“I took the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference”, wrote poet Robert Frost in his iconic poem, “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” and so to using poetry throughout the curriculum can make all the difference in how students learn and retain their lessons. Unfortunately, the norm for poetry in the classroom is the lone poetry unit tucked neatly into the Language Arts curriculum- sometime in April - during National Poetry Month. The unit emphasis leans heavily towards interpretation, structure and rules of traditional styles like rhyming couplets, quatrains and haiku. And when the unit is over, the poetry is gone as well.
But it doesn't have to be that way! Here are three areas that can be used to weave poetry throughout the entire curriculum!
Reading and Writing Verse: Poetry in the Language Arts
Poetry is good for learning to read. Rhymes, rhythms, repetition, intonations, flow and a sense of the imagination all help students become better readers. Whether with native speakers or ELL students, the regular inclusion of poetry in reading lessons has real benefits.
Amy Buswell and Bruce Lansky's Giggle Poetry Reading Lessons turn struggling readers into happy readers. Many struggling readers are embarrassed to read aloud. They are often intimidated or bored by texts that conventional programs require them to practice. So, instead of catching up, they fall further behind. Currently 67% of American fourth graders cant read grade-level text. Reading specialist Amy Buswell has spent eight years looking for remediation methods that work. What is needed, Buswell explains, is a program that improves the motivation of struggling readers, because that accounts for 90% of the problem. Four years ago, Buswell came up with a brainstorm. She knew her best readers enjoyed reading Bruce Lansky's poetry books for pleasure. The more poems they read, the better the reading got. Why not use Lansky's kid-tested poems as texts struggling readers could practice on to improve their reading using six research-based strategies: choral reading, echo reading, paired reading, repeated reading, sustained silent reading and say it like the character reading. This book is the result of that brainstorm and the resulting collaboration between Buswell and Lansky. It gives teachers and parents everything they need to help children improve their reading: -35 kid-tested poems by Bruce Lansky -35 customized reading lessons by Amy Buswell -35 off-the-wall illustrations by Stephen Carpenter -35 sets of zany performance tips by Bruce Lansky all of which is designed to make the process of reading improvement more like fun than work. What Amy Buswell and Bruce Lansky have created is the most entertaining fluency intervention ever. That's why it is so successful at overcoming negative attitudes to improve reading skills and scores. Ninety-five percent of participating students made significant improvement in their fluency (reading rate). And average reading scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) for Buswell's school raised her schools rating to an A for the first time. In 2011, Buswell's school achieved one of the highest-percentage reading gains in the county. There's no reason parents can't get in on the fun, too. Parents will enjoy Lansky's funny poems and Stephen Carpenters delightful illustrations as much as their children. By reading the poems with their children and encouraging their children to try some of Lansky's entertaining performance tips (by adding gestures, sound effects, props and finding additional readers: be they friends, family or neighbors), they can dramatically speed up their child's reading progress (and have lots of fun in the process.)
Have student's write poetry to practice for other types of more structured writing by allowing them to more freely expressing themselves. Poetry will also help students to order their thoughts, practice idiom, metaphor, alliteration, assonance and other features of the English language. These exercises are simple; yet can be very freeing and an important creative outlet, especially if the poems are written in prose or one of the simply structured poetry formats like haiku. The assignment can be stretched to cover technology and digital literacy lessons as well by using the writing platform on BigUniverse.com to compose, illustrate, animate and publish students their poetry.
Poetry in Numbers - Teaching Math
Pairing poetry with math is not necessarily intuitive. Learning math requires number fluency and learning math-specific vocabulary. Use poetry to teach vocabulary and the concepts of mathematics to even the youngest students. For example, share Sort it Out, the rhyming story of a mouse who needs to sort his collection of found objects to help students learn about grouping.
Sherry Rogers (illustrator) ISBN: 9781607180302
Packy the Packrat's mother has had enough! It's time that he sorts through his ever-growing collection of trinkets and puts them away. Told in rhyme, the text leads the reader to participate in the sorting process by categorizing Packy's piles of things according to like characteristics and attributes. The story promotes and reinforces analogous thinking--a critical thinking skill in math, science, and life. In the "For Creative Minds" education section at the back of the book, the reader can explore even more attributes and characteristics of objects, including color, size, texture, shape, and material.
Blinded Me With Science - Teaching Science
Sciences comes with specialized vocabularies and methodologies just like math. And just as poetry is great for teaching new ideas in mathematics, it also works when teaching science. For example whens studying animal habitats; use poetry to teach about different ecosystems. Two great examples of poems to share are the award winning, The Rainforest Grew All Around by Susan K. Mitchell or Deep in the Desert by Rhonda Lucas Donald. Or help students connect with new science concepts and vocabularies by challenging them to compose poems using the new ideas.
Sherry Neidigh (illustrator) ISBN: 9781607181453
Catchy desert twists on traditional children's songs and poems will have children chiming in about cactuses, camels, and more as they learn about the desert habitat and its flora and fauna. Tarkawara hops on the desert sand instead of a kookaburra sitting in an old gum tree. And teapots aren't the only things that are short and stout--just look at the javelina's hooves and snout. Travel the world's deserts to dig with meerkats, fly with bats, and hiss with Gila monsters! Whether sung or read aloud, Deep in the Desert makes learning about deserts anything but dry.
Imaginations will soar from the forest floor, up through the canopy and back down again, following the circle of life in this clever adaptation of the song "The Green Grass Grew All Around." The jungle comes alive as children learn about a wide variety of the animals (jaguars, emerald tree boas, leafcutter ants, sloths, poison dart frogs, toucans, and bats) and plants (kapok trees, liana vines, and bromeliads) living in the lush Amazon rainforest. Delve even deeper into the jungle using sidebars and the three-page "For Creative Minds" educational section.
Take a trip on the road less traveled and use poetry throughout the lesson plans. It will make all the difference.