Poetry in Homeschool
Verse for Children
April is National Poetry Month. Does your homeschool language arts curriculum include the study of poetry? Whether you're striving to incorporate more poetry into your curriculum or whether you are looking for a poetry unit study, this web page should offer some resources.
Charlotte Mason suggested that children often hear poetry read aloud. Occasionally they should memorize and recite poems. And she also recommended using poetry for copywork and dictation.
Just like her ideas on artist study and composer study, she felt it best to focus on the poetry of a single writer for an extended time (6-12 weeks). To supplement, she allowed the addition of a biography about that poet.
How to Study (and Teach) Poetry
There are many ways to tackle the study of poetry. I believe that the Charlotte Mason way is probably best -- incorporating it into your regular curriculum by reading poems (at the very least) weekly. I have chosen to read at least one poem each day. That helps us to make poetry reading an enjoyable habit that we are not likely to forget.
Charlotte Mason recommended studying the same poet for an entire term (6-12 weeks). You might select Robert Louis Stevenson or Christina Rossetti for a traditional style. See more poets recommended by Charlotte Mason at Simply Charlotte Mason.
Or maybe you'd rather have a humorous poet such as Shel Silverstein or Jack Prelutsky to motivate a younger or reluctant learner.
Perhaps you admire Miss Mason's ideas but find the study of one poet all term a bit dry. My suggestion is to buy an anthology of poetry that offers a wide variety. With the anthology, you could study by themes/topics, by forms (ballad, sonnet, limerick, etc.), or just at random.
Whatever you choose, make sure to include a POETRY slot in your schedule sheet or preferred record keeping device. If you have a blank there, you will be more apt to fill it in by reading poetry.
How often do you enjoy poetry in your homeschool?
Random House Book of Poetry for Children
This is my number one choice of a poetry anthology, especially if you are just starting out with elementary students. The engaging poems are sure to create a love for poetry! When you pull out this volume, the children will cry, "Yeah! Poetry time!"
For a more detailed review, see my post at The Curriculum Choice
Choosing a Poetry Anthology
Of course, there are many options for poetry anthologies. Most any one you choose would serve you well throughout an entire school year or possibly longer.
Things to consider when choosing a poetry anthology
1. What kinds of poems are included? Modern, classic, or a mix?
2. What is the level of the poems? Difficult or easy?
3. What is the tone of the poems? Lighthearted or serious?
If you'd like recommendations from another homeschool mom, visit The Homeschool Classroom's article Reading Poetry with Children.
Another good source for poems is the Poetry Foundation. There are pages for different age groups from early childhood to young adults.
Or if you're looking for poetry for high schoolers, try the Poetry 180 project. This was created by Billy Collins a Former Poet Laureate of the United States. The idea is one poem per day for each of the 180 days of the school year. This selection is decidedly modern and multi-cultural.
The Nitty Gritty of a Poetry Lesson
This is how I actually do poetry study with my daughter.
First, I read the poem outloud to her twice. The first time I may stumble over something. But the second time, I can read it with confidence and better phrasing.
Second, I ask my daughter, "What did you understand?" This is the narration stage when she retells what she heard. At this point, I can find out what she did and did not comprehend. What she shares here lays the foundation for my next steps.
If she didn't seem to understand a certain part, I will read that again and help her with any new vocabulary or figures of speech.
If she really liked a certain turn of phrase or idea, I will read that again as well just to let her enjoy it again.
If she totally omitted part of the poem in her narration, I will read that section again to help her focus.
Of course, I have my own reactions to a poem, and I will share those with my daughter as well. I especially like to emphasize beautiful phrases that describe something extremely well.
If you feel inadequate to discuss a poem, this Responding to Poetry form is a good place to start. But as you gain experience, you will learn the questions to ask.
Then once we both feel that we have connected with the poem, I read it one last time outloud.
Often, but not always, I will ask her to read it outloud at the very end.
These "lessons" are very short -- just 2-4 minutes long. You certainly don't want to dissect the poem to death, especially with elementary students. The goal is to create a love of the sound of poetic language and to encourage that same poetic skill with words.
For middle school or high school aged students, you may find this Poetry Evaluation chart helpful for taking notes about a specific poem. There is room for them to note symbolism, imagery, rhyme, their own feelings, etc.
And be sure to visit Barb's thoughts on teaching poetry to high school boys if your children are getting older. She also has an entire lens on the topic -- Poetry Lesson Plans and Ideas. These are a wealth of high school poetry studies, already laid out for you to use.
Charlotte Mason's Own Words About Poetry
"He should have practice, too, in reading aloud, for the most part, in the books he is using for his term's work. These should include a good deal of poetry, to accustom him to the delicate shades of meaning, and especially to make him aware that words are beautiful in themselves, that they are a source of pleasure, and are worthy of our honour; and that a beautiful word deserves to be beautifully said, with a certain roundness of tone and precision of utterance."
Ideas for Poetry Study
- Introduce your children to poetry at a young age -- even in preschool.
- Begin your homeschool day with a poem.
- Create a personal anthology of favorite poems in a poetry notebook.
- Organize a poetry contest in your homeschool co-op or through your blog.
- Record audio files (or cassettes) of reading poems aloud. Share them with others.
- Organize a student poetry reading or recitation at the local library, at your co-op, or just at the dinner table.
- Hold a poetry exchange day with poems wrapped as gifts.
- Listen to free audio recordings of poetry.
- Use poems for copywork.
- Use poems for dictation.
- Print out copies of poetry and illustrate all around the text. Add the page to a poetry notebook.
- Use poems for typing or word processing practice.
- Host a Poetry Day.
Poetry makes for great memorizing material! The rhythms and rhymes make it a tad easier than memorizing prose.
Do you recognize this famous scowling poet? Yes, it's Edgar Allen Poe.
- Waking the Poet Within at Charlotte Mason Help
Linda Fay explains how she came to love poetry and how she incorporates it into her homeschool.
- Poems That Work!
Richard Guidone of the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute writes this article which is jam-packed with specific ideas about teaching poetry. It's geared towards classroom teachers, but the concepts are applicable to homeschooling.
- April is Poetry Month
Nadene at Practical Pages shares how she integrates poetry into her homeschool lessons.
Poetry Lesson Plans
- Homeschool Share
HSS offers poetry unit study plans and even free poetry lapbooking templates.
- Scholastic National Poetry Month
Great ideas about writing and enjoying poetry for the elementary crowd, many with printable PDFs.
- Poets.org Lesson Plans
These are high school level plans written by classroom teachers.
- 30 Days of Poetry
This set of 30 lessons teaches students how to write poems!
- Poetry Forms
Using prompts, these online forms help you write simple poems.
- Poetry Class
More tips and lesson ideas for teaching children how to write very upbeat and fun poems.
Funny Poetry for Children
If your children are reluctant to study poetry, starting with humorous poems can be a great way to change their attitudes.
Poetry Reference Sites
- Figures of Speech
A great chart with definitions and examples.
- Poetry for Kids
If you want to learn the various forms of poetry (limerick, ballad, Haiku, etc.), this site is a great foundation!
- Poetry at Librivox
I love Librivox! You can download FREE MP3 files of classics (all in the public domain). This link will take you to all the poetry listings at Librivox. Look for poems of Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Jabberwocky by Louis Carroll, Robert Frost, Chris