Teaching Poetry: Writing and Reading for Primary Schools.

teaching poetry
Teaching poetry is a fun and mandatory subject in primary schools. Poetry is an essential skill in life which helps students to express themselves freely.

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Poetry is the journal of the sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air. Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable. Poetry is a phantom script telling how rainbows are made and why they go away.

Carl Sandburg, 1923.

Table of Contents

Learning Objectives.

  • Listening to, discussing, and expressing views about a wide range of contemporary and classic poetry, stories and non-fiction at a level beyond that at which they can read independently. (year 4)
  • Recognising simple recurring literary language in stories and poetry.
  • Listening to and discussing a wide range of fiction and poetry.
  • Recognising some different forms of poetry [for example, free verse].
Christmas Activities: Five fun ideas for your classroom.

Introduction to teaching poetry in primary schools.

England has been the home of many poets, from William Shakespeare to more contemporary poets like Julie Donaldson. However, poetry plays more than an entertainment role!

Some people write poetry to express themselves, others to escape and find relief, and others use it simply for fun. Teaching poetry is a great creative tool to give your young students an opportunity to celebrate the value of language, develop their descriptive language techniques as well as other literacy devices.

Teaching poetry has a great positive impact on the social learning of young students. It contributes to new ways of thinking for children. Not only this, teaching poetry can encourage children to express themselves and how they are feeling.

To learn more on student’s wellbeing, check out our blog on Guide To Life!

teaching poetry

Interesting fact:

The word rap – the music genre – is an acronym for rhyme and poetry. Rap can unlock creativity and love for words in students. Why not have them write their own rap as an exercise?

Teaching poetry on the National Curriculum.

Poetry shows up in the curriculum in KS1 where it says:

  • “to teach children how to form, compose, plan, and develop texts”.
  • “Pupils should be taught to develop positive attitudes towards and stamina for writing by: writing narratives about personal experiences and those of others (real and fictional), and writing poetry”.

By the beginning of year 5, “pupils should be able to read aloud a wider range of poetry and books written at an age-appropriate interest level with accuracy and at a reasonable speaking pace”.

Year 2
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Year 3
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Year 6
Teaching poetry

What is a poem?

A poem can be argued to be anything, as art is individual. However, for this article, we define poetry or a poem as a piece of writing which is aesthetically formed by words and images which also has a rhythm.

Kids Britannica defines poetry as “a piece of literature, or artistic writing, that attempts to stir a reader’s imagination or emotion”. We can do this with imagery, metaphors, and the way we pronounce words.

A common misconception of poetry is that it must rhyme, and that is simply not true! Many poets have created amazing poems which have not rhymed.

Poetry tends to follow a certain theme and format – although there are many ways one can write a poem the most common when teaching poetry are the following:

The sonnet: The sonnet is widely known from its use in classic poetry such as T.S Eliot, Shakespeare, Maya Angelou etc.

The free verse: The free verse poem has no rules, and its often mostly used in contemporary writing.

Haiku: This style of poem originated in Japan. It is a three-line poem that has a five-syllable pattern.

Acrostic: These styles of poems are perfect for education and learning things. The acrostic is a poem where the first letter of each line spells out a word or name when read vertically.

Limericks: These are funny poems made from five lines.

Ballad: We can assume that a ballad is a mushy love song, yet it’s really not. A ballad is a poem which is set with music. Whereas poems focus on evoking emotions, the ballad is focused on storytelling.

Teaching poetry

The theme of a poem is what it is essentially about. Like for example John Keats who focuses on the emphasis on nature and emotion. Whereas Kate Tempest focuses more on political and social justice through free verse poetry.

Rhyme and rhythm.

Let us get this straight, poetry does not have to rhyme! But if it doesn’t rhyme, how does it flow? Like music, poetry has a distinct flow to it that makes it stand out from one another.

Rhythm is created with metre and pronunciation; however, this is later learned in higher education. 

From the Shakespearean iambic pentameter which has a flow like a heartbeat with stressed and unstressed syllables. To the iambic tetrameter, similar to the pentameter however, the tetrameter has four beats within a line of poetry. These techniques are used to create more complicated rhythms. 

Rhyming Poem

Teaching Poetry

A poem without rhyme.

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Notice how both poems are equally nice to read. Poetry does not have to rhyme for it to be classed as a poem.

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How to write a poem.

Learning how to write a poem is as easy as grabbing a piece of paper and a pen. Firstly, we need words then we need to decide what we are going to write about.

You can literally write about anything!

  • Emotions
  • Places
  • Weather
  • Memory
  • Animals
  • Subjects

The list is endless because poetry welcomes everyone and everything.

Once you have picked a theme to write about, consider if you want to make it rhyme? What format are you going to be using? After establishing the theme and if it’s going to rhyme, its time to think about the rhythm.

So to summarise, a poem is written with words, rhyme (optional) and rhythm.

How to memorise a poem.

Teaching poetry can be fun, you don’t have to stick to any rules unless you want to! According to the NR, students are expected to prepare poems and plays to read aloud and to perform, showing understanding through intonation, tone, and volume so that the meaning is clear to an audience. When it comes to performing poetry, it is always helpful to memorise what you have written. When teaching poetry and how to memorise it you should suggest the following tips:

  • Think about what the poem is about, what is it saying and how. Rhymes are always easier to learn as they are linked by sound.
  • Make your poem into a song just to memorise it.
  • Break it up into three: read, repeat, check.
  • Practise, practise and more practise!
  • Make sure you are in a relaxed environment where no one is going to disturb you.
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Top five children poetry books:

  1. 101 Poems for Children by Carol Ann Duffy
  2. Green Glass Beads by Jacqueline Wilson
  3. Kings and Queens by Eleanor and Herbert Farjeon
  4. Cat Among the Pigeons by Kit Wright
  5. Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl

Teaching poetry

Teaching Poetry: Glossary and resources.

Stanza: A group of set lines within a poem.

Couplet: a pair of consecutive lines that create a thought or idea.

Verse: a line of poetry, or can also be classed as the whole poem itself if only has one verse.

Meter: The basic rhythm structure of a verse or line.

Rhyme scheme: the pattern of rhymes in a poem or verse.

Syllable: A single unit of speech sound when it’s written or spoken.

Alliteration: the repetition of consonant sounds.

Assonance: the repetition of vowels in words.

List poem: A poem which format is the same as a list.

Narration poem: a poem whose focus is to tell a story.

The Children’s poetry archive, click here

Poetry books which are friendly for the classroom, click here.

The Poetry Society which offers definitions and activities, click here.

Free trial to Emile which focuses on phonetics and memory testing games.  

Teaching poetry

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