Do you teach poetry to 5-7 year olds?
and a question that I am often asked by colleagues and peers:
How to teach poetry in KS1?
One of the hardest writing units to cover with younger kids (and older kids in my opinion) is the writing of poetry. With other forms of writing, they can learn the structure and apply the rules to new topics.
Take Biographies. There are numerous model texts out there for every year group. You can pick them apart. Discover the language and structural techniques within, research a new person… and ….. voila! A student written biographical piece of writing is produced.
Or use letter writing. The content isn’t so important as drumming in the features of a letter: address, date, greeting, sign off. You could write to Paddington’s Aunt Lucy, the Zookeeper in Dear Zoo, or the Head teacher. The content and purpose would change, but the basic form of the letter wont.
But how to teach poetry?
Do you find it hard to teach poetry?
Poetry, however, is really quite a tricky concept.
Does it rhyme? Yes… and no…
Does it have need a rhythm? Yes…. And no…
Do I have to use any specific features? Yes! But also no. Sometimes poems are almost a broken up paragraph. Then sometimes they have rhyming words at the end of the line in pairs (AABB form). Often the rhymes are in pairs but alternate lines in ABAB form. Sonnets, Haikus, Limericks – all poems, and all with their own forms.
It’s exasperating! Not just for the kids.
First up – Acrostic poetry
Primary schools in the UK often use an Acrostic form of poetry as a great way to create poetry. You can make it relevant to any theme, and it gives the kids a framework to work with as each line of the poem starts with a given letter.
I think they are fab for the upper age ranges (years 4-6 or 8-11year olds), but for younger kids and those who struggle with literacy thinking of relevant sentences that start with the correct letter is a level of challenge that is a step too far.
Use technical terms to intrigue and encourage quality writing.
In the UK kids in Key Stage 1 (KS1) are aged 5-7 and have an amazing capacity to learn. They are just extraordinarily thirsty for knowledge. I appreciate I am speaking generally, but in every class I have taught (hundreds over a career of 14+years including 6 in supply teaching) the younger the class, the more they actually want to learn compared to their older counterparts.
In particular, KS1 kids love a technical term. Most will be able to explain phoneme, grapheme, digraph, split digraph and trigraph without skipping a beat. Which is why I love to write simile and metaphor poetry with them. Don’t be afraid to teach them about these imagery devices! They love that it is something older children traditionally learn, so I always mention how my High School students have to use them too. It works a treat! These devices can also be used to make impressive writing in many different forms, so don’t delay such an easy way to improve writing quality.
Tell me how to teach poetry in a stress-free session!
I use similes and metaphors to create poetry across the Primary age ranges from group poems for Mothers’ Day created in Reception, to atmospheric and moving World War poems for Armistice Day – there truly isn’t a season or theme that they couldn’t be applied to. And below is my lesson plan – just for you! I have used colour for this particular post. Not only was it an easy inclusion in my Artists topic, but it is accessible, something that allows choice and variety within the class, but also allows those who need you to heavily influence their ideas to copy yours.
Introduction to the theme
When you introduce this lesson sequence try using fully immersive experiences such as:
Autumn / Spring / Summer
Go on a walk to notice features, do one a season and see if there are seasonal changes.
Visit a farm, or have someone from a local foodbank come and visit to talk about their work.
Talk about family traditions, or decorate the classroom.
Play in the snow, or create colder experiences that are guaranteed with frozen water tuff trays, rescuing small world people/creatures from frozen prisons (put them in a balloon with some water and freeze overnight).
Hold a mini celebration party, with streamers, party poppers, balloons and ensure you complete the experience with a countdown to 12 (midday)!
New Topic e.g. World Wars / Armistice Day
For every theme you introduce, there will be a period of immersion and learning new vocab – use this as part of your poem prep!
You could also use this lesson set as a way to round off a topic and bring all their vocab / grammar knowledge to a pinnacle.
During the introduction period, keep a list of interesting vocab, adjectives and nouns on a flip chart (or however you work. I am always going to say flip chart because they are so versatile. But that is a whole other post.). Older kids could do this independently as part of the next step.
For colour I love to do a colour mixing lesson, and then ask children to make a painting using just shades of their favourite colour. The only time this has been tricky is when one decided Gold was their colour of choice, and adding white to make lighter shades it made it look… a certain shade of brown that was less than desirable.
After your class are fully immersed/over-excited in the topic you can use a Palette of Words such as this one:
Palettes of words are so versatile. You can literally put any literacy planning into it from recounts to descriptive writing and beyond! On one page the kids collate a whole plethora of amazing vocabulary and literally pick and mix words and phrases into their work. Hello easy lessons!
If you are struggling to generate ideas use an I-Spy sheet for a brain nudge!
Once completed, I recommend that you review or teach similes and metaphors as a lesson in itself. A session in isolation can really make sure that when there is a chance to apply in context there is greater chance of an accurate application. My kids (even up to 16years old) love this video by the Bazillions which explains the difference between them really clearly.
Next in this learning sequence is to investigate what a great example of work looks like with my learners. I always model what I expect – to see from their work. Otherwise how can they know what a great end result looks like? And, if possible, give them their own to read/highlight the features or language I want to see, or they ought to show me. There are some great model texts out there pre-labelled with all the SPaG used. Grammarsaurus and Twinkl Resources to name two. However, I like to make my own on occasion because then I can make them specific to the needs and interests of the class. Also because, according to my husband, I like to make extra work for myself… No comment.
At this point the children can have a go at a poem all about their chosen colour (character / topic / element of focus). Let them just go for it!
Review and Publish
In a separate lesson, (or however you are arranging your learning sequence) photocopy some of their poetry and ask the children in partner teams to teach poetry by reviewing and editing their work, or highlight the simile / metaphors they read. I suggest you complete class feedback about the examples so that the children can subsequently review and edit their own. Lastly, it is time for the poets to publish their masterpieces!
How do you teach poetry with your kiddos? Let me know in the comments or direct by email: firstname.lastname@example.org !
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