Teaching 1st Grade Students to Write Poetry in 5 easy steps
January 2, 2022
Wondering how to teach your students to write poetry in the classroom? In this post, I share 5 easy steps to get your students excited about writing both free form and form poetry!
Before I dive in, I wanted to let you know you can watch or listen to all this information in video format below:
In a recent video, I went over the reasons why we should be teaching poetry in our K-2 classrooms.
You can check it out here: Why we teach poetry in K-2
Once you know WHY we should teach poetry, you might be wondering HOW should we teach poetry! So in this post, I am going to walk you through some of the steps I take to teach my students how to write their own poems.
1. Explore Poetry!
This may seem obvious, but in order to write poetry, students need to first read poetry and explore all different types of poems on their own. Our students spend all year focused on structured writing, so it would be confusing to jump right into poetry where they might question the funky paragraph structure or lack of punctuation.
Some resources I love for helping students explore poetry include the following books:
One of my favorite books of poems for K-2 classrooms is “Shout! Little Poems that Roar” by Brod Bagert. The book includes all different types of poems along with a bunch of colorful designs and great illustrations.
Another great poem book for kids is “Noisy Poems for a Busy Day” by Robert Heidbreder. This book is filled with sensory poems, so your students can get in touch with their emotions and talk about what they see, hear, and feel while reading.
I also love the poem book, “Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems”. This book is filled with short poems that are great for introducing your students to poetry. I also love this book because the poems don’t rhyme, which shows your students another form of poetry they may have not recognized before
And finally, one of my favorite poetry books for K-2 classrooms is “The New Kid on the Block” by Jack Prelutsky. This book is filled with all kinds of cute, silly, and kid-friendly poems that your students will love!
I collected most of these over the years by looking in my Scholastic Book Club flyers for some fun, kid-friendly poems!
After introducing your students to these books, you can make copies of the poems for them to read on their own each week. When I was student teaching I made poetry pockets for my class like the one below, where students could share poems that they liked and thought their classmates would enjoy!
^^please note… a REALLY old picture, but I think you get the idea!
2. Focus on Our Senses!
Once students start to explore different types of poems, I like to start writing our own by focusing on our senses! Many K-2 students are familiar with their 5 senses and I find it to be an easy place to begin. Just like with any writing unit I teach, I like to explicitly teach and model how to write these types of poems too. To practice sensory poems with your class, you can give them a planning sheet like the ones below:
I like to start with one like the popcorn sheet and go through the worksheet with my class to brainstorm all the things they see, hear, smell, feel, and taste when making popcorn. Then, you can have your students move what they wrote on the planning sheet to a blank piece of paper to write a sensory poem of their own.
Here is an example of a first-grade student’s popcorn sensory poem:
As you can see above, we take each part of the brainstorming sheet and write a complete sentence onto our poetry page to make our poems! This student’s poem went onto a second page where he shared that spit was falling down his chin (from drooling over the delicious smell -haha!).
I have a bunch of different planning sheets for sensory poems in my Writing Poetry Unit!
3. Get in Touch with Our Emotions
After teaching sensory poems, I like to have students use poetry to get in touch with their emotions.
When teaching poetry to my class, I like to emphasize that poetry, just like any form of writing, is a great way to express your feelings. It can be difficult to jump right in and write a poem about our feelings, so I like to use a planning sheet like the ones below to pick an emotion they want to express.
The example above shows a planning sheet for feeling happy where your students can brainstorm different things that make them happy. Then, like in the sensory poem above, they can turn their planning sheet into a poem by listing out the things that make them happy. You can also challenge your students to turn it into a rhyming poem as I did in the modeled example below:
4. Introduce Students to Different Types of Form Poetry
When teaching poetry I like to start with feelings and sensory poems because they are free-verse it’s a relatively easy transition from the genre writing students are used to. They can simply take their brainstormed planning sheets and then write their sentences and phrases on the correct paper. After we’ve practiced those types of poems, I like to introduce all sorts of fun form poetry!
Some of the form poems I like to cover in K-2 classes are:
My favorites to teach are probably acrostic, color, and shape in first grade!
Here are some cute examples of shape poems my students have done in the past:
Here the student chose to write in the shape of a fish and then color around it!
In this one a student is writing about the wind and chose to write where the kite would be flying! So creative!
And here this student chose to write in the stem of the flower! For all shape poems, I have students describe the shape they are drawing!
For each type of form poetry, I include examples and descriptions of how to write each one in my Poetry Writing Unit for K-2!
5. Add Templates and Planning Sheets to a Writing Center
After your students have written all the different types of poems you wanted to teach them, my last step is to put the templates and brainstorming sheets in a writing center! These poems are so much fun to write and my students love having poetry as an option during writing time!
I also like to throw some easy topic cards and some poetry book covers in my writing center! This helps students with poetry prompt ideas and lets them make more than one poem so they can publish their own book!
Do you teach poetry writing in your classroom?? If so, what’s your favorite type of poem to teach?
All the sheets and examples of poetry included in this post can be found in this unit below:
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