For our tabletop surprise today, we rocked some major poetry.
Knowing that poetry reading is sometimes less intimidating than reading other texts and knowing that right now my Owen really isn’t into reading anything that doesn’t have the word ‘Skylanders‘ in it, I needed to think outside the box.
So today? We did some reading, reciting, and memorizing of poems.
Here’s the skinny. . .
- Reading, Reciting, and Memorizing Poems: That’s it.
That’s what we did.
I put a handful of poetry books on the table, with a note that said:
1. Find a poem (or tw0!) that you love
2. Practice reading it over and over and over
3. Can you memorize it?
4. Read it to our family tonight!
And I let ’em at it.
I set out some of our favorite poetry books:
- Caroline Kennedy’s Poems to Learn by Heart (which I absolutely love)
- Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends, Falling Up, and A Light in the Attic
- Arnold Rampersad’s Poetry for Young People
- Bobbi Katz & Gyo Fujikawa’s Poems for Small Friends
We talked about ways to memorize things:
- copying it over and over
- reading it repeatedly
- reading it line by line, and remembering it by sentences
- recording yourself reading it and listening to it over and over
- committing it to memory by one or two lines, and adding as you go
But the emphasis was not on memorizing–that was only if they wanted to. The emphasis was on reading the poem in the absolute best way you possibly could. To really ‘own’ the poem like it was your very own.
No nursery rhyme books today. We went big. Or kind of.
The only rule was that everyone had to find a poem that had as many lines as his or her age.
That way, no one could grab a 2-liner and call it a day. They had a total blast challenging me to find a poem with as many lines as my age, but we finally agreed that I could put a few together to add up to all of my years.
Whatever it takes, right?
Cora carried her book around for most of the morning, reading and reading and reading her chosen poem.
Sometimes she’d read it silently, but most times she demanded that someone watch her and listen. Most of us gladly obliged.
When my husband got home from work, even he practiced a few poems.
And after dinner, we had our poetry recitation!
Maddy was the only gal who memorized hers. And proudly wore the Harry Potter robe she’s been sporting for the last week. Owen copied his onto a connected stretch of Post-it Notes, and Cora read hers from the book.
We clapped, hooted, and hollered when someone was finished, and we tried to give them meaningful praise for what they did well: You read that in a way that sounded just like you were talking! Excellent phrasing–we could really understand that long poem better when you read it that way! You said each word so clearly! No WAY you memorized that 10-line poem! Way to use your brain!
It was totally fun. So we’ll definitely do it again before summer’s end.
Excuse me while I head out to read some more poetry. . .
Why should we do this with our kids? Because teeny, little poetry packs a big punch. That’s why.
Lyndsay A. Gurnee, of the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute says that “the use of poetry in the classroom is the best way to reach out to learners of different academic levels by activating the imagination of each individual student” and that is absolutely the reason I tried it with my crew (Gurnee, Lyndsay A. Motivating Reluctant Readers Through Poetry, Yale University: Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, http://www.yale.edu/ynhti/ 8.6.13).
More on why poetry rocks:
- poem reading, poem writing
- making connections with poems we love
- money poems, money songs
- Learning with pet poetry
- limericks for loved ones
- playing with pixie
- poems, poems, the cookie jar poem
- magnetic poetry
- Reading Poetry in the Middle Grades because even though the poems may be a higher level for elementary school kids, I truly believe the concepts and methods for approaching the poems can be adapted for younger readers.
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