File this one under, “Why didn’t anyone tell me sooner?” In my first few years of teaching, I had no idea that poetry (specifically phonics poems) could become such a versatile component of my literacy instruction.
Don’t worry. Once the idea was introduced, there was no going back. I added it to my literacy centers, used it for shared or partner reading, word study and more! I loved it so much, I started creating my own poems to better align with my phonics instruction. (Talk about killing two birds with one stone!)
Today, I want to share how I’ve used poems to engage and excite a broad range of learners in different settings. These activities are perfect for beginning readers to build their fluency skills, while learning new spelling patterns, as well as our more experienced readers to hone their skills!
1. Poetry Centers
Any opportunity where I can modify and extend my literacy centers is huge! One of my favorite ways to do this is with the help of poetry journals. Poetry journals create a portfolio-like book that highlights my student’s hard work and growth throughout the year. My students get excited by this center and the idea that they will, over time, create their own poetry anthology. By the end of the year students have a collection of poems that they can read fluently.
Here are some quick and easy steps to kick-starting a poetry center:
The Poetry Journal
At the beginning of the year, each student is given an empty poetry journal. A new poem is reviewed and assigned each week. In the poetry center of my literacy block, students cut and paste the poem into their journal. It is then used for a variety of independent, routine tasks.
Highlighting Phonics Patterns
Once the poem is glued in, students are asked to practice reading the poem and highlight the phonic pattern or word family of the week. I aim for this to be the second or third time students have interacted with the poem (I’ll talk more about that in a bit). They need to be familiar with the words in order to do this independently or with a partner.
Illustration is an excellent way to develop phonetic fluency. Once students have highlighted and read through the poem a few times, I have them illustrate the poem’s page. Some classrooms have limited time and some students do not benefit from illustrating. I actually keep two different versions of the same poem (one illustrated and one text-only) in case we find ourselves in a time crunch!
Partner & Quiet Reading
Throughout the week, students can reread and review the poem with a partner or independently (or to our “reading buddies, which are just a bin of Beanie Babies in our classroom library). This also works in small groups. The more students practice reading the poem with their highlights and illustrations, the more fluent those phonetic patterns and word families!
2. Shared Reading of Phonics Poems
Poems can also help create a routine of shared reading in the classroom. Using a SmartBoard©, a projector, or even an enlarged photocopy– it doesn’t need to be high tech– you can model reading these phonics poems and model the poetry center routine. (Model, model, model!)
They are perfect for targeting a specific skill or word family in a mini lesson with the whole group. They can also be used during small group targeted instruction, which gives me a chance to hear students read individually and support their expression.
3. Poetry Morning Meeting Routine
One of my favorite shared reading opportunities is during morning meeting. I introduce these poems is with a “Poem of the Week” every Monday morning.
Word Family & Phonics Poems
I have done this with a Smart Board (using a digital version) or by using highlighter tape. This routine gets us started on our weekly centers and gets the whole class talking about the same concept. This can also work great on its own, even if literacy centers aren’t part of your routine. Lots of teachers have mentioned that they like to pair it with their mandated curriculum (because sometimes we don’t get a choice in what we teach).
4. Targeted Small Group Work
I talk about it all the time: targeted small group work not only helps me differentiate, it saves me time with my whole group lessons. Some ways I’ve used these phonics poems in small groups include:
- Quick assessment
- Guided teaching moment
- Help catch up students who missed the whole group lesson
- Reviewing a targeted skill or concept
- Supporting and modeling fluency and expression
- Expand a whole group lesson for those needing an extra challenge
Quick Tip: It is handy that students keep a poetry journal with a backlog of phonics activities and lessons. With a small group, we can review the current weekly poem or we can go back to review poems from weeks before.
5. Digital Phonics Poems for Independent Work
With or without the restrictions of the pandemic, the world is moving digital. I found myself creating more and more that could be pulled up on a projector. Then when we went virtual last spring, I started finding new and engaging ways to
After a lot of tweaking last spring, I recommend only assigning one poem at a time, either through Google Classroom™ or Seesaw. You can also create folders to create an online digital poetry journal.
You can find the poems that I use in my classroom HERE (both digital and printable versions are included).
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