Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Poems: Mentor Texts for Young Writers

Getting Started with Poetry
Throughout the year we've been reading poetry in our classroom.  Honestly, not as much as I would like or should have accomplished, but at least a touch of poetry each week.  I'm so excited to be starting an inquiry unit about poetry with my class next week.  I'm nearly about to burst.

I've joined Mary Lee, Linda and many other Kidlit bloggers in writing a poem every day in April at Merely Day by Day.  Though I'm not a huge fan of  rhyming poetry - well I am but it is a difficult format for young writers - I find myself making silly rhymes as I work, "Cooking, cooking it's no fun / It's the cleaning when I'm done / It's the choosing what we'll eat / Is restaurant eating not a treat?"  Yes, that was really pathetic, but I do what I can.  As I said, I'm just giddy with excitement about sharing poetry with my students.

Mentor Poems
Since I like to spend time reading a lot of poems to students before I even begin to introduce poetry into our Writer's Workshop, I have been building a Listmania list at Amazon of many of my favorites.  I'm trying to remember to pin mentor poems and poetry resources I am finding on Pinterest.  I'm always looking for poems that will be good mentor poems for my young poets.  I want to share poetry with them that they can envision themselves writing.

Here are a few books I like to use as mentor poetry with the young writers in our classroom:

Wake Up House by Dee Lillegard and illustrated by Don Carter (2000).  The poems in this book, as well as her Hello School! poetry book, are perfect for young writers.  Lillegard has used short stanzas to describe common objects.  She has carefully chosen her words to describe a variety of things that can be found at home (and school).  Young writers can envision writing poems like these.  Just looking around the classroom can inspire some beginning poems to hang around the room.  One of my favorites in this book is Night Light / Gladly glows / because he knows / he makes things safe / for eyes to close.

If You Should Meet a Crocodile:  Poems About Wild Animals  by Joy Peskin and Anna Currey.  This book is a collection of animal poems written by a variety of poets.  What I like about this collection, besides the fact that it is by many poets, is that is about something young readers and writers are very interested in --- animals.  Oh, the possibilities.  I Speak, I Say, I Talk by Arnold L. Shapiro is a poem about the sounds that animals make.  It has a structure students could easily use for writing other kinds of poetry.

From the Doghouse:  Poems to Chew On by Amy E. Sklansky with illustrations by Karla Firehammer, Karen Dismukes, Sandy Koeser and Cathy McQuitty (2002).  This poetry book is written from a dogs point of view.  My favorite in this book is Doggy Nightmare in which doggy has a terrible dream that he is, of all things, a cat!  He finds himself meowing, wanting a bowl of cream, and wishing for fish.  He was happy to wake up to find he is still a dog.  This book demonstrates the possibilities for writing about one topic in many different ways.

In the Wild by David Elliott and illustrated by Holly Meade (2010).  In this poetry book, many animals of the wild are shared.  This poetry book is perfect for talking about visualization.  The poet has so carefully chosen his words to help you picture the animal and the setting.  The illustrations are bold with the animals the prominent feature on each page.  In The Wolf, wolf calls out into the night.  Will there be a reply?

I'm going to take a little leap here for another favorite resource for mentor poems.  If you haven't visited Amy LV's, The Poem Farm, you need to go right now.  I first discovered Amy's blog as she took on the challenge of writing a poem every day of the year ---- yes, 365 poems.  I couldn't believe it.  Since then I've continued to follow and find her blog to be full of information, mentor poems, and tips for young writers.  There are so many mentor poems on this site.  You have to stop by.  Amy has added a table of contents for the poems on her blog.  Mentor texts at your fingertips.

What poems do you like to read to inspire your young poets?


  1. Some new to me mentor texts I will be checking out! Thanks for taking the time to share! I too have a difficult time to make sense of a poem that rhymes . . . I'm more of free verse kind of poet! :) Enjoying your poems this month!

    1. Thanks, Michelle. Did you see Franki's post, Books I've Recently Added to My Poetry Collection ( It is full of great titles.

  2. So inspiring. Listmania and Pinterest, using technology to gather and share, thank you. You might enjoy adding David Elliott's On the Farm. My students really enjoy his illustrations and descriptions of farm animals. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Mandy,
      I'm thinking you should join Pinterest...he he. Thanks for the suggestion of On the Farm. i will check it out.


  3. Thank you Cathy-it's so helpful to me. I am trying to increase my knowledge of work with younger students & will soon be helping a teacher plan some poetry work. I'll see if I can find the books in our library. I love that you do lots of prep for poetry by reading poems! Of course! I bet you'll have fun with this in class. And, I love Amy's site-so useful in many ways!

  4. Cathy - I just wanted to thank you very much for including my site on your list - I'm honored. We'd twittalked about this, but as our family has been traveling, I just found your post tonight! I'm also excited to find a couple of new titles to add to my collection. Thank you!! a.