Developing Oral Language and Vocabulary through Poetry

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Lesson Introduction: 

In this unit I have noted variations for students in grades three to grade seven. There are many ways you can begin but here is an example that has worked with my class. You will find a list of resources I have used for ideas about slam poetry, eg: Sara Holbrook and poems by Larry Swartz, Sheree Fitch, Ralph Fletcher, Georgia Heard and Nancy Atwell.

Start the unit by bringing in poetry books and other poetry resources. Let kids to pick poems that they like. Ask class what they know about poetry and start a chart that can be left up in the classroom. Choose a favourite book of poetry, for example, Sheree Fitch's Toes in My Nose. Photocopy each poem in the book. Read a poem and see who wants it and give it away. Students are expected to practice the poem and share it with the class. They need to figure out how they are going to do this. Ideas are shared and props can be made. With your class, decide the criteria for judging performance. Sometimes you may allow a couple of kids to perform a couple of poems together.  Some groups are ready to perform immediately. Others need lots of encouragement and practice.

For older students I have other anthologies that I like to use. I often use fun poems, such as these, even with older kids. This idea came initially because Sheree was going to visit my class and I wanted the class to be familiar with her work and give her a gift as well. I had a very creative class so it was amazing morning.  

Learning Objectives: 

In this lesson, students will have opportunities to:

  • Understand elements of poetry, e.g. rhythm, rhyme, metaphor, similes, alliteration, assonance, word choice.
  • Become comfortable with oral presentations and learn strategies of how to effectively presents.
  • Enjoy reading and writing poetry.
  • Improve and be more specific in their choices and use of words in prose writing.
  • Students will improve oral fluency, a key element in reading comprehension.
Materials and Resources: 

To teach this lesson, you will need:

  • paper, pencils
  • poetry Anthology: Toes in My Nose and Other Poems by Sheree Fitch
  • Guess Who My Favourite Person is by Byrd Baylor
  • selection of Poetry Anthologies for children. One old favourite of mine is The Random House Book of Poetry for Children edited by Jack Prelutsky.  

Suggested Teacher Resources
On Performance:

  • Wham! It's a Poetry Jam by Sara Holbrook
  • Outspoken! How to Improve Writing and Speaking Skills Through Poetry Performance by Sara Holbrook and Michael Salinger
  • The Second City Guide to Improv in the Classroom by Katherine McKnight and Mary Scruggs

On Writing and Appreciating Poetry:

  • Poetry Matters by Ralph Fletcher (Harper Collins) written for children, I think it is a great resource for teachers.
  • The Poetry Experience by Sheree Fitch and Larry Schwartz
  • Poetry Starting from Scratch by Michael Carey 

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Poetry In Voice is a charitable organization that encourages Canadian students to fall in love with poetry through reading, writing, and recitation. All of our resources are available online for free. You may also use our resources if you reside outside of Canada.