Monday, September 6, 2010

Wanted: A Few Good Poems

One day left. I've already blogged about the poem I will be reading on the first day of school. As for after that--I'm basically clueless. Ok, not clueless, I have a few tricks up my sleeve, but as I've mentioned before, I'm teaching fourth graders this year and I'm just not sure what they can "handle" when it comes to poetry. So I find myself reading lots and lots of poems or thinking about ones I taught last year to fifth graders and being a little hesitant to commit.

As I think about it, I do have fairly strict criteria when it comes to poetry selection. Maybe I'm a bit of a poetry snob, I don't know. For me to use in the classroom a poem...

  • can't be too childish. I have nothing against silly, playful verse and I've nothing but respect for famous poets such as Bruce Lansky or Jack Prelutsky. But when it comes to teaching poetry, I prefer poems to have a bit more...substance. Kiddie poems are fine for pleasure reading--my classroom library has plenty of Lansky, Prelutsky, and the like--but when it comes to teaching time, I like to raise the bar a little bit.
  • can't be too complicated. This isn't to say that I don't push my students to understand and enjoy challenging poems. I do. Often times there are elements or words in a poem that I have to explain to them prior to reading it, and that's okay. I just don't like to have to do that for 45 minutes or anything.
  • has to have some "teachable" elements. I like to use poems to teach vocabulary and punctuation and point of view and wordplay and more. I also like poems that I can use as mentor texts to teach poetry "moves" that will improve their poetry writing. 
  • has to be awesome. I have to use poems in my classroom that I love. If I don't like it, I won't teach it. It's as simple as that.
With my new students, I'll definitely need to get an idea of what they like and what will work for them during the first week of school. And, like I said, I do have some ideas stored away and I'll be sharing those in the future. But, of course, I welcome your comments. 

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