Using the Three Parts of the Climb Inside a Poem Set



Children are natural poets. They speak poetry all day long. Every day, they say wonderful little poetic gems that surprise and delight us and help us look at the world in a new way. A few years ago when my son was five, he drew a picture and said, "Mom, here's my poem!" Pointing to his drawing, he recited: "I sleep in the night. The moon is on my face. I float up to space as the angels carry me to the moon and stars. The road, my bed, the house are floating floating floating up to the moon and stars."

My son was doing what a lot of young poets do: imagining their poems in their minds first, and then speaking their poems out loud. My son is a typical, ordinary, wonderful genius of a child who also has a poetic sensibility. The truth is that all children have a poetic sensibility. They are all natural poets.

Children and poets share a similar way of looking at the world. Children and Poets both:

  • Discover importance in small moments
  • Find wonder in the ordinary
  • See beauty even in ugliness
  • Burst with curiosity
  • Enjoy the sounds of words
  • Look at life in a unique way
  • Create their own language to describe the world
  • Feel their feelings with great force
Given children's natural affinity for poetry, we believe that poetry should be woven throughout the whole school year in the elementary grades. If we wait until National Poetry Month in April, we've missed many opportunities to build on our students'natural poetic abilities! In addition, reading and writing poetry can support and extend young children's language and literacy development in many ways.

Reading poetry can help children:

  • Connect personally to their texts. Poetry is personal, and it can connect children to reading through listening to and reading poems about their own lives.
  • Feel successful as a readers. Children can read some poetry more easily than stories because many poems are relatively short. Often, children will hear a poem more than once, become familiar with the words, catch on to the rhythm or rhyme, and be able to read the poem back with less effort than they could a different type of text. When children feel that they can successfully read a poem they become more confident readers.
  • Develop fluency. Poetry is written to be read with special attention to rhythm, cadence, and pacing—all of which are essential to fluency in reading.
  • Develop word awareness. Children are delighted with the play of words in poetry, particularly with the use of unusual and surprising words. Language play, rhyme and repetition help create a pattern of young readers' minds. The pattern is like a handle that allows them to carry the poem away after reading or listening. The lingering memories of the poem will trigger word play in their speaking and writing.
  • Support basic concepts of print. Poems can be used to teach and reinforce print concepts such as left-to-right progression of text, spaces between words, letter and sound correspondence, and punctuation.
  • Deepen the reading-writing connection Children will be reading their own poems in class shares and to peers, which will reinforce reading skills. Writing poetry can help children:
  • Make a personal connection to writing. Poetry is often personal, and it embraces many topics and forms, which will give children the freedom and inspiration to write what really matters to them.
  • Write with feeling and voice. Poetry is often experiential and emotional, so children learn to express their own experiences—with feeling and an authentic voice.
  • Feel successful as a writer. Poems are often short, so children can write a complete poem in a few lines and feel they have created a successful piece of writing. Success brings comfort and pride, and as children grow in comfort, they gain confidence to attempt even more complex tasks as readers and writers.
  • Write about particulars. Poetry is often quite focused. It zeros in on the essence of a subject and teaches children how to find significance in the small and the ordinary.
  • Learn to love words. Children love the surprising and the unusual, the new and the energetic. When we draw attention to the language of poetry, they will consume it like the essential nutrient it is.

Using the Three Parts of the Climb Inside a Poem Set

What is the best way to weave in poetry throughout the year in the elementary grades? Waiting until April for National Poetry Month is too late to introduce poetry, but given our curricular needs and packed schedules, is it possible to make a place for poetry throughout the year? After years of practice in the classroom, we can tell you that it's not only possible but vital to weave poetry into the daily fabric of a school day by reading a variety of poems for a variety of purposes throughout the year.

Plan Short, Daily Poetry Experiences from September to June
The first thing we must plan is to read a poem aloud every single day, Monday through Friday, at a predictable time—first thing in the morning, the last few minutes at the end of the day, after lunch or recess, during transition times—any of these times or any other could work. My preference is to start every day with a poem because it sets a calm tone and sets up the morning language arts block. It only takes a few minutes to read a poem. Have fun, and introduce children to a wide range of poems: silly, hysterical, quiet, serious, reflective, rhythmic, free-verse, and so on. You can use the poems in the Climb Inside a Poem big book. Then, turn to the corresponding suggestions from the Lessons for Climb Inside a Poem book. Using just those two books, you can offer your youngsters a short poetry experience every day, all year long.

Plan a Few Longer, Deeper Poetry Experiences to Punctuate the Year
Over the course of the year, though children will have 5 to 10 minutes of poetry every day, they will need other experiences that give them a chance to appreciate poetry in greater depth.

  • Poetry in Fall: "Creating a Poetry-Rich Environment"
    When you are ready to deepen children's experience with poetry, return to this guidebook, Reading and Writing Poetry Across the Year. Start with "Part One: Creating a Poetry-Rich Environment," and select some suggestions and activities for immersing young children in poetry. Set up ways for your youngsters to bathe in poetry, splash in it, and drink it in thirstily! Without feeling what it is like to be immersed in poetry, without the essence of poetry all around them, it will be difficult for them to engage in meaningful reading or writing of poems.

    In the first section of "Part Two: Reading Poetry," you will find more suggestions that will help you immerse children in the rhythm and sense of verse. These minilessons, too, will be useful to you early in the year.

  • Poetry in Winter: "Reading Poetry"
    Once your children have become accustomed to poetry through immersion and lots of reading of poems, you will be ready to lead them in reading poetry even more deeply. The minilessons in "Part Two: Reading Poetry" will help you do that-children will hear more poems throughout the course of the day, and they'll learn ways to support their own budding understandings of poems through reading them with special attention to what makes poetry, poetry. You might plan to use these minilessons once or twice per week over the course of the winter. We've presented these minilessons from most simple to most complex, but this sequence is highly flexible, and you should pick and choose the lessons that are right for your children at any given time.
  • Poetry in Spring: "Writing Poetry"
    In the springtime, once children have been immersed in poetry for several months and have read poetry for several months, they will be bursting to write their own poems. Now is the time to turn to "Part Three: Writing Poetry," and use the minilessons you find there to launch the poetry writing unit of study that will take the place of other writing time for 3 to 4 weeks. Unlike "Part Two: Reading Poetry," the minilessons in this section are a cohesive unit; they are meant to be used in the sequence in which they are presented, each lesson directly following the other, with no other writing lessons interspersed.
All these plans aside, the poems and activities in these three books are meant to support and inspire you and your children to climb inside poetry. The individual, unique ways you invent to do so-the ways that sprout from your interests, your passions, and your experiences-will be far more organic and tailored to your wonderful, special students than anything we can offer you. We invite you to enjoy what we present here and, with your children, to make much, much more of it!