed and fun way! Copied in careful handwriting (and perhaps even illustrated!), the poems you write together as a family can be collected and bound into a book, creating a memorable poetry anthology that your family can enjoy throughout the years. Poems can also be shared with extended family and friends as birthday cards, in emails, or even in letters (you know, the kind that are rarely written anymore).”
Poetry Foundation – Learn
Explore how to teach a poetry unit with lesson ideas for children, teens, and adults. Check out the Educators section and additional resources like “How to Read a Poem,” a glossary of poetic terms, and links to online resources.
Poets.org – Materials for Teachers
“Find poems for kids and teens, lesson plans, essays, and more.”
Read Write Think – Poetry
Browse this collection of lesson plans, strategy guides, calendar activities, and library materials for teaching poetry to kids. Resources can be searched by grade.
Shel Silverstein – Learning Resources
“A Guide to the World of Shel Silverstein for parents, educators, librarians – create a Shelebration moment with young readers. Whether you’re reading Shel Silverstein’s poems with your children, using his books to celebrate Poetry Month, or planning a Shelebration event at your home, school, or library, we have the resources you need to engage kids in Shel’s extraordinary world. Follow the links […] for lessons, event kits, and activities to share with the children in your life. Happy Shelebrating!”
Free Poems and Poetry Activities Online
Poetry activities can be added to your homeschooling day even if you just have a few moments at the start of a lesson or between other activities. These are some places to find poems and poetry activities online:
10 Wonderful Children’s Poets You Should Know | Literary Hub
Discover the children’s poets that changed the landscape of poetry for kids. Find out about Shel Silverstein, Naomi Shihab Nye, Edward Lear, and more.
Chance Operations | Poets.org
“Chance operations are methods of generating poetry independent of the author’s will. A chance operation can be almost anything from throwing darts and rolling dice, to the ancient Chinese divination method, I-Ching, and even sophisticated computer programs.” Try building a poem out of random words in magazine clippings, for example.
Children’s Bedtime Poetry | Richard C. Johns
“Welcome to my Children’s Bedtime Poetry site. You will find a collection of my children’s poetry that I hope someday to publish as a children’s book. The idea behind Children’s Bedtime Poetry is not a new one. I read to my children for many years and wouldn’t trade those memories for anything. Reading to my kids was a wonderful experience, and I hope they will continue the tradition with their children.”
Favorite Poem Project
“At its inception, the Favorite Poem Project put out an open call for people across the country to share their favorite poems. Eighteen thousand Americans—from ages 5 to 97, from every state, representing a range of occupations, kinds of education, and backgrounds—wrote to the project. From those thousands of letters and emails, the Favorite Poem Project created a series of short documentaries and anthologies. The project continues to create short films and educational resources, and to host readings, in order to document and encourage the sharing of poetry across the world.”
Redacted Poetry—Explanation and Examples | Young Writers Project
“Redacted Poetry, also known as Black Out Poetry, is a fun and creative way to repurpose a piece of writing. All we need to accomplish this lab is a dark writing utensil (black marker works best) and a selection of newspaper clippings. The point of Redacted Poetry is to use the words in the newspaper clipping as your jumping off point. Simply put, you use the marker to “black out” all of the words that you don’t need and leave only the words that tell your story. When you’re finished, the substance of the newspaper article may very well be completely lost. But that’s ok. You’ve given it a new, better meaning.”
How to Write a Poem
“Charles Ghigna – Father Goose® lives in a tree house in the middle of Alabama. He is the author of more than 5,000 poems and 100 award-winning books from Random House, Disney-Hyperion, Time Inc., Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, Capstone, Boyds Mills, Abrams, Orca, Charlesbridge and other publishers.” Start your child writing poems with the “I-You-Were” poem format presented here.
The Mother Goose Pages – Nursery Rhymes
While there is some controversy over whether nursery rhymes are considered poetry, there are many who feel that these rhymes can be a good way to introduce children to the features of traditional poetry. Check out this collection of nursery rhymes grouped by theme, as well as the additional resources.
Original Magnetic Poetry Kit
Organize each random set of words into a poem, then save and share. Click for more words or start over with a new random set of words. For variation, try other magnetic poetry kits on topics like love and nature.
Browse over 46,000 poems and search by topic, form, school/period, and poet’s region.
“Search our extensive curated collection of over 10,000 poems by occasion, theme, and form, or search by keyword or poet’s name” or “search more than 3,000 biographies of contemporary and classic poets.” Check the poem-a-day for “the only daily poetry series publishing new work by today’s poets” and “find poetry readings, workshops, festivals, conferences, literary organizations, and poetry-friendly bookstores, and learn more about poets laureate, in your area.”
“Young Poets has a large collection of poetry written by young children and also teens, in various styles of poetry including Haiku, Limericks, Ballads, Cinquains and Free Verse. We also include their stories and some of their drawings where possible. We do not require perfect rhythm for poems submitted by the younger poets as our desire is to encourage kids to write poetry and learn as they go.”
Other Resources for Teaching Poetry
Here’s a bonus! How about a few more resources to help you when teaching poetry in your homeschool?
Book of Nature Poetry $
By J. Lewis (Author)
“When words in verse are paired with the awesomeness of nature, something magical happens! Beloved former U.S. Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis curates an exuberant poetic celebration of the natural world in this stellar collection of nature poems. From trickling streams to deafening thunderstorms to soaring mountains, discover majestic photography perfectly paired with contemporary (such as Billy Collins), classics (such as Robert Frost), and never-before-published works.”
GUYKU: A Year of Haiku for Boys $
By Bob Raczka (Author), Peter H. Reynolds (Illustrator)
When you’re a guy, nature is one big playground—no matter what the season. There are puddles to splash in the spring, pine trees to climb in the summer, maple seeds to catch in the fall, and icicles to swordfight with in the winter. Nature also has a way of making a guy appreciate important stuff—like how many rocks it takes to dam up a stream, or how much snow equals a day off from school. So, what kind of poetry best captures these special moments, at a length that lets guys get right back to tree-climbing and kite-flying? Why, guyku, of course!
Origami and Haiku: Inspired by Japanese Artwork $
By Nosy Crow (Author), The Trustees of the British Museum (Illustrator)
“This stunning book features three beautiful Japanese art forms in one. For each animal or object, children will be able to read the haiku, enjoy a corresponding work from the British Museum collection, and then make the origami figure! With clear, simple directions for thirteen animals or objects and fifty sheets of origami paper, this is the perfect introduction to the art of paper folding.”
Poetry for Kids: William Shakespeare $
By William Shakespeare (Author), Marguerite Tassi (Author, Editor), Merce Lopez (Illustrator)
“This wonderful, fully illustrated book introduces children to the Bard and more than thirty of his most famous and accessible verses, sonnets, and speeches. From “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” to “O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!” and “All the world’s a stage,” the words and poetry of the greatest playwright and poet spring to life on the page.”
The Random House Book of Poetry for Children $
By Jack Prelutsky (Author), Arnold Lobel (Illustrator)
“The Random House Book of Poetry for Children offers both funny and illuminating poems for kids personally selected by the nation’s first Children’s Poet Laureate, Jack Prelutsky. Featuring a wealth of beloved classic poems from the past and modern glittering gems, every child who opens this treasury will find a world of surprises and delights which will instill a lifelong love of poetry. Featuring 572 unforgettable poems, and over 400 one-of-a-kind illustrations from the Caldecott-winning illustrator of the Frog and Toad series, Arnold Lobel, this collection is, quite simply, the perfect way to introduce children to the world of poetry.”
Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Each Day of the Year $
By Nosy Crow (Author), Fiona Waters (Editor), Frann Preston-Gannon (Illustrator)
“Sing a Song of Seasons is a lavishly illustrated collection of 366 nature poems — one for every day of the year. Filled with familiar favorites and new discoveries written by a wide variety of poets, including William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, John Updike, Langston Hughes, N. M. Bodecker, Okamoto Kanoko, and many more, this is the perfect book for children (and grown-ups!) to share at the beginning or the end of the day.”
The Waldorf Book of Poetry: Discover the Power of Imagination $
By David Kennedy (Author)
“Discover the power of imagination in an inspiring journey through time that brings history, mathematics, social studies, science, language, and geography to life. Readers will experience poetry like never before as it opens doors to ancient cultures, faraway places, the seasons and rhythms of the year, and the wonder of plants, animals, and nature. The Waldorf Book of Poetry includes more than 425 poems by classic and modern poets in a comprehensive collection that reveals the power of imagination in a wide variety of subjects.”
Do you have a favorite poem or poetry activity? Know of some other resources for teaching poetry to kids. Share your comments below….