This month is the 20th April to be designated National Poetry Month. While that is pretty amazing, it also strikes me as sad that we didn’t have a poetry month before 20 years ago. Then again, we didn’t really need one, did we? Poetry used to be one of the major forms of literature, a way people communicated with each other and learned about the way the world works. Now it’s mostly learned in college. So it’s good we have a month dedicated to celebrating the glory that is poetry.
I have always been a huge fan of all types of poetry, and have even had many of my own poems published in collections, magazines, and literary journals. I love settling in with a book of the collected works of Pablo Neruda, Anne Sexton, Marge Piercy, or Richard Brautigan, not to mention all the romantic poets that I absolutely adore. There are certain types of days, for me, that are perfect for this. That first sweater-worthy day of autumn. A breezy, quiet spring day. A rainy summer day. I have to admit, I can’t really do poetry in winter–I am too easily depressed during that season. I will read melancholy thoughts into the most chipper of verse. But whatevs, other than during winter, I love reading poetry.
I don’t know about you, but I want my Littles (especially since they’re boys) to grow up loving poetry, or at least appreciating it. There are ways to teach them this, and I have been implementing them for as long as they’ve been alive.
Yes. I read poetry to them in the womb just as much as I read them prose. I was totally That Mom.
You can introduce your child to poetry with something as simple as reading Dr. Seuss with him. Or you can get one of A.A. Milne’s poetry collections for littles, When We Were Very Young or Now We Are Six. Robert Louis Stevensons’s collection of children’s poetry, A Child’s Garden of Verses can be gotten free for your Kindle. Our household fave is Shel Silverstein, but we are also partial to Jack Prelutsky. Nursery rhymes are also great intros to poetry, so a beautifully-illustrated Mother Goose collection can change a child’s world. When I was young, I had a copy of Dean’s Mother Goose Book of Rhymes by Janet and Anne Graham Johnstone and it changed the way I looked at everything. In fact, a couple years ago I ordered a new copy of it so I could share the beautiful illustrations with my littles.
Once your child has read some poems and gotten an ear for the rhythm and rhyme, you can start having her write poems of her own.
The following poems are far from the many various types to be learned. They are fun, simple ways to start teaching your students to write their own poetry. You can get into free verse and sonnets later.
Acrostic–Uses a word going vertically down the page as the first letter in each horizontal line. For example:
Littles run round my house
Over and under like a mouse
Valiantly battling deadly foes
Ever erasing all my woes
Diamante–This style has seven lines arranged in a certain structure. It starts out describing one thing and ends up describing another.
Haiku–Haiku consists of 3 lines and 17 syllables. Lines 1 and 3 have five syllables and line 2 has seven syllables. They do not have to rhyme, but a fun challenge can be rhyming lines 1 and 3.
The sky is so blue.
The sun is so warm up high.
I love the summer.
Cinquain–This consists of five unrhymed lines, with each line containing a certain number of syllables.
Line 1: 2 syllables
Line 2: 4 syllables
Line 3: 6 syllables
Line 4: 8 syllables
Line 5: 2 syllables
Limerick–This style has 5 lines with lines 1, 2, and 5 rhyming and lines 3 and 4 rhyming. It usually starts with “There was a…” and ends with a name, place, or person. Lines 1, 2, and 5 should have 7-10 syllables and lines 3 and 4 should have 5-7 syllables. The last line should be a little farfetched.
There was an Old Man of Nantucket
Who kept all his cash in a bucket.
His daughter, called Nan,
Ran away with a man,
And as for the bucket, Nantucket.
Celebrating National Poetry Month can be as easy as using poetry for your copywork and handwriting practice. Pick a poem you think your littles will enjoy and either make a copywork page or do like I have done and write the poem on the chalkboard/dry-erase board for them to copy. Then, once they’ve copied it, go through the poem with them, pick out the figurative language, discuss meanings and beat and rhyming words. Easy peasy.
Whatever you do to bring poetry into your littles’ lives, make sure it’s fun. Because poetry should be a thing again. Don’t you think?