Sunday, September 26, 2010

Elementary School Poetry 180

This year I decided to take on a poetry project with my students.  I was inspired by Poetry 180, a program established by Billy Collins while he was the Poet Laureate of the United States.  He deliberately chose poems with high school students in mind.  I have kept some of those poems to read to my elementary school students.  I  have not considered any poems that seemed inappropriate to be read to a ten-year-old.  Thus, many of the poems that deal with romantic relationships, which are apropos for high school students, just wouldn't interest fifth graders, or would embarrass them.  But, generally, I've been much influenced by the choices that Billy Collins made.  I've steered away from poems that seem too old-fashioned, definitely dipping often from the modern era.  And I've chosen mostly free verse.  I want to broaden what students think of poetry, and steer them away from some of the sing-songy rhymed poems that are frequently aimed at them.

I also discovered another teacher had a similar idea for middle school students.  Tom Darling has a poetry blog called Middle School Poetry 180.  I have borrowed liberally from the poems he has posted on his blog.

I have a number of poetry books as well, and I have been finding delightful poems there as well to share with my students.

I was hesitant to blog about this at first, but I decided I just need to take that leap and share what I've been doing.  So far, it has been a successful experiment.  It only takes a minute or two out of each school day, but many of the poems I've chosen have connected with some student in my class.

I would welcome suggestions from anyone who is interested in poetry.  Feel free to leave comments on my posts about poems you think every fifth grade student should know before they go off to middle school.  And if you're a teacher, I'd be interested in any stories you'd like to share about your experiences sharing poems with students.


  1. I was inspired by Billy Collins's book, too and I like his second book even better. I've been reading a poem every day to my high school students for several years, now, and the kids love it. I make copies of the poems and they follow along as I read them. Like you, I concentrate on contemporary poems that they can relate to.

    At the end of the semester, they have a big pile of them. I'm sure some throw them away, but many kids have come back to say that they've saved them and read them occasionally.

    Hope your kids enjoy what you're doing!

  2. Linda, thanks for your comments. That's awesome that you've been reading poems to your high school students for years. I have those books by Billy Collins too, but I haven't even cracked them open yet. I've been using the Library of Congress website and books that I have, but I'll have to check them out for more poems. I haven't been making copies of the poems; I'll have to think about doing that. So far, they seem to be enjoying it; I know I am.