For Writers

Kathy May’s ideas for sharing poetry with children

  • Read poems aloud in short bits of time.
  • Memorize short poems or parts of poems and recite at odd moments (in the car, standing in line, waiting anywhere, etc.)
  • Make poetry books available by leaving them casually around the house or classroom where children can pick them up and read them
  • Put poems on the walls, the refrigerator, in a lunch box, etc.
  • Encourage children to remember and write down the rhyming songs, jingles, phrases, etc. that they know, even if they’re slightly off-color
    (I see London, I see France . . .)
  • Make poems, rhyming, rhythm, word play a fun thing. Emphasize joy in words, delight and laughter over forced memorization or, heaven forbid, literary analysis!
  • Exercise for grades K-4—Ask children to make a list of all the things they like about summer. Read lists aloud. Do any of the things rhyme? Write a group poem with rhyming couplets listing all the things kids like about summer (swimming pool, no school, etc.) Model on the poem “What I Like About Summer” by Douglas Florian in his book This could be extended to additional poems—What I Like About Winter, etc.
  • Exercise for grades 2-4—Read aloud the poem/picture book Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema. Then write a group poem modeled on the structure of this poem, perhaps entitled “Bringing the Snow to Charlottesville.” This can be as long and elaborate or as short and simple as the group wishes. As one student suggested, the children could act out their poem and do their own snow dance! Teaches logical progression, cause and effect, as well as basic language skills.