Somehow poetry has got a reputation! It is called tricky, dusty, dull, elite. That seems like some bad press, that seems like some fake news, that seems frankly unfair and unkind. I am writing today to tell you that poetry is your friend and to convince you that it is kind, funny, heart-breaking and reflects your world and your concerns. But most importantly, it is a powerful experience for the children in your class. Coleridge may have said “Poetry: the best words in the best order.” which is true, but what I know is that poetry is the quickest way to capture a child’s imagination. It gives just enough to spark the imagination and connect whilst leaving enough for each child to create their own ideas. Poetry gets to the nub of it all as quickly as it can. And the best poetry does so without using fancy words.
Poems help our children expand their understanding of words and the world. They do it quickly and directly and they are by far the easiest way of teaching children to new language. Poems use words in inventive and unusual ways which helps children get to know these words at a deeper level. And it is knowing words at this deep level that gives children the confidence to be curious about language; to try out exciting vocabulary when they talk and write.
My top tip is to read a poem a day to your class. Read all sort of poems from the classics such as Nursery Rhymes, nonsense poems to silly poems, song lyrics, poems that don’t rhyme, poems that are about the shape they make on the page even try the occasional sonnet from Shakespeare. Then chat about the poem. Tell the children what any unusual words mean and then go for it! Over time as the children become more used to poetry they will become more confident to make opinions and ask questions. Don’t linger in these sessions, stop whilst the children have something to say.
Sometimes we should get to know a poem better. I have included some of my favourite poems in the Rising Stars Vocabulary teaching activities because I know they are awesome at engaging children. It is delicious to know a poem well and inhabit it – so I have included activities that let the children act in role or act out the meaning of the words in the poems. When we know a poem deeply, it becomes part of us, this is because once you know a poem it is hard to forget it. Just like Nursery Rhymes and the best song lyrics poems can become earworms unforgettable and deeply comforting.
So, stand up against the fake news! Poetry is for everyone and for every day. Try a poem a day with your class and see how their love of words blossoms.
Pupils from Tennyson Road Primary School explore the meaning of words in The Tyger by William Blake
Charlotte Raby is the author of Rising Stars Vocabulary. Buy online and try for free here.
, English and Literacy
, English and Writing
, english teaching