In this unit I plan to engage my young students in both the reading and writing of poetry. I have found that children are very open to poetry and naturally like it. They don't require encouragement to read, consider and reflect on well-selected poems read to them or even to enjoy those they themselves read. I see poetry as an effective vehicle for teaching my third-graders to develop skills in oral language, reading and writing. Judith W. Steinburgh, in her book entitled
Reading and Writing Poetry: A Guide For Teachers
, maintains that because poetry demands careful observation, precise language and awareness of the sound of words together, it helps to advance children's language development. That is, the reading, discussing and writing of poetry leads to children's acquisition of an enjoyment of written and oral language and of the ability to express and clearly articulate their own thoughts and feelings (p. 15).
Within my curriculum unit I will include poems written by three popular children's poets: Karla Kuskin, Valerie Worth and Patricia Hubbell. Their poetry has great appeal for children, I think, because of the simple, everyday subjects they write about and the beautiful pictures that they paint with words. This unit will be interdisciplinary in scope, incorporating the teaching of reading, listening, writing, speaking, creative movement, music, and art skills into its design. I have found Steinburgh's aforementioned book, as well as Regie Routman's
Kids' Poems: Teaching Third & Fourth Graders to Love Writing Poetry
, David L. Harrison and Bernice E. Cullinan's
Easy Poetry Lessons That Dazzle and Delight
, Jodi Weisbart's J
oyful Ways to Teach Young Children to Write Poetry
, and Paul B. Janeczko's
How To Write Poetry
to be invaluable sources which have helped me to structure the presentation of skills in teaching poetry to children following a particular sequence that will be most effective.
Steinburgh sees the primary goal of teaching poetry as one of encouraging children "to develop figurative language and metaphoric thinking, an ear for the cadence and music of language, and a willingness to speak from the heart and to take risks that deepen and give force to their own writing" (p. 9). With this in mind, I have structured my unit in the following way:
Section I: Introduction
Section II: Listening to, Reading and Acting Out Poetry
Section III: Reading and Discussing Poetry
Section IV: Writing Poetry
Section V: How Poetry Writing Can Enhance Narrative Writing
I teach third grade in a self-contained classroom at Lincoln Bassett School. My students are primarily of African-American descent, a heterogeneous group with varying abilities in the 8-10 age range. Although I have designed this unit with them in mind, I am confident that it could easily be adapted by teachers to suit the K-2 grades, and possibly grade 4 as well.
The lessons in this unit will be introduced on a daily basis for a period of 45-60 minutes. I anticipate the unit will cover a three- to four-month span of time.
The unit objectives include:
- To develop figurative language and metaphoric and symbolic thinking.
- To develop an appreciation of the music of language found in poetry.
- To develop a willingness to speak from the heart.
- To develop critical reading and analytic skills through the study of poems and discussion of a poem's aspects, content and techniques employed.
- To practice writing free verse poetry.
The strategies that I will use to achieve these objectives will include:
- To expose students to a variety of topics explored in poetry both to read and to write about.
- To expose students to different poetic techniques in order to encourage them to experiment with this variety when writing their own poetry.
- To follow the writing process in writing poetry: brainstorming ideas, opening lines, writing a first draft, conferencing with the teacher, revising, writing a second draft, publishing, and sharing the finished poem with the class.
- To extend the practice of using descriptive, metaphoric language from poetry to that of writing narratives.