Teaching poetry in first grade used to feel so daunting. Every year, April would roll around for poetry month and I would scramble trying to figure out the best way to teach my students the magic of poetry, when I didn’t fully understand what was appropriate for them at this age.
I didn’t want to expose them to poetry that only rhymed and set them up to feel like they always had to have rhyming words in their own poems. I wanted to engage them in all kinds of different techniques to express their feelings and have some fun while they were at it.
I always stress to them during writing workshop that the moment they pick up their pens, they are writers. I wanted my students to feel that same confidence as poets that they have as writers.
In order to fully immerse them in poetry, I thought the best way to go about that was to introduce different kinds of poems through poetry centers. My students would cycle through these poetry centers throughout two weeks and explore all of the different kinds of poems without feeling rushed.
Poetry Center #1: Listening Center
In order for my students to start engaging and writing poetry, they needed to hear it! I used different mentor texts to introduce them to the new genre but also found different apps and websites to use in a poetry listening center. Students can choose the website or app on their ipad or computer and listen to the different poems. After listening, they can choose a favorite poem to describe and draw a picture of using the included recording sheet.
Poetry Center #2: Poetry Song Center
Using classic nursery rhymes with my students was the perfect way to introduce how poems have a rhythm and a beat. In this center, my students explored that concept by using well known nursery rhymes and songs to rewrite and create their own poem to that tune! This is always a fan favorite. Songs that students can rewrite for their rhythm and beat are:
- Miss Mary Mack
- Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
- Row Row Row Your Boat
Poetry Center #3: Shape Poems
Introducing and teaching the cinquain poem template can be very difficult with little learners. This center is especially engaging for your students and simple to explain this type of poetry. This center allows students to generate ideas for a cinquan poem by giving them a template first to fill out their ideas with sentence stems. A heavy scaffold is provided for students to use to create their cinquain poems. Once students have completed a template of their choice, they can create their cinquain shape poems for a final product.
Poetry Center #4: Describe an Object with a Poet’s Eye
Teaching students to describe objects using their senses is such a large part of helping them to understand the basics of poetry and how it can be used in different areas of writing. In order to teach students how to write with a poet’s eyes, this center includes various templates to help students either describe objects around their classroom using their senses or describing objects using picture cards. Several graphic organizers are available for students to describe their objects and name what this reminds them of.
Poetry Center #5: 5 Senses Poetry
This center extends students learning to help them develop using their senses to describe objects in their daily lives. Students can choose graphic organizers to use their senses to describe seasons, different favorite foods, weather, sports, and sweet treats.
April is National Poetry Month and the perfect time to engage your students in this genre of writing. This packet of activities can be used as centers for an entire week or used throughout an entire unit of study for poetry. Use one center or all of them, this packet is easily adaptable to your classroom needs. Pair it with your favorite poetry read alouds and you’re all set for a memorable and engaging unit!
To see these center activities more closely, visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store here.