We know that rhythm and rhyme are particularly pleasing to the ears of young students, even those in upper elementary or middle school grades. For this reason, we will want to share lots of this sort of poetry aloud with the kids in our care – making certain to choose material that is intellectually interesting to the age group at hand.
Recognizing rhyme is considered to be a highly important skill for preschool and primary age children; this has been the case for some time and is now evident, too, in the CCSS.
Recognize and produce rhyming words.
Modified oral cloze is an activity that is very well suited to this goal. It works especially well with rhymed poetry, when the second word in the rhyming pair is omitted for the child/ren to supply.
There is another important use for this kind of reading material. The rhythm and rhyme make for a high degree of predictability and easy memorization, therefore poems of this sort make excellent reading material for students of all ages who need to develop confidence and fluency. Repeated readings of student-selected poems will be very helpful for these purposes. You may need to start with echo reading at first; it can be an appropriately supportive first step to orchestrating a successful experience with a poem that is interesting (and therefore motivating) enough to generate student engagement.
Nearly all students enjoy the work of Jack Prelutsky. They appreciate his strong sense of rhythm and rhyme – not to mention the humor. I especially admire the fact that he frequently employs advanced vocabulary in his work – proving again and again that little people can handle big, juicy words.
In my last entry I discussed the importance of inviting our students (of all ages) to write poetry on a regular basis. It’s like any writing muscle; it just grows stronger with use. A nice practical bonus is that when students share their poetry, very little class time is needed to accommodate it.
I sang the praises of rhyming poetry in the section above, for a variety of purposes, but it is extremely important to introduce students to poetry that does not rhyme! This is critical when sharing poems (yours or the work of others) that you hope will inspire students to write their own. It can be exceedingly difficult to convey an important thought or feeling while trying to rhyme at the same time!
I heartily recommend poems such as those found in Arnold Adoff’s Eats, illustrated by Susan Russo. I’d start, perhaps, with the one about chocolate or the one about the sunny side up egg. I absolutely know that you and your students will adore Mr. Beefy and other selections from Once I Ate a Pie by Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest, illustrated by Katy Schneider. (I will provide this poem in my next entry).
Lucy Calkins has provided so much good direction for us as teachers of writing, over time. Another voice that I have particularly valued has been that of Regie Routman. I think that you would very much enjoy implementing the ideas found in her series Kids’ Poems. She starts with first grade and progresses through fourth, but most of the concepts are applicable at a variety of ages – and best of all, examples of children’s poetry can be found throughout these delightful little books.