Source of Poems:

Students select their own favorite poems. They will need access to a diverse collection of poetry from which to choose. Ideally, the classroom library would contain a good amount of poetry. Students could also choose poetry from the school library, community libraries, or books at home. Other sources could include magazines or the Internet. It would be important to encourage students to do some exploring and reading before they choose their favorites.

Teachers' Ideas / Reflections:

Schedule a time once a week at the beginning of the school day for a "Poetry Circle." Each week, two students read aloud a favorite poem. The setting is important, and a circle would foster camaraderie and dialogue. Students could either sit in a circle on the floor or form a circle with their chairs.

Each student may memorize and recite the poem or read it from the text. The student shares the title and author of the poem before reading it. The students will each talk briefly — either before or after reading the poem — about what the poem means for them, what they like about it, or why they chose it.

In addition to having two students read every week, the teacher could also recruit guest readers from the school community. These guests could be other teachers, older students, the principal, the superintendent, a custodian, a food service worker, a firefighter, etc. If necessary, the teacher could assist the guest reader in choosing a favorite poem that would be age-appropriate. It would be important to have the guest reader follow the same procedure and talk about what the poem means to him or her, in order to model for the students.

The Poetry Circle would last for approximately ten to fifteen minutes, depending on the age-level of the students and how many readers there are for that day. It would be good to keep it short and sweet. It may work well to schedule the circle at the end of the week to give each week's readers time to choose a poem and practice reading it (perhaps during a quiet reading time), and so the teacher can offer help to students who need it. Having a Friday circle will also build anticipation among the students so it's something to look forward to.

Teaching Connections:

1. The weekly Poetry Circle could provide a foundation for a school-wide or community-wide Favorite Poem event.

2. The teacher could collect the weekly poems into an anthology to give to students at the end of the year.

3. During social studies, science, or math units on specific topics, the teacher could give students poems with corresponding themes. For instance, if the students are studying astronomy, the teacher could provide books that include poems about the planets. Some students might then choose to read from those poems for the Circle.

Lesson by Brad Bennett and Alex Popp, Thoreau Elementary School, Concord, MA, and Linda Eddy Rings, Morse School, Cambridge, MA


Ruth Nathan, a third-grade teacher at Rancho Romero, Alamo, CA, shares a variation on the poetry circle lesson:

Friday Fishbowl is a time-period. Each Friday, my class celebrates poets by reciting, by heart, poems they've memorized that week. When a student learns a poem by heart, he or she writes the title on a paper fish and puts it in our "fishbowl." Each Friday, we go to the school library, sit in a circle, and pull fish out of the bowl. As a poem is named, the person who's memorized it stands and says it by heart. My students love this ceremony!

They are always very polite. They get many ideas for poems and poets during our daily class meeting each morning, where the leader ends opening announcements with a poem of his or her choice. (These poems may be read.) The children wait in anxious anticipation for the poem each day, and when a longer poem is read they just love it! We often talk briefly about the poem, especially about meaning and word choice. My third graders enjoy all sorts of poetry, from Carl Sandburg to Shel Silverstein.

They've memorized so many poems that they gave the whole school a "Poetry Break." We made a "Poetry Break" sign and went from room to room interrupting lessons and just saying poems. (I had gotten permission from the teachers, of course.)

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