By Patricia J. Murphy |
Robert Frost once said, “Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” It’s no surprise, then, that educators who want their students to think, feel, and express themselves are finding ways to use poetry in storytimes, lessons, or whenever they can. TP spoke with four of these teachers and librarians about how they are becoming poetic in classrooms and libraries to deliver poetry-filled storytimes and more. Click here to view previous stories from our Read Alouds That Rock series.
Karen Cardillo is a second-year teacher at Charter Academy in Angier, NC, as well as a writer and poet. After two decades as an instructional publishing manager, Cardillo recently returned to the classroom after some time tutoring learners who were negatively impacted by the effects of Covid and remote learning, and has found again in second year.
Cardillo students “benefit from a deep love and knowledge of literature, especially poetry. She said she relied on poetry to supplement her ELA program and teach additional lessons in phonics and spelling. “I use poetry daily, starting with our morning message to incorporate phonics, vocabulary skills, and problem-solving strategies,” Cardillo said. “That’s how I prepared the ground.”
Cardillo recently found the poem “Hello Spring” and used it to create a message for his students to recite, rewrite, and study closely. They examine the rhyming patterns, figurative language, and phonetic awareness of the poem. “I deliberately omit words and some letters to teach our language skills for the day,” Cardillo said, “or lessons that include word patterns, like the long e or suffixes like ‘-ful.’ ”
Because her sophomore curriculum is so comprehensive, Cardillo incorporates poetry whenever she can into the curriculum areas and may read additional pieces as what she calls “awards or treats.” I love introducing my kids to classic and new poetry,” Cardillo said. “I’m drawn to poems with rhyme and rhythm because they help us make connections to letters and sounds, and spelling patterns – and how beautifully poetry can sound! There is a real purpose in sharing it.
His favorite poems include The Illustrated Treasure of Children’s Poetry edited by David Ross, all written by Shel Silverstein and Maurice Sendak Chicken soup with rice: a book of months. Cadillo often uses these poems at his writers’ workshops as mentor texts to draw attention to the figurative language of poetry – similes, metaphors and alliteration – and to encourage his sophomore poets to incorporate these elements into their own poetry. “My students especially like alliteration — tongue twisters,” Cardillo said. “The sillier the better!”
Tracy Lynn Scaglione is in her 20th year as a Library Media Specialist at Dorsett Shoals Elementary School in Douglasville, Ga. Poetry is everywhere in her school library, thanks to her. “It’s integrated into our library’s storytimes, activities and exhibits throughout the year — and our school,” Scaglione said. “The poetry section of our library isn’t just dusted off for National Poetry Month. We use poetry books all year round.
During story hours, Scaglione often reads a variety of lyrical picture books, including Dreamers by Yuyi Morales, Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library by Carole Boston Weatherford, Wonder Walkers by Micha Archer, and The day you start by Jacqueline Woodson. “If you look closely,” she says, “many of these books are poems told over 32 pages. I introduce these types of books to my students and we talk about the rhyme, rhythm and figurative language of poetry. And we listen to the influence of the language, the descriptive words. Then we discuss ways to incorporate these elements into our own writing.
They also talk about white space. “Our students are discovering that it’s not necessary to clutter the pages with words and deepen their writing down to the minimum number of words on the page to get their point across,” Scaglione said. “Poetry can do that brilliantly.”
She offers as many models of poetry as possible, for a multitude of reasons. “There is so much variety in poetry that is relatable and offers windows, mirrors, sliding glass doors – and something for everyone.”
More recently, this has included introducing verse novels to fourth graders who just want to read graphic novels. “I started a book club to encourage these children to try verse novels. I quickly talked about a number of these novels one day, and all of them were verified,” Scaglione said. “When the students finished reading them, they came back asking, ‘Do you still have any?’ Scaglione’s response was a resounding “absolutely!” which then led to discussions about these novels-in-verse and about “building a community” around the books.
“I want every student to feel like they can be a reader,” Scaglione said. “My role is to bridge the gap between the classroom and the students’ experience, to focus on their interests and to help them develop their love of reading. It takes time to build relationships between students and teachers to do this. But it’s so worth it.
Yapha Mason is the new Principal Librarian at Albany Academies in Albany, NY, and prior to that was an elementary school librarian for 26 years at Brentwood School in Los Angeles. Mason was also a member of the Newbery 2015 committee which chose the novel in verse crossing by Kwame Alexander as this year’s winner.
Since doing a cross-country crossover herself last month, she’s been looking forward to getting to know her new teachers and students, and getting into poetry. “I hope to weave poetry into library lessons in different ways,” Mason said. “While I don’t yet know what English teachers might be interested in doing, I’m excited to work with them.”
Mason has a parade of poetry ideas and activities that she’s used with her former students and can’t wait to adapt to her new ones. For starters, Mason likes to use poetry to supplement students’ non-fiction studies. In the past, she read poems by Douglas Florian swimming with children who study the ocean, and Lee Bennett Hopkins My America: A Poetic Atlas of the United States with students researching all 50 states. “Binding poetry is a great way to approach topics from many angles,” Mason said. “It seems to make the topics more accessible to students in a way that other formats don’t.”
To expose her students to different types of poetry, Mason organizes Poetry Read Arounds where she collects many different poetry anthologies and books, and asks her students to sit in a circle and read a few poems from one book, then to pass it to the next. person, and so on. She believes this circular activity whets their appetite for reading and writing poetry.
“Poetry can impact students differently than prose and make them think about the power of every word,” Mason said. She also believes that poetry gives students permission to color outside the lines. “I think it’s good for students to see for themselves how all the rules they’ve learned – how to write, how to form a sentence – and how the rules can be broken to make their writing even more impactful! “
Liza Barrette fell in love with poetry as a child. She even won $5 in a sophomore poetry contest for her poem titled “Carsick,” reminiscent of a family road trip. Since then, her passion for poetry has only grown as a former middle school teacher (for over 35 years) and current third grade school library teacher (after two years of distance learning due to Covid ) for middle and high school students. grades 7-12 at Mount Greylock Massachusetts Regional School in Williamstown, Mass.
The first thing Barrett did when they got back to school was really poetic “As no one in the last two years had checked poetry,” she said, “I went to the poetry section and I pulled out all the verse novels, poetry anthologies, and studies of poets, and put it all in front of the library with a nice sign. And it’s been circulating ever since.”
From book displays, Barrett moved on to a holiday celebration, Carry a Poem in Your Pocket Day. “I made this bag where I put copies of 25 to 30 different poems printed on colored paper and stood at the front door of the school while the children entered the school . I gave a poem to everyone who wanted to take one! said Barret. “All day long you could see the children looking at their poems, hearing them wondering what poems they had received and learning all kinds of poems – some famous, some obscure and some they may have known since elementary school.”
For National Poetry Month last April, Barrett invited each of her teachers to share a photo of themselves with a favorite poem. Every day she stuck a poem and the teacher’s picture to the library book Read a Poem Every Day! bulletin board for a daily dose of poetry. She also invited students to share their favorites.
Then Barrett let the powers of poetry work. “Poetry speaks to you in a way that other literature does not. Meaning can come to you so fast,” Barrett said. “Children are more stressed and overwhelmed than ever. And, after all they have to read and understand for school, they can read a short, accessible poem; and it can mean whatever they want it to mean.
Then there is poetry’s ability to break down walls and build relationships. “You can walk up to the blackboard and read the poem of the day put together by a teacher or someone you know or don’t know, and it connects you to that person,” Barrett said. “Plus, seeing a poem someone likes makes you read it differently. You wonder why this is their favorite poem, and it also connects you to them.
Barrett believes poetry also helps students connect with their inner selves. “Poetry can answer questions like, ‘Who am I? What is my place in the world?’ to discover who we are now and who we want to become in the future,” Barrett said. “Poetry can make us think, wonder and feel – and help us become more of who we are!”