Ask a roomful of teachers if they like teaching poetry and you won't always see that many hands. Ask students if they like LEARNING about poetry and you'll see even less hands. Poetry is one of those tricky types of reading and writing because it's so different from prose. Lucky for me, I've always LOVED reading and writing poetry, so I want to spread that love to you.

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One of my first writing projects that I knew I HAD to do as a teacher was to create a poetry writing unit to make my students fall in love with poetry the way I am. Over the years, I've twisted and tweaked how I teach poetry to really make it an enjoyable experience for my students. Here are some of my tried and true tips for poetry writing:

1. Make poetry accessible. Have a poetry collection of books for students to read and look through. Poetry has a different sound and feel than most other types of material that students read. Students need models for writing and My go-to book to listen to is Love That Dog by Sharon Creech (read all about that here), and here are some of the others that I put out in my library:


2. Use topics students are familiar with to engage them. On the day I introduce poetry writing, I use a brainstorming organizer to let students write down any topic. They write for two minutes, and then each person shares one idea. After sharing, students take another minute to write down any ideas they heard to "piggy-back" off of their classmate. Now, every time we attack a new kind of poem, there's a go-to list of ideas...just in case someone has a case of writer's block. Grab the organizer in my post about pre-writing here.

3. Incorporate a variety of poetry. Use poetry forms that allow kids some creative license. Try not to overuse one form of poetry. For example, a diamonte has a specific format, requiring students to use different parts of speech to portray opposites. After working on this type of poem, I like to switch up our writing focus, and we work on a creature alliteration poem. Students have a new focus on alliteration, in addition to having creative license with the types of words they use.

Some of the different poems I use in my poetry writing unit include: acrostic, cinquain, color poem (using similes and metaphors), concrete (shape), creature alliteration, diamante, free verse, haiku, and limerick. I also always have my students pick their favorite type of poem and write a second version of it. I'm always amazed at their creativity! This project has become a favorite for me and it's one that my students remember year after year. I have middle schoolers bringing me their projects to show off to my fourth graders as examples of what we're going to create. 

4. BONUS: Have a poet visit. Okay, so this is a little bit trickier because generally it costs money to have an author come visit. But there are lots of ways you can finance author visits, or look into Skype visits, to really bring the idea of writing poetry to life for your students. My school is very lucky this year and we are welcoming Kenn Nesbitt as a visitor to our school. (See his website for info on how to set up a visit- I highly recommend him!)

When you're finished writing poetry, don't forget to celebrate! Check out some of my ideas for celebrating writing here.

Are you a poetry lover or hater? Any ideas to share for teaching poetry writing? Share in the comments below!

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Most people (including teachers!) hear the word "grammar" and start to cringe. It can be fairly dull and boring, and it seems like you're teaching these kids the same stuff over and over. Plus, you teach all these "rules" and then you teach about all of these exceptions to the rules, because, well, the English language is quite bizarre. 
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So how can we make it better? Here are some tried and true ways to get your students excited for grammar:

1. Use picture books to introduce your grammar ideas. A couple of my favorites:


For Punctuation Takes a Vacation, I like to use the letter in the book as an activity for students to correct the punctuation.


Hairy, Scary, Ordinary: What Is an Adjective? (Words Are Categorical) is an example of a Brian Cleary book. He has a huge set of educational picture books for each part of speech and also for figurative language and some math topics- the illustrations and writing is amazing!




2. Word sorts to have students discover the rules. I love using sorts of all kinds. In grammar, it's a great way to have students apply rules they've already learned. Sorts can challenge their brains in a different way. Give students sets of singular nouns and having them sort by the plural endings. Hand them a mixture of nouns, verbs, and adjectives and see if they can figure out to sort the words by part of speech. Having a challenge gets them thinking in different ways, especially if you don't tell them exactly what the categories are. ;)

3. Switch up practice by color coding or cutting up sentence strips. Drill and kill is old, my friends. Does anyone even remember how to diagram sentences anymore? (Me! I do!...but probably very few of you. I can guarantee my husband doesn't...anyway...) We need to still be able to assess our students throughout their grammar practice without always using the same old worksheets. We used some color coding during our The Night I Followed the Dog unit (see more about that here). Students can easily highlight every noun and verb. Use a story they're reading and copy a few sentences or even a page, identifying all of the adjectives on the page. 
The picture above shows an example of some sentence strips that we performed "surgery" on by separating the subject and predicate. I've also had students write out entire sentences and then we "diagrammed" the sentences by separating them word by word and categorizing the parts of speech. We made a huge class display of all of our words. This was so amazing to do towards the latter part of the school year because my kiddos could really see how many different parts of speech they learned. 

4. An oldie, but a goodie- Schoolhouse Rock! (Special 30th Anniversary Edition)! These jams are silly and fun for the kids to sing along to. You can search YouTube or Teacher Tube for free versions, but I kept having problems with how fuzzy the videos were, so I broke down and bought the DVD. Great news for you- all of the episodes are now available FOR FREE on ABC- find the episode guide here and here's The Tale of Mr. Morton (Subject and Predicate)- which is always my kiddo's favorite!

5. Get into interactive notebooks: Students love the cutting, pasting, and writing in their notebooks. I don't use INBs for everything, but I've learned that they're crucial to my grammar lessons. Students get the opportunity to practice and reinforce their learning in the notebooks. I try to use similar templates over and over to simplify the process and have more time focused on the learning, rather than getting hung up on teaching students how to cut each piece. INBs give students the chance to practice in class, and also allows them to quiz themselves in school or at home, using sorts and flipbooks in their notebooks. 
Working on our subject/predicate sort in our notebooks. Grab this set here: http://bit.ly/SentenceINB or see my nouns INB here: bit.ly/INBNouns

What are some of your favorite ways to make grammar exciting?





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