Saturday, April 14, 2012

Professional Books About Teaching Poetry

The fun of teaching poetry has begun.  I have placed collections of poetry books on the tables around our classroom and asked this question, "What is poetry?".  In the coming days we'll be working to create an understanding of poetry, and all it can be, together.  We will surround ourselves with poetry by reading it together, creating opportunities to read it independently, and perhaps a little poetry break every now and then (stopping everything to listen to a poem).  My hope is to help aspiring young poets get the rhythms of poetry in their ears, minds, and hearts so they will soon be able to create their own poetry.

When getting ready to teach poetry I like to get myself ready as well.  I am writing poetry, listening to poetry on my iPod, reading books written to help you capture your words in poetry (Heard, Wooldridge, Murray) and following National Poetry Month events.  I have always loved poetry so for me this is always a fun time.

Professional Resources
Here are a few professional resources for teaching poetry to children I always recommend.  If you have others, please leave them in the comments below:

Awakening the Heart:  Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School by Georgia Heard.  If you don't buy anything else, buy this book.  First of all, Georgia Heard has a delightful way with words on a page.  I enjoy everything I read by her.  Secondly, she takes a closer look at poetry through the eyes of a writer.  She talks about finding poems where they hide and creating an environment for poetry.  When talking about a unit of poetry study Heard reminds us our goal is to "ensure that poems will sing to our students and that they'll seek out poems even after the study of poetry has ended in the classroom."

Outspoken!  How to Improve Writing and Speaking Skills Through Poetry Performance by Sara Holbrook and Michael Salinger.  This book is interesting because it looks at poetry through a different lens - performance.  How do we read poems?  Of course, there is also discussion about how to write poems that move an audience.  I especially enjoyed the chapter on memoir where the authors share suggestions for helping young poets write about what they know.  Interestingly, there is a section that demonstrates turning a story into a poem by capturing key words and phrases.

Kids' Poems by Regie Routman.  If poetry isn't your thing, this is probably the book you should buy to support young poets.  If poetry is your thing, you'll want this book for the way it looks at poetry through the eyes of the young poet.  Regie not only shares suggestions for getting started with the teaching of poetry, but she also has collected poetry written by young poets in a format ready to be shared with your students.  Regie has written a Kids' Poem book for grades K-4 (that I am aware of).

A Note Slipped Under the Door:  Teaching From the Poems We Love by Nick Flynn and Shirley McPhillips.  This book is a much deeper read about poetry.  It taught me so much about poetry itself.  It's beautifully written.  Though it is a professional text, I felt like there were lines within it that were poetically written.  The authors remind us, "Poems are mysteries and come from deep places.  We can be amazed or moved without always being able to explain why."  This book shares powerful examples of poetry, makes suggestions for writing poetry, and takes a closer look at key characteristics of mentor poems.

Poetry Matters by Ralph Fletcher is the perfect book to share snippets about writing poetry with young writers.  When I went to grab my copy for this post, it was missing again.  I tend to lend it out often as it is  useful when talking with students about writing poetry.  This book was written to hand directly to young poets.  Ralph wanted poets to have practical ideas for getting their message just the way they want it.


  1. Love this post! We just started poetry in my K class a few weeks ago. Georgia Heard is the bomb!! LOVE all of her books. I also use Lucy Calkins' unit of study on poetry. It is a great resource. I'm going to check out the other ones you have listed here. Thanks for sharing! My kids are loving it and soaking it all up! It's one of my favorite studies to do with them.

  2. Thanks for sharing what you are doing, Cathy, and the books. I hope you have so much fun writing with your students. I will look up the 'note slipped under the door-don't know it. I have almost all the other books, return to the Georgia Heard book(s) again & again, & to Fletcher. I have many, but a favorite, & that I've given as a gift is Knock At A Star, recently revised (my book is falling apart now), by XJ Kennedy, Dorothy Kennedy & illus. by Karen Lee Baker. It has marvelous poems & talks to young poets with such delight about poetry writing. I bet you would love it.

  3. Cathy,
    Thanks for posting these poetry resources...I don't know if you've heard of this or not, but it's called a "Poetry Attack"-I think it originally came from Tim Rasinski...we've done this at my school for at least the last 4 or 5 years...the children love it. We practice choral reading of a poem for about a week and then on Fridays, Poetry Attack another classroom...let me know if you want to know more about it.

  4. Another great post with awesome resources! Many I'll need to get my hands on. Thanks, as always, for taking the time to compile it! I just purchased on Amazon Lucy Calkins' unit of study on poetry and I'm waiting to receive it . . . in the meantime, I'll be filling my cart! Uh . . . thanks? No, really, thank you!

  5. Hi Cathy,
    I was looking around via google and just found your blog. I can tell we are kindred souls in regard to poetry. While I do not have a blog, I have an old website poetryonparade to show a little about what I do. I am now a retired elementary teacher and I volunteer my poetry skills in my neighborhood school. I will read around your site a little more to look at what you teach. I will be checking back and look forward to checking out all the kidlitosphere sites you have listed. I know some of them. Do you know Laura Purdie Salas's site? You might like it. Also with Ed Decaria's March Madness Poetry. I just found about this vast poetry for teachers and kids online community last fall. Georgia Heard has a new book coming out and there is a new one from Stenhouse on Poetry Mentor Texts that looks interesting. Thanks for your sharing. I am planning a blog, but have not started yet.
    Janet F.
    Janet F.