One excellent resource for teachers for celebrating poetry across the year is Georgia Heard’s Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School. Ms. Heard reminds us all that there is poetry everywhere and that there is poetry inside all of us…even those for whom reading and writing is sometimes difficult. She writes that “a classroom environment can send out messages: that all students’ lives matter; that every voice is worth listening to; and that students can take risks in writing poems about whatever their hearts urge them to write. I focus on creating the emotional environment first, and then I trust that the poems will follow.” Wow! So what does that mean to us as educators? How do we create that environment where students view themselves as writers/poets and where it is safe to take risks and put themselves “out there” and bare their hearts and souls?
l Ms. Heard provides many examples for structuring a poetry environment in classrooms. One such way is to have poetry centers established in the classrooms. These would be centers that students would visit every week and not just during “April is Poetry Month.” She provides many ideas but cautions us overachievers not to have too many centers operating at once! On Poetry Workshop Day the workshop would follow the same format as Writer’s Workshop. The workshop would begin with a minilesson, be followed by center time, and ending with a group share. This is a familiar structure for all of our students grades K through 8 so it a seamless approach to adding more poetry to your students’ diet.
Here are two examples from Poetry Notebooks from our students: one kindergarten student and one 4th grader. The first example is from a kindergarten student. In a whole group setting the children read Happy Birthday as a shared reading. They read it together using a pointer, learning voice to print match and left to right reading. Then during Centers they added a small version to their Poetry Notebook, illustrated the poem, and read it to themselves and to a partner. They now have a poem in a permanent location for them to reread and become more accomplished with fluency and the rhythm of our language. The second example is a cover to a 4th grade student’s Poetry Notebook. This is a Heart Map that the student has completed independently. It shows everything that is close to her heart that later can be turned into topics for her to write poetry about. Obviously there is an increase in sophistication between the work of a kindergarten student and a 4th grade student but the message is the same: there is poetry everywhere and there is poetry inside of us all!