April is National Poetry Month, and all the classes are celebrating poetry in one way or another. Poems can be rhyming or unrhymed, silly or somber; some are easily accessible, and some are more dense. We’ve been setting up for our poetry unit by reading Feathers by Jaqueline Woodson
The first week of April, my class started our poetry unit with students choosing favorite poems to share with the class. Some of the poems were silly, and some were more serious; it’s always wonderful for me to see how much the children enjoy poems that speak to them. That week I also read them a poem by Christina Rossetti and asked them to illustrate it as they listened. The poem seemed to be about sheep, at first, but it turned out to be about clouds by the end — and that took some figuring out! The illustrations helped us see how our understanding had changed from the beginning to the end.
Last week, I assigned different poems to different students during our D.E.A.R (Drop Everything and Read) period. The poems were by Emily Dickinson, e.e. cummings, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Judith Viorst. I asked everyone to read their poems three times with a short meditative walk between each reading to let the words sink in. On subsequent days, students analyzed the poems by searching for interesting word choices and unusual punctuation and writing about the poem’s meaning or the way it made them feel. I’ve also been reading poems aloud after snack each day.
This week, we learned about rhyme scheme and how it helps us understand the pattern and structure of a poem. We compared the short quatrains of an alphabet poem to see which stanzas went a-a-b-b, a-b-c-b, or a-b-a-b. We then applied that understanding to a greater challenge by labelling the rhyme schemes of longer poems, taken from a book (The Magic Pudding, by Norman Lindsay) which might be our next read-aloud. And finally, we’re moving into writing our own poems for friends.