Climb Inside a Poem

Reading and Writing Poetry Across the Year

In Climb Inside a Poem: Reading and Writing Poetry Across the Year, Georgia Heard and Lester Laminack tap into this natural inclination and demonstrate how reading and writing poetry can also support and extend young children's language and literacy development. Through an anthology of original children's poems and related lessons, Georgia and Lester describe how to weave poetry into the fabric of a school day by reading a variety of poems for a variety of purposes.

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  • Overview

    "Young children and poets share a similar way of looking at the world. They

    • observe the small moments all around,
    • find wonder in the ordinary,
    • are curious and full of wonder,
    • love the sounds of words,
    • feel all their feelings.

    Given young children's natural gift for poetry, we believe that poetry should be woven throughout the whole school year in the primary grades."

    Georgia Heard and Lester Laminack
  • Big Book of Poems

    Climb Inside a Poem: Original Poems for Children

    The poetry anthology, Climb Inside a Poem: Original Poems for Children, uses the writings of contemporary children's poets, whimsical illustrations, and an expansive big book format (14"x18") to create a 36-page poetry playground. The children's poems crafted expressly for this collection are written by acclaimed children's authors.

  • Lesson Book

    Climb Inside a Poem Lessons for Climb Inside a Poem

    Lessons for Climb Inside a Poem provides a five-day sequence of lessons for each poem in the Climb Inside a Poem big book anthology. Through repeated readings and by accessing the poems from multiple perspectives, Georgia and Lester model in these lessons how poetry can be used to support basic concepts in print, develop word awareness, expand reading and writing fluency, and help children write with feeling and voice. Also included are age-appropriate poet profiles.

  • Guide to Reading and Writing Poetry

    Reading and Writing Poetry Across the Year

    The guide Reading and Writing Poetry Across the Year takes a broad view of poetry and considers how poems can be used to reinforce and extend a literacy curriculum. Organized into three separate sections, the minilessons in this guide:

    • offer tips for outfitting and organizing classrooms where poetry can flourish,
    • highlight a variety of reading strategies that immerse children in the words and music of poetry,
    • present a complete unit of study for writing poetry.

More Information...

Introduction

Children are natural poets. They speak poetry all day long. Every day, they say wonderful little poetic gems that surprise and delight us and help us look at the world in a new way. A few years ago when my son was five, he drew a picture and said, "Mom, here's my poem!" Pointing to his drawing, he recited: "I sleep in the night. The moon is on my face. I float up to space as the angels carry me to the moon and stars. The road, my bed, the house are floating floating floating up to the moon and stars."

My son was doing what a lot of young poets do: imagining their poems in their minds first, and then speaking their poems out loud. My son is a typical, ordinary, wonderful genius of a child who also has a poetic sensibility. The truth is that all children have a poetic sensibility. They are all natural poets.

Children and poets share a similar way of looking at the world. Children and Poets both:

  • Discover importance in small moments
  • Find wonder in the ordinary
  • See beauty even in ugliness
  • Burst with curiosity
  • Enjoy the sounds of words
  • Look at life in a unique way
  • Create their own language to describe the world
  • Feel their feelings with great force

Given children's natural affinity for poetry, we believe that poetry should be woven throughout the whole school year in the elementary grades. If we wait until National Poetry Month in April, we've missed many opportunities to build on our students'natural poetic abilities! In addition, reading and writing poetry can support and extend young children's language and literacy development in many ways.

Reading poetry can help children:

  • Connect personally to their texts. Poetry is personal, and it can connect children to reading through listening to and reading poems about their own lives.
  • Feel successful as a readers. Children can read some poetry more easily than stories because many poems are relatively short. Often, children will hear a poem more than once, become familiar with the words, catch on to the rhythm or rhyme, and be able to read the poem back with less effort than they could a different type of text. When children feel that they can successfully read a poem they become more confident readers.
  • Develop fluency. Poetry is written to be read with special attention to rhythm, cadence, and pacing—all of which are essential to fluency in reading.
  • Develop word awareness. Children are delighted with the play of words in poetry, particularly with the use of unusual and surprising words. Language play, rhyme and repetition help create a pattern of young readers' minds. The pattern is like a handle that allows them to carry the poem away after reading or listening. The lingering memories of the poem will trigger word play in their speaking and writing.
  • Support basic concepts of print. Poems can be used to teach and reinforce print concepts such as left-to-right progression of text, spaces between words, letter and sound correspondence, and punctuation.
  • Deepen the reading-writing connection Children will be reading their own poems in class shares and to peers, which will reinforce reading skills. Writing poetry can help children:
  • Make a personal connection to writing. Poetry is often personal, and it embraces many topics and forms, which will give children the freedom and inspiration to write what really matters to them.
  • Write with feeling and voice. Poetry is often experiential and emotional, so children learn to express their own experiences—with feeling and an authentic voice.
  • Feel successful as a writer. Poems are often short, so children can write a complete poem in a few lines and feel they have created a successful piece of writing. Success brings comfort and pride, and as children grow in comfort, they gain confidence to attempt even more complex tasks as readers and writers.
  • Write about particulars. Poetry is often quite focused. It zeros in on the essence of a subject and teaches children how to find significance in the small and the ordinary.
  • Learn to love words. Children love the surprising and the unusual, the new and the energetic. When we draw attention to the language of poetry, they will consume it like the essential nutrient it is.

Using the Three Parts

Using the Three Parts of the Climb Inside a Poem Set

What is the best way to weave in poetry throughout the year in the elementary grades? Waiting until April for National Poetry Month is too late to introduce poetry, but given our curricular needs and packed schedules, is it possible to make a place for poetry throughout the year? After years of practice in the classroom, we can tell you that it's not only possible but vital to weave poetry into the daily fabric of a school day by reading a variety of poems for a variety of purposes throughout the year.

Plan Short, Daily Poetry Experiences from September to June
The first thing we must plan is to read a poem aloud every single day, Monday through Friday, at a predictable time—first thing in the morning, the last few minutes at the end of the day, after lunch or recess, during transition times—any of these times or any other could work. My preference is to start every day with a poem because it sets a calm tone and sets up the morning language arts block. It only takes a few minutes to read a poem. Have fun, and introduce children to a wide range of poems: silly, hysterical, quiet, serious, reflective, rhythmic, free-verse, and so on. You can use the poems in the Climb Inside a Poem big book. Then, turn to the corresponding suggestions from the Lessons for Climb Inside a Poem book. Using just those two books, you can offer your youngsters a short poetry experience every day, all year long.

Plan a Few Longer, Deeper Poetry Experiences to Punctuate the Year
Over the course of the year, though children will have 5 to 10 minutes of poetry every day, they will need other experiences that give them a chance to appreciate poetry in greater depth.

  • Poetry in Fall: "Creating a Poetry-Rich Environment"
    When you are ready to deepen children's experience with poetry, return to this guidebook, Reading and Writing Poetry Across the Year. Start with "Part One: Creating a Poetry-Rich Environment," and select some suggestions and activities for immersing young children in poetry. Set up ways for your youngsters to bathe in poetry, splash in it, and drink it in thirstily! Without feeling what it is like to be immersed in poetry, without the essence of poetry all around them, it will be difficult for them to engage in meaningful reading or writing of poems.

    In the first section of "Part Two: Reading Poetry," you will find more suggestions that will help you immerse children in the rhythm and sense of verse. These minilessons, too, will be useful to you early in the year.

  • Poetry in Winter: "Reading Poetry"
    Once your children have become accustomed to poetry through immersion and lots of reading of poems, you will be ready to lead them in reading poetry even more deeply. The minilessons in "Part Two: Reading Poetry" will help you do that-children will hear more poems throughout the course of the day, and they'll learn ways to support their own budding understandings of poems through reading them with special attention to what makes poetry, poetry. You might plan to use these minilessons once or twice per week over the course of the winter. We've presented these minilessons from most simple to most complex, but this sequence is highly flexible, and you should pick and choose the lessons that are right for your children at any given time.
  • Poetry in Spring: "Writing Poetry"
    In the springtime, once children have been immersed in poetry for several months and have read poetry for several months, they will be bursting to write their own poems. Now is the time to turn to "Part Three: Writing Poetry," and use the minilessons you find there to launch the poetry writing unit of study that will take the place of other writing time for 3 to 4 weeks. Unlike "Part Two: Reading Poetry," the minilessons in this section are a cohesive unit; they are meant to be used in the sequence in which they are presented, each lesson directly following the other, with no other writing lessons interspersed.

All these plans aside, the poems and activities in these three books are meant to support and inspire you and your children to climb inside poetry. The individual, unique ways you invent to do so-the ways that sprout from your interests, your passions, and your experiences-will be far more organic and tailored to your wonderful, special students than anything we can offer you. We invite you to enjoy what we present here and, with your children, to make much, much more of it!

Big Book of Poems Contents

Instruction in Climb Inside a Poem revolves around the following 29 poems by acclaimed children's writers:

  • Where Do I Find Poetry? by Georgia Heard
  • Sky Wish by Rebecca Kai Dotlich
  • Happy Toes by Pat Mora
  • Dear Friend in the Desert by Kristine O'Connell George
  • Tooth Truth by Lee Bennett Hopkins
  • Quack, Quack by Pat Mora
  • Why? Why? Why? by Lee Bennett Hopkins
  • Who's Coming to Tea? by Jane Yolen
  • Making Soup by Marilyn Singer
  • How I Hopscotch by Kristine O'Connell George
  • When I Ride My Bike by Patricia Hubbell
  • School Bus Lady by J. Patrick Lewis
  • Poem for My Friend by Patricia Hubbell
  • Best Friend by Marilyn Singer
  • Birthday Candles by Rebecca Kai Dotlich
  • Song for My Swing by Patricia Hubbell
  • The Stray Dog by Alice Schertle
  • Puppy Love by Jane Yolen
  • Just Like Grandpa by Alice Schertle
  • Happy Teeth by J. Patrick Lewis
  • The Cedar Tree by Joseph Bruchac
  • Laundromat by X. J. Kennedy
  • Emma by Janet Wong
  • Spring Riddles by Beverly McLoughland
  • Sun and Moon: A Poem for Two Voices by Bobbi Katz
  • Singing Down the Sun by Marilyn Singer
  • Hey, Crow! by Deborah Chandra
  • Hidden Treasure by Bobbi Katz
  • Night Story by Beverly McLoughland

Lesson Book Contents

In this book of lessons, you'll find suggestions for ways to work with every poem in the big book for five to ten minutes per day over the course of one week.

  • On Mondays, the activity ideas are meant to help introduce the poem to children;
  • On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the activity ideas are meant to support children in exploring the poem in more depth;
  • On Thursdays, the activities help children get to know the poet and the poet's body of work; and
  • On Fridays, the activities are designed to help children focus on the poet's crafting moves.

Each lesson also provides their respective poem in a reproducible format and includes a "Responding to the Poem" page with space to share thoughts about the poem.

PLUS: At the end of the lesson book, in the "Poet Profiles" section you'll find more about the featured poets, including photographs, biographical information, and some "poet-to-poet" advice they offer us for our young poets.

Reading and Writing Poetry Contents

Reading and Writing Poetry Across the Year

The guide Reading and Writing Poetry Across the Year takes a broad view of poetry and considers how poems can be used to reinforce and extend a literacy curriculum. Organized into three separate sections, the minilessons in this guide:

  • offer tips for outfitting and organizing classrooms where poetry can flourish,
  • highlight a variety of reading strategies that immerse children in the words and music of poetry,
  • present a complete unit of study for writing poetry.

Contents

Introduction to Reading and Writing Poetry Across the Year

PART ONE: Creating a Poetry-Rich Environment

Introduction

  1. Noticing Poetry in What We Say
  2. Noticing Poetry in What We Read
  3. Collecting Amazing Words
  4. Playing with Rhyming Words
  5. Playing with Alliterative Words
  6. Sharing Favorite Poems
  7. Finding Inspiration Through a Window
  8. Finding Inspiration from Natural Objects
  9. Finding Inspiration on a Walk
  10. Finding Inspiration in Poetry Itself
  11. Finding Inspiration in Our Hearts
  12. Finding Inspiration Around the Classroom

PART TWO: Reading Poetry

Introduction to Reading Poetry

Section 1: Reading Poetry Aloud to Children

  1. Beginning the Day
  2. Pledging for the World
  3. Easing Transitions
  4. Setting Out for Lunch
  5. Celebrating Occasions
  6. Welcoming People
  7. Setting a Tone
  8. Closing the Day
Section 2: Supporting Children in Reading Poetry Aloud
  1. Reading Line Breaks
  2. Interpreting the Poem's Sound
  3. Finding Reading Signals from the Page

PART THREE: Writing Poetry

Introduction: Essentials for Launching a Poetry Writing Unit

Section 1: Inspiration

  1. What Do We Know About Poetry?
  2. Advice from Our Favorite Poets
  3. Listening for Songs from Our Hearts
  4. Seeing with Poet's Eyes
  5. Finding Poems in Small, Ordinary Things
  6. Finding Poems in Feelings
  7. Finding Poems in Natural Beauty
  8. Modeling Writing

Section 2: Craft

  1. Metaphor and Simile: "The sky is an angel's pool."
  2. Wonderful Words: "Let the rain kiss you."
  3. Imagery: "Do you feel the golden glow?"
  4. Rhythm, Repetition, and Rhyme: Musical Tools
  5. Lines and Stanzas: "Poems are shaped like tall buildings."

Section 3: New Forms

  1. Poems for Two Voices
  2. List Poems
  3. Personification Poems
  4. Letter Poems

Section 4: Revision

  1. Adding Stanzas
  2. Listening Carefully
  3. Ending Lines: "Don't leave the door wide open!"
  4. Titles: Labels and Beyond

Reflecting and Celebrating

Bibliography

Samples