Poetry should convey an experience or an idea, therefore the words should be imaginative and original.
Welcome to Lesson 4. You are halfway through the course! The readings for this lesson should transport you back to your own childhood as you will recall some “old-fashioned” poetry like The Tales of Mother Goose, and some “old-fashioned” traditional literature like Hansel and Gretel.
Poetry is extremely important in the classroom. Not many genres allow for as many activities as poetry. Poetry can be seen in the form of rhyme (but is not necessary), song, anthologies (collections) and single-illustrated poems. Beginning in the youngest grades, children can learn to recite poems chorally and build fluency, or delve into the poems in the upper grades and find the deeper meaning behind them. Having the experience of teaching the very young (3-5 year olds) through the much older (9-10 year olds), I have witnessed how the inclusion of poetry creates a stronger, more engaging reading environment.
Let’s take a look inside my kindergarten classroom, for example. I would have the “poem of the week” displayed on chart paper. On the first and second day, I would introduce the poem and have students echo read as I read. This way, they were practicing their fluency mimicking my intonations as I read aloud. On the third day, I would have the class choral read the poem – sometimes we’d experiment with our reading speed too. On the fourth day, I would have the words of the poem cut apart and mixed up. It would be the students’ job to put it “back together,” like a puzzle. On the fifth day, the poem would become a center activity for a student, or groups of students, to practice putting the poem together. In choosing this poem displayed in my classroom, I had to consider the criteria for selecting this perfect “poem of the week.”
This criteria is as follows:
- Fresh and Imaginative Language – Poetry should convey an experience or an idea, therefore the words should be imaginative and original.
- Creating a New Perspective – Poetry should help students see an everyday object in a new way thanks to the author’s language. At the same time, this perspective should also be through the eyes of a child and not “preaching” to the child.
- Quality of the Poem – Is there an array of perspectives for the particular theme of the poem?
- Illustrations and Visual Images – The illustrations and visual images should convey the mood or tone of the poem.
Let’s venture into my second grade classroom for a moment. In this class, I would also have a poem of the week, but I would take it a step further and add the visual component. I would have students illustrate what they visualize when they read the poem. This is a very non-threatening assignment as there is no right or wrong way to do it. If there is not already an illustration or image to accompany the poem, the students’ images become the reflection of the poem’s mood, tone, and/or theme.
Just as we learned about the elements of a fiction story and the elements of illustrations in picturebooks, poetry has its own list of elements: meaning, rhythm, sound patterns, figurative language, and sense imagery. Your textbook also outlines the different types of poetry, which are: lyric poetry, narrative poetry, couplets, tercets, quatrains, cinquains, limerick, ballad, haiku, sijo, free verse, and concrete poetry. Most likely, you will not always encounter all of these types of poetry in your teaching, but this is why it is important to keep poetry anthologies in your classroom library. Another fun activity is to extend the reading of poetry to writing and have students choose some of their favorite types from the above list and create their own anthologies. Concrete poetry (also known as shape poetry) is always a favorite of youngsters, as is haiku (counting syllables becomes a fun challenge).
Since there is a connection to poetry, as your textbooks states, “Traditional literature is the body of ancient stories and poems that grew out of the oral tradition of story-telling before eventually being written down,” (Short, Lynch-Brown, & Tomlinson, 2018, p. 96) let’s move on to traditional literature, shall we? The elements of traditional literature will look familiar, as similar to other stories, they include plots, characters, settings, themes, and endings. What may differ from regular fiction is the focus traditional literature places on plot. Below is a plot outline that I used with my fourth graders as it provided a wonderful visual for outlining the components of plot. The rising action, climax, and falling action can be a tricky concept to understand, which is why I believe the visual provides a “map” so to speak.
The types of traditional literature you will encounter are: myths, epics and legends, folktales, fables, and religious stories. Your text goes in depth for each of these.
Have you ever played the game with your friends and family, or students, where one person begins a story and then each person to the left or right adds on to the story? This is a game that can go on infinitely! While this game is not technically part of “storytelling in the classroom,” it can be a good amount of fun by ending the story, then analyzing the story to provide a powerful learning experience. Storytelling is related to traditional literature because traditional literature began through oral tradition. Bringing stories to life, whether based on other stories or personal experiences, can provide a very engaging atmosphere. Digital stories, whether they are personal narratives, traditional tales, or historical accounts, digital storytelling is another avenue to explore (http://www.storycenter.org). So, go have some fun bringing stories to life!
Short, K. G., Lynch-Brown, C., & Tomlinson, C. M. (2018). Essentials of Children’s Literature (9th ed.). New York: Pearson.
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