Why Poetry? Let Me Count the Ways

Evan Robb
September 12, 2020

Evan Robb

Distinguished Principal, TEDx Speaker, Author, and Horace Mann Educator of The Year Recipient

By Timothy Rasinski, Ph.D

Anyone who has followed my work in the past knows that I am a huge advocate for the use of poetry (and song) in the literacy classroom for all students, but especially for younger readers and older readers who struggle.  I'd like to share reasons why I think poetry should be an essential part of any literacy program.     

Poetry is Joyous

            Perhaps the most important reason for the use of poetry is that it is pure joy to read and perform.  So many of today's children's poets write with such great humor that children are certain to find great delight.   Poetry is fun reading!

Poetry is Profound     

Beyond its ability to tickle a funny bone or two, poetry can be deeply profound and help build students' knowledge of the world they live in. Whether it is David L. Harrison's Rhymes for the Times that tell the story of America through poetry, Catherine Clinton's I, Too, Sing America: Three Centuries of African American Poetry,  Glen Alberto Salazar's A Little Book of Persian Poetry, or Brod Bagert's heart of science poetry, poetry can expand children's world and stretch their imaginations.

Poetry Builds the Foundation for Reading

            Research tells us that many children struggle in reading because of they are not fully proficient in the foundational aspects of reading.  Poetry is immensely suited to improve many foundational reading competencies.

Phonemic Awareness

            Poetry is filled with texts that play with sounds.  Think of all the nursery rhymes children should learn before starting school.   Diddle Diddle Dumpling, Dickery Dickery Dare, Peter Piper, picked a peck, or Betty Botter Bought some Butter are sure to help children develop an awareness of the phonemes /d/, /p/, and /b/.  I can't help but wonder if nursery rhymes were first created to help children develop their awareness of speech sounds that is crucial to their language and literacy development.

Phonics

            Most poems for children rhyme.  Rhyming words are words usually (not always) have similar rimes (e.g. the -ake in bake, cake, rake, take ).    Helping children detect and decode rimes are a great way to develop their phonics or word decoding ability (as well as their spelling or encoding).   Dr. Edward Fry, for example, found that knowledge of just 38 common rimes could help children decode over 600 words simply by adding beginning consonant, consonant blend, or digraph.  Little Bo Peep is a perfect text to explore the -eep rime, and Maya Angelou's Life Doesn't Frighten Me at All is certain to help children learn about the -all rime (and much more!).

Vocabulary

            Poetry is filled with rich words that poets use to weave their magic.     Back to the Maya Angelou poem we can find wonderful words and phrases such as frighten, frogs and snakes, dragons, counterpane, tough guys, and much much more.  Our job as teachers is simply to help children notice these great words that poets make such great use of.  

Fluency

            Fluency is developed largely through repeated readings of texts.      Another name for repeated reading is rehearsal.  Poetry is meant to be performed, so in order to get the point where students are able to perform, they will need to rehearse, hopefully under the guidance and support of a teacher.  Moreover, the aim of the repeated reading is to read with good expression (prosody), which is at the heart of fluency, instead of reading fast which is the goal of too many repeated reading lessons.

Sight Vocabulary

            The rhythm, rhyme (and melody) in poetry, and songs makes them easily memorized. How many of us can remember a poem that we first learned and last read in our school days?  Sight words are essentially words that are memorized by sight and sound.   Poetry is excellent text for helping students expand their corpus of memorized words - sight vocabulary, especially when after reading (and performing) an entire poem we work with students to analyze individual words and word patterns in the poem itself.  

Writing

            Because poetry often has a specific and transparent structure, it is an excellent mentor text for students' writing.  It is not difficult for students to write their own versions (or parodies) of favorite poems or songs, whether it is their own versions of Yankee Doodle, Judith Viorst's If I were in Charge of the World, or Langston Hughes' Mother to Son the structure of the poetic text gives students a head start on creating their own poetry.  A favorite for many students in our university reading clinic:

Diddle Diddle Dumpling my son John,

Went to bed with his stockings on.

One shoe off, one shoe on.

Diddle Diddle Dumpling, my son John.

That rhyme is also a favorite for students writing their own.      Taylor, for example, wrote (rehearsed and performed) his own version of the rhyme:

Diddle Diddle Dumpling my son Fred,

Slept all day on his bed.

Woke up at midnight and screamed "there's a monster under my bed."

Diddle Diddle Dumpling, my son Fred.

Success - A Sense of Accomplishment

            Children who struggle in reading do not often experience success in their reading, especially when they compare themselves with their more proficient classmates.  Poems are relatively short, and the rhythm and rhyme embedded in poetry for children make them easy to learn to read and perform.  Imagine the feeling of accomplishment children can feel when they are able to fluently and expressively read a poem aloud, just as well as any more proficient reader, to classmates, teacher, family members, and others. That success is empowering.  In our reading clinic, our goal is for children to leave every single day with the ability to read something well and to read and perform it for their parents and other family members.  

Make Poetry Part of your Reading Curriculum

            In our educational world where stories and informational texts are the dominant forms of reading, we need to make a concerted effort to allow poetry a foothold.   Just 10-20 minutes of poetry reading a day can have a profound effect on children's literacy development.  Poetry is particularly well suited for remote and virtual instruction. Poems can easily be sent electronically to students and printed at home.  Then, via zoom or other distance technology, teachers and children can easily practice, master, and perform a daily poem in that 10-20 time span.  Let's make it a goal for poetry to be read, rehearsed, and performed every day of the school year! 

BrodBagert            https://www.brodbagertsheartofscience.com/

Margarita Engle         http://margaritaengle.com/

David L. Harrison       https://www.davidlharrison.com/

Sara Holbrook              https://www.saraholbrook.com/resources/poems/

Kenn Nesbitt                https://www.poetry4kids.com/

Robert Pottle               http://robertpottle.com/poetry-index.php

Jack Prelutsky           http://jackprelutsky.com/

You can find resources for teaching accurate and automatic word recognition (i.e. fluency) at Tim's own website - www.timrasinski.com

Daily Word Ladders by Timothy Rasinski

Follow Tim on Twitter @TimRasinski1

 

The post Why Poetry? Let Me Count the Ways appeared first on The Robb Review Blog.

Evan Robb

Want Evan Robb for your next event?

Find out more information, including fees and availability.
Find Out More
Keep Reading
Is Every Student a Protagonist in Your Classroom Library?
Evan Robb
Evan Robb
January 16, 2022
By Laura Robb and Evan Robb Classroom libraries can be conduits for change, ...
Make Word Study (phonics, spelling, and vocabulary) a Game!
Evan Robb
Evan Robb
November 22, 2021
Timothy Rasinski, Ph.D. A few years ago, my four adult children were home for the ...
Keep Your Eye on The Child
Evan Robb
Evan Robb
October 16, 2021
Young Literacy Learners Take Center Stage By Mary Jo Fresch I began my teaching career as a third-grade teacher in ...
Is Every Student a Protagonist in Your Classroom Library?
By Laura Robb and Evan Robb Classroom libraries can be conduits for change, providing all children access to texts that affirm who they are, open possibilities for what they can become and help them to develop the habit of reading. Teachers have tremendous power to amass text collections that develop students' academic, emotional, and so...
Read More
Make Word Study (phonics, spelling, and vocabulary) a Game!
Timothy Rasinski, Ph.D. A few years ago, my four adult children were home for the holidays. Every evening after the dinner table was cleared and the dishes were done, we'd get out a board game and play for at least an hour. This was a great time to be together, to talk, to just have some shared fun. Once the kids had left and my wife...
Read More
Keep Your Eye on The Child
Young Literacy Learners Take Center Stage By Mary Jo Fresch I began my teaching career as a third-grade teacher in 1974. The district reading program was a synthetic phonics series. I regularly had students required to repeat the second-grade reader because they had failed to keep pace with their peers. These students needed c...
Read More
Teaching Reading- The Art and Science
Timothy Rasinski, Ph.D. Kent State University "It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge." Albert Einstein "I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning." Plato "Art has the means...
Read More
Six Intervention Shifts to Re-Envision an Intervention Design That Honors Our Children
Written by Mary Howard In 1972, I began a passionate professional journey in small town Missouri as a special education teacher. That year, and each year that followed, children became my teachers. Since my entry into education, understanding student-centered intervention approaches has continued to inspire my professional curiosity. When a...
Read More
Of Courage, Possibility, and Dwelling in Hope
By Travis Crowder Exceptional writing teachers have taught me valuable lessons about how writers find ideas. Over time, writing has become a space for me to wrestle with my thinking, and I've accepted that when I finalize a blog or book, or essay, that piece of writing is only as good as my current understanding of the topic is. It is imperf...
Read More
A Little Latin (and Greek), and a Whole Lot of English Building Vocabulary with Word Roots
By Timothy Rasinski, Nancy Padak, Evangeline Newton, Rick M. Newton What do the following words and phrases have in common? Tractor A protracted argument Abstract art Attraction Vanilla extract Retractable ink pen Traction Intractable Easily distractible Contractions Of course, it's easy to notice that all these words and p...
Read More
Thinking about Criticism and Critique
By: Lester Laminack We live on a twenty-two-acre portion of an old farm nestled in the mountains of western North Carolina. Our property has acres of woods and acres of open meadows where cows grazed, and hay was harvested. I keep those meadows mowed. It takes about six hours on a small tractor to mow all of them and I do that at least twice...
Read More
Improve Students' Fluency, Vocabulary, & Comprehension with Guided Practice
By Laura Robb "The kids who can't read the grade level text listen to it so they are on the same page as students who can read the text. That's the only way I can have every student experience the required text." This explanation illustrates how a sixth-grade teacher coped with a one-novel per semester curriculum in her classes. None of the ...
Read More
Why Poetry? Let Me Count the Ways
By Timothy Rasinski, Ph.D Anyone who has followed my work in the past knows that I am a huge advocate for the use of poetry (and song) in the literacy classroom for all students, but especially for younger readers and older readers who struggle.I'd like to share reasons why I think poetry should be an essential part of any literacy program. ...
Read More