Ten Top Tips to Engage Kids with Poetry
by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com
April is National Poetry Month in the USA and that's certainly worth celebrating! If you're wondering how to include more poetry in your children's lives, here are 10 tips from The Book Chook:
1. Read poetry aloud. Check out your local library and the poets and poems you can find online. Including poetry in our family read-alouds is one of the very best things we can do for our kids. Look for books of nursery rhymes as well as anthologies and fun collections.
2. Discuss the poetry you read aloud with your kids. What made it enjoyable, or not? Have them find the part of the poem they liked best, or choose a favourite image or word picture. What was the poet trying to do in the poem? How did the poem make children feel? Our goal is to help our kids understand a poem in all its layers of complexity.
3. Collect words and imagery. Hunting for words and collecting them is just as much fun as being a rock hound or toy collector! Kids could write out what they find on paper scraps and keep them in a treasure box or use a special poet’s journal. Encourage them to savour words by saying them aloud in different ways. Introduce kids to poetic devices like alliteration, simile and metaphor and collect them too.
4. Play with rhyme. Lots of poetry doesn’t rhyme, but many poems do, and rhyming helps children with reading and spelling. Word games like Hink Pink involve rhyme and often become a family favourite. Another simple game to play with rhyme is to read a rhyming picture book aloud for the second time, but to leave out some of the rhyming words for kids to supply. Dads can have lots of fun supplying silly rhyming words in well-known poems for kids to correct.
5. Investigate different sorts of poetry. From micro poetry like haiku and haiga - see my Recent Poetry Resources listed after 10. - to the longer ballads, it’s great to ensure children encounter a wide variety of poetry. The I Spy books by Jean Marzollo are loved by children and contain short rhythmic, rhyming riddles, perfect for kids to try for themselves. Your local or school librarian will certainly be able to guide you to many great resources.
6. Create poetry with your kids. This can be as simple as making up different words to a well-known nursery rhyme, or as complex as your child wants. Use different prompts. Music and art go wonderfully with poetry. Kids might like to free-draw while music plays, and include words or phrases that come to mind in their drawing. Those words might then become the basis of a poem. Make sure everyone is on the lookout for poetry moments and that you have a way to record them when they arrive. Pic-Lits is a wonderful website where children can add their own words to picture prompts and create poetry.
7. Memorize some poems or parts of poems with your kids. Repeating rhymes and poems aloud stresses the rhythmic patterns and it helps internalise lots of language for children. Complex vocabulary and syntax will benefit both children’s own reading and writing. And memorising is good for us all!
8. Include apps that facilitate poetry on your iDevice. Photography and poetry go really well together and an app like Phonto or Visual Poet can help children add words to the photos they take. Check out the Word Mover app for a way for children to create magnet word poetry on an iPad.
9. Emphasize that poetry can be fun as well as uplifting and even life-changing. Perhaps there will be an incident that reminds kids of a poem they’ve read or memorized. Share your pleasure over that memory of words. Perhaps a line or two from a poem have stayed in someone’s head. Chant the words aloud or make up a silly dance to accompany them. In moments of deep sadness, poetry can comfort and sustain. Consider also introducing your children to poetry for performance. The skills they learn and practise when memorising and performing poetry will be a huge advantage to them in school and later in life.
10. Check out online poetry resources with your kids. There are lots of wonderful websites where poets generously share their words and wisdom. Here are some of my favourites:
Australian Children’s Poetry - Showcasing contemporary Australian children’s poets and their work.
GottaBook where Greg hosts 30 Poets in 30 Days - A great way to find new poets for your pleasure.
The Funeverse - A free resource for schools and children where poets, illustrators and kids exercise their creative funny bones.
Giggle Poetry - Loads of great poems to read that kids will love, plus games and activities.
Pie Corbett - Wonderful UK poet with the knack of explaining writing, including poetry, to kids.
Shel Silverstein - His site has some excellent interactive activities on poetry under Games and Puzzles.
Michael Rosen is a poet children and chooks adore. Check out some of the helpful resources of his on the UK’s Children’s Laureate website.
Poetry4Kids - Ken Nesbitt’s poetry playground with lots of fun poetry for kids plus poetry activities and lessons.
Tiny Words - a website where we can read haiku and other short poems. Most seem child-friendly but always supervise your kids at any website.
Love writing poetry? Why not enter an International Poetry Writing Competition? It's part of the 12th Annual Ipswich Poetry Feast, and the closing date is Friday August 1, 2014 (Australian time.) Find more writing competitions via the Ipswich TL Network. Need some poetry workshop ideas? Check out Libby Hathorn's 100 Views - Poetry in Action and Models of Poetry. (Many thanks to TL Jenny Stubbs for these suggestions!)
The Book Chook Recent Poetry Resources
Other Articles I’ve Written about Literacy