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There are oodles of benefits to sharing poetry with your class.
It’s a fabulous way of introducing pupils to new vocabulary and helping children to explore imagery and figurative language. It’s within poetry that elements such as metaphor and simile really come to life. Imagine all of the extra language pupils would be exposed to if you read aloud one poem every day.
That would be nearly 2,000 poems during a child’s primary school journey.
Poetry can really support emerging readers. Often, developing readers are not as intimidated when reading poetry because many poems are short and sweet. This can be so supportive for older pupils who struggle with reading. Many reluctant readers often find it easier to engage with poetry books.
However, children are less likely to have a poetry book as a library book and many will have never been read poetry at home.
Reading one poem a day in class is a non-threatening way to introduce children to poems and inspire in them a love of words and language. This lays excellent foundations for the teaching of poetry as a formal English unit.
Children who have daily experience of verse will be excited rather than daunted to learn about the mechanics of poetry and write their own examples. Whole-class sharing can inspire less confident readers to dip into poetry collections independently. The performance element is also great for bringing a classroom alive with activity.
This can have a huge impact on comprehension. Reading poetry aloud also supports the oracy agenda and helps build children’s confidence and self-esteem.
Reading poetry is also important to development in writing. It encourages children to play with language and words. When reading poetry, pupils hear how words can be moved and stretched to rhyme and use the models they have read in their own writing. They’ll also learn about word economy and the importance of ‘never wasting a word’.
Children can also be encouraged to ‘magpie’ words and phrases they love from the poems they hear. Jot them down in a writer’s journal to be recycled and re-imagined in your own writing at a later date.
Most importantly, poetry can deepen children’s imagination, challenge them to think differently about the world and help foster compassion, a sense of identity and empathy – some of the most important elements of primary education.
Reading a poem a day does not require any planning, preparation or marking – simply choose a poem (there are many 365 poem anthologies available) and read it to your class. Very quickly this responsibility can be handed over to the children to manage so they choose their own poems to read to the class on a rota basis.
Try linking the poems you read to a particular topic or theme such as pirates, dragons or the second world war. Alternatively, focus on a poetic form such as haiku for a week or so.
Use daily poems to introduce a topic or lesson, explore thoughts and feelings linked to PHSE, link to world events or read a poem simply for enjoyment, without the need for analysis or in-depth discussion. You may want to focus on a particular poet or simply choose a random poem each day. There is no right or wrong way to do it.
Find poetry book recommendations to get you started here. There are lots of free teaching resources, recommended poetry books and activity ideas here.
We have set up a completely free project to support teachers with daily poetry reading. As part of the project, teachers receive three hours of online poetry training.
Classes are invited to vote on their favourite poem of the week every Friday to help children build their repertoire of favourite poems and begin to develop their own poetry identity. Display these favourites on the door or elsewhere in the school for other classes to see.
Tre Christopher & Pet Henshaw are the founders of Dandelion Learning and provide English training and support. Free online training for setting up writing journals is available at their website. Follow Tre and Pet on Twitter at @treandpet.
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