Poetry has a place in education, even among the elementary grades. It can be included as part of reading, writing, and language lessons, and adds additional value to classroom themes, projects, celebrations, and other important events.
Here are five good reasons to include poetry in the classroom.
- Builds reading, speaking, and listening skills
Children who are learning to read (and then reading to learn) need practice with a variety of texts, and poetry is different from textbooks, biographies, novels, and other forms of written material. Poetry is also unique in that we often read it aloud, repeat the words, and share our experiences in groups, making it ideal for young readers. When children listen to the teacher reading, they build their listening skills.
When they then read it themselves, they repeat the new words they heard and think about their meaning. And because many forms of poetry include rhyme, the form is more intuitive and easily remembered than other materials. Furthermore, children strengthen their reading skills and build reading fluency through repetition.
Reading comprehension can be gained through discussions about word and thematic meaning, connecting parts of the story together (as with rhyme), and visualization. Teachers should encourage children to imagine the poem as they read it aloud or hear it, then have them draw a picture of what takes place to reinforce that image. Asking them to use their own experiences to make connections between the words and ideas is also a great way for them to “connect the dots,” as it were.
- Explores language and vocabulary
Poetry can easily be broken down and evaluated in parts, which can lead to teaching many literacy skills.
As we’ve mentioned, poetry for young learners often contains words that rhyme. This can help inform phoneme and phonics instruction as children listen for letter sounds, locate rhyming words, and match the sounds they hear to the words on the page. Poetry can also be used to teach sentence structure, parts of speech, and many grammar skills in a non-didactic but informative way.
In addition, poetry builds vocabulary. Children are exposed to words they haven’t heard before, and when they listen to them in context, it aids in learning meaning. Discuss new terms with students and ask them to point out the ones they’re hearing for the first time. Review how these words are pronounced and what they mean and have them read the phrase in which they’re included out loud to reinforce pronunciation and meaning. Once they’re comfortable with the words, discuss why these words were chosen and what images they create. This exercise is also a great way for ELL learners to learn and build language.
- Inspires writing
Learning words is the first step to writing. In poetry, as in all other text, words come together to form meaning and context, information and imagery. By using poems written for students at each level, they can learn about how that process occurs. They can follow patterns of words to learn about order and connection. And giving them a hand at producing their own work on something that’s fun yet challenging, is a great starting place for learning to write on many topics and in many styles.
When planning a poetry unit, include brainstorming activities, templates to practice from, and interesting topics to write on. When you start with simple forms that follow a pattern, children can learn to make connections. And don’t forget ways to display the finished poems, so the whole class can get involved.
- Encourages creative thinking
Poetry is a form of expression, and one that connects deeply with emotions and thoughts. Reading poems encourages us to connect with the work and find meaning in the world around us, even if we’re a first grader just learning how to read. Writing poems helps us get in touch with our own feelings and express them creatively.
Poetry can have a positive impact on children’s social and emotional learning. It may provide a new way of thinking about something. It can put a thought, either beautiful or troubling, into words in a way that students may not be able to do otherwise. Poetry is creative expression, and it fuels the imagination in novel and unexpected ways.
You can even have students move to the rhythm of a poem or act out its ideas; the more ways you can reinforce the material, the more engaged each student will be.
- Builds a love for reading
More than just imparting information, we want reading to be fun for our students, stoking a life-long joy about the printed word. While many instructional materials are good at teaching the fundamentals of reading, none is as good as capturing the spirit and power of words as much as a poem.
 White, Emily. (2022). “5 Reasons to Teach Poetry in the Classroom.” Proud to Be Primary. Retrieved from https://proudtobeprimary.com/reasons-teach-poetry-classroom/.