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5 Ways to Teach Poetry in Upper Elementary Classrooms

When poetry is mentioned, it’s usually met with a few groans…from the students and maybe even the teacher! But there are so many benefits to teaching poetry to your upper elementary students. First off, they’ll learn it’s not all just “roses are red, violets are blue…” mushy love poems like they may think!  They will develop fluency, vocabulary, speaking, and listening skills.  Whether you are a poetry lover or a reluctant poet, teaching poetry with a variety of poems, books, activities, and more will help your students develop a love for reading and writing poetry.

Think about the daily writing that happens in your classroom…it might begin to feel regimented (which is NOT a bad thing). But I'm sure you always hear, “How long does this have to be?” or  “How many sentences do I have to write?”  

Poetry gives students freedom in their writing that they are not used to, and that can be scary for them at first…but it can also be a lot of fun!  There are so many ways that you can get students to read and write poetry; here are a few ideas for teaching poetry in your upper elementary classroom:

1. Poetry Centers  

Setting up poetry centers in your classroom is a great way to get students reading and writing different kinds of poetry.  There are so many ways for students to explore word choice, line breaks, stanzas, and forms of poetry.  And the more that students read poetry, the more comfortable they will be writing poetry.

Poetry centers

Poetry centers allow your students to pull inspiration from all around!  You can take a nature walk and pick up objects along the way, bring in newspapers or magazines to use current events as inspiration, create heart maps, and think about things that they love in their everyday lives that can become inspirations, and so much more.  Inspiration is all around us when we write and poetry is the perfect time to explore it!

2. Writing Poetry

To help students get used to writing poetry, you can begin by choosing forms of poetry that follow a format.  When students are reluctant to write poetry, following a given format can get their feet wet and help them ease into poetry writing because they follow a step-by-step format of writing, but they still have the freedom to express themselves.  

writing poetry unit with student journal

As students become more comfortable with reading poetry, you can have them free write. With their centers and poetry writing practice, they will continue to grow as poets.

3. Studying Poetry

As students explore different forms of poetry by reading and writing poems, they will begin to notice line breaks, stanzas, tone, rhyming patterns, and more.  Many times, students have a hard time understanding line breaks when they read and write poetry, but the more they read and write, the more comfortable they become. 

Poetry gives students freedom in their writing.

Create a poetry corner where students can choose from a basket of poetry books to sit quietly and read. You can have sticky notes available for them to mark poems and pages that they love and recommend poems to friends too.

poetry recommendation sticky notes

Start the day or your writing/poetry time with a read-aloud poem. Find different poems to share with students that express different feelings and choose funny, meaningful, love-filled poems that you know students will love.

Basket of books for teaching poetry

(You can find a list of favorite poetry books, websites to download poems, and more in the download below!)

4. Create a Poetry Pack

To continue students' love of poetry at home, you can create a “Poetry Pack” where students read poetry books and poems at home.  You can create pages to send home made up of the poems students have written, you can also include some favorite poetry books or any other poems that students are excited to share with their family.  

poetry pack at home project

When students take home the poetry pack, they will look through the poems, read some favorites, and then rewrite their favorite poems in the class journal.  This helps students with their fluency as they read with family and also as they listen as their family reads to them. They will notice the rhythm as they read, and as they copy the poems into the journal they are paying close attention to the line breaks, rhyming patterns, and stanzas.  

poetry pack journal and bag

5. Encourage Students to Share Poetry

Throughout your poetry unit, students will learn and grow as poets.  Allow them to share the poems that they read and write! You can create a place for students to write the poems they’d like to share, a jar to put the poems in, or just have a time in the day where students can read their poems.  You can also give students the opportunity to add their poems to the poetry pack that is sent home, they’ll be so proud to send their written poems home to share.

Here are a few poetry books that I love. These are wonderful books to choose poems from to share with your students, to have available for students to read and to put in your poetry pack as well…

favorite poetry book covers
free poetry resources

I hope you enjoy exploring poetry with your students!  It's a wonderful way to see students express themselves, I always love the creativity that comes out while students are reading and writing poetry!

Find the resources featured in this post:

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Happy Teaching!

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