Incorporating Poetry into Your Lessons

Apr 02, 2024 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” This first line of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet 43 is familiar to most people. As we continue with our theme of “Furnishing the Mind,” reading and memorizing poetry is one of the best things we can do to furnish the minds of our students with “reliably correct and appropriately sophisticated English language patterns” as Andrew Pudewa states in Nurturing Competent Communicators. Poetry not only cultivates a love of language and words, but it is also fun! In his talk Cultivating Language Arts –  Preschool through High School, Andrew encourages the use of poetry at every level of development. As a veteran homeschool parent and a classroom teacher, here are some of the ways I incorporate poetry into our school day, into our language arts lessons, and even across the curriculum.

There are many ways one can incorporate poetry into the school day. Reading a poem at the beginning of the day is a fun and easy way to shift into the school mindset. Select a fun short poem, read it aloud, and ask your students what they notice. Another way to add poetry is to memorize poems together. Reciting memorized poetry is a gentle, nonthreatening way to introduce your students to public speaking. Students can recite poems at family gatherings. Perhaps one of the most enjoyable ways to mix poetry into the school day is to play poetry games. There are several commercial games on the market, but the ones that I like just require pen and paper. A quick internet search will give you plenty of ideas. Incorporating poetry into your school day does not require a great deal of time, and it can be fun!

The place where most people naturally think of studying poetry is during language arts. In IEW’s K-2 phonics and writing programs— the Primary Arts of Language (homeschool) and Primary Writing Lesson Plans (classroom)—poetry is used to illustrate and reinforce phonetic rules and literary devices. With younger children, read rhyming books and play rhyming games. Students of all ages enjoy writing their own poetry, and there are many formats that can accommodate differing levels of students. Younger students can write acrostic poems; middle school students can try writing haikus; older students can write sonnets. Poetry can be used as an assessment tool as well. For example, I once had students write a series of haikus about the main characters in The Iliad. Another time, we wrote a sonnet as a class to express the main ideas of the book of Ephesians in the Bible. Writing poems gave students an alternate means of showing what they had learned. Finally, poetry can be used to challenge advanced students. Ask them to turn a story into a poem or a poem into a story. Poetry is naturally integrated into language arts, but it can also be woven into other subject areas as well.

The concept of writing across the curriculum is an important one. As students learn to write, they also write to learn. The process of writing itself gives students new insights and aids them in making new connections. Writing poetry is a powerful tool to increase student learning in all subject areas. In math, students can write poems about the math concept they are learning or a problem-solving strategy. Science is another subject where poetry is easily added. Assign students to write descriptive poems about the beauty and wonder of the natural world. Ask them to use poetry to explain a specific phenomena or concept. Many poems have been written about historical events, such as “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere'' and “O Captain! My Captain!” Let your students process historical happenings through writing poetry. Finally, poetry can be brought into art and music classes with ease. Commission students to write a poem about a painting or paint an illustration of a poem. Analyze song lyrics together. Once you realize the power of poetry and how well it blends into all subject areas, you will find many creative ways in addition to what is suggested here.

Poetry is one of the most powerful tools we have in our educational toolbox. Whether we add it to our school days generally, to our study of language arts specifically, or to all subject areas creatively, we are furnishing our students’ minds with the good, the true, and the beautiful and equipping them to express these qualities to a world that has all but lost them. Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization makes getting started with reading and memorizing poetry easy. Visit for a sample of Level 1. Melding poetry into the life of young scholars is a worthwhile endeavor.

by Deanne Smith

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