Teach Reading with Poetry

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30 Days of Poetry Printable
Teaching Reading with Poetry

Poetry for Blossoming Readers

We read poetry to be inspired, to laugh, and sometimes to be comforted. Poetry often brings depth to a subject because it can reveal the emotions of the poet with the words that are thoughtfully selected. You can use poetry as a vehicle to express what you believe you may not be able to put into your own words.  Words are the key to expression and poetry can teach reading and develop critical thinking for blossoming readers and writers.

Poetry is the Best Tool

Words are the best tool we have wouldn’t you say, to express ourselves. Poetry is the entry level for our children to learn to speak and read. You can see it when you watch your children sing and dance to Five Little Monkey’s Jumping on the Bed or our old favorite, London Bridges Falling Down.


Recognizing Rhyming Words

When the poem, The Hedgehog by Edith King, is read aloud the words that rhyme can be heard easily.


by Edith King

The hedgehog is a little beast
Who likes a quiet wood.
Where he can feed his family
On proper hedgehog food.
He has a funny little snout
That’s rather like a pig’s.
With which he smells, like us, of course.
But also runts and digs.
He wears the queerest prickle coat.
Instead of hair or fur.
And only has to curl himself
To bristle like a burr.
He does not need to battle with
Or run away from foes.
His coat does all the work for him,
It pricks them on the nose. 

The rhyming words reinforce patterns of sounds and those sounds help your child with word recognition. When you accentuate the rhyming words by clapping, you help the brain memorize. Think of it as an exclamation point!

Movement is also an aide in memory depending on your child’s learning style but in particular with boys, especially young ones. It can also be a time for fun. My boys used to laugh when “mom” would dance and clap her hands circling the living room. They would join in and by doing this little jaunt around the house the boys noticed the words enough to move on to the THINKING part of our lesson.


Painting the Picture

After moving around I would take this moment to sit down with a small snack at the kitchen table and talk about the poem.  They can learn about the VOCABULARY that they might not be familiar with. Read the poem aloud to them asking them to listen to words. You can ask them questions about the poem like “What did you like/dislike?”. For the second reading, have them close their eyes and listen and think about their senses: smell, hear, touch, taste, and sight. This time, after you have read the poem ask them questions that relate to the senses. How did the poet use the senses in the poem? What words does the poet use to describe the hedgehog? You can enjoy your discussion and leave it at that or have a formal lesson and add any vocabulary and definitions to lists or notebooks.


Teaching Reading

What you have done so far is to introduce the poem in a delightful way. Now you can move onto the HEAD work.

For my struggling reader, I used the Charlotte Mason approach to teaching reading. At this point, he wasn’t a BEGGINGING reader. He already had the basics under his belt. We began working on building his word library verses letters and sounds. Side note: this approach is not intended for struggling readers but it worked very well for my struggling reader.

Printing three copies of the poem you will have one for reading, the other for creating word tiles and the other for letter tiles (we were on a tight budget) focusing on the first line in the stanza. (You could also use a chalkboard to write the stanza.) I cut each word out to create the word tiles and cut out each of the letters for letter tiles.

  • Introducing a new word by showing it to him and talking about its meaning. Words that I would have reviewed from this poem would have been; hedgehog, little and beast.
  • Learning the word by asking him to look at it until he could see the word in his mind with his eyes closed. Turn the word tile upside down and ask him to spell it using the letter tiles. If he has a difficult time have him look at the correct spelling of the word and try again.
  • Have him find the word in the tiles representing the first verse and in the printed poem.
  • As each word was mastered we would review it and add it to his word library notebook.

This process would continue until I felt confident we were ready to move on. We did this for a few months until he was comfortably reading on his own.

What they learned

You can have them do copy work or memorize and recite the poem. What helps me to know that they have an UNDERSTANING of the poem is to have them paint, using watercolor, whatever image the poem has impressed upon them. It might be the hedgehog or maybe his family. I have often had my boys include a verse from the poem that left them with the image they painted.

Putting it All Together

You can use the 30 Days of Poetry and the collection to read a poem a day or do a lesson. Using the simple poetry lesson above by first introducing the poem and enjoying it is always a good start. Then you move onto to thinking about what the poem is about and discover new vocabulary to help in the interpretation of the poem. For the finale, your children can share what their take away was from the lesson using the suggestions. This would make a simple summer activity with less structure. Have fun with it!

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