Does the idea of how to teach poetry scare you a little? Would you love to tackle poetry, but you’re not sure where to begin?
I totally understand. When Ben was small, we memorized some poems, but honestly, we didn’t dissect poems regularly for a very long time. Now I really wish we had spent more time in this study! There are so many benefits for your students if you will make the time to learn how to teach poetry in your homeschool. This little introduction to poetry study might encourage you to do start your own poetry lessons.
Why Teach Poetry in Your Homeschool
It’s always good to understand your why before teaching a subject that scares you to pieces. I wasn’t really sure why we would want to study poems in the first place. I mean, sure, as we came across them in our delight-directed way or as they fell into place with our language arts studies, it made sense to stop and look closer. It was natural to memorize poetry as it related to unit studies even. I remember the first poem Ben ever memorized – Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost. It was a Five in a Row title we studied in first grade, so memorizing it made sense. He can still recite this poem today.
But, study poetry for its own sake? Hmmm.
If like me, you asked this question with an answer already in mind, this “why” might surprise you. When I started with seeing what the word poetry meant, it opened up a whole new world.
Begin by Defining Poetry
A biblical world view definition of poetry is found in Webster’s 1828 Dictionary:
“PO’ETRY, noun [Gr.] Metrical composition; verse; as heroic poetry; dramatic poetry; lyric or Pindaric poetry 1. The art or practice of composing in verse. He excels in poetry 2.Poems; poetical composition. We take pleasure in reading poetry 3. This term is also applied to the language of excited imagination and feeling.”
That’s important and inspiring in its own way, but it wasn’t until I went to the Greek root that I got really excited. And if we are going to study poetry, we need some inspiration, right?
Here it is. According to Poetry.org, poetry comes from the ancient Greek: ποιεω (poieo) = I create. That’s pretty exciting when you think about it.
Who is our Creator? Are we His poetry?
I think so! After all, we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.
If the Lord has given us the ability to express ourselves in language through poetry (I create), this ability is a reflection of His glory in us.
Okay, now let’s dig in.
Four Goals of Teaching Poetry
At first, some parents or students may balk at the idea of teaching and learning poetry. After all, isn’t it quite out of date? And who goes around talking like that anyway? But there are four goals for teaching poetry which will guide you in the purpose of teaching it.
According to the Foundation for American Christian Education (1), these four reasons are:
1. Developing the reflective senses: the inner ear, the imagination, subtle responses to suggestions, words.;
2. Cultivate a love for beauty—internal and external—and a taste for “images of magnificence.”;
3. Learn to appreciate the gifts of individual poets, the whole body of their work and their styles, as examples of God’s Principle of Individuality and as inspiration to believe that each child can produce poetry.;
4. Each language and vocabulary, elevate and inspire children to use wonderful words and to express themselves in subtle and precise language.
(1) The Noah Plan® ©2006 English Curriculum Guide
Those goals are meant to inspire you, not overwhelm you, so if it helps, just pick one goal. You might also just choose one goal per poem.
If you’re working with a younger child this might be super helpful. A high school student could learn all four reasons for studying poetry. Do what’s best for your family and situation.
How to Teach Poetry in Your Homeschool
Do you know that poetry is near and dear to God’s own heart? He has even used the style of poetry to reach the minds and hearts of men within His own Word. After all, He is the Creator and the Author of each and every subject. Therefore, let’s go through how to teach poetry to your middle and high school students.
Classes of Poetry
- Epic Poem is a narrative poem which elevates a character or deeds of a hero. Examples of this type of poetry are the Greek Iliad and Beowulf.
- Lyric Poem deals with feelings instead of events. And this relies much on the personality of the author vs. the events the poem shares about. Forms of the Lyric are: Hymns, Odes, Patriotic Lyrics, Love Songs, Lyric of Nature, and Sonnets.
- Dramatic Poems are a combination of comedy and tragedy.
Lyric Poem and Mixed Character
- Legends are mythical stories. And they’re rooted in tradition. Therefore, students will find that there are national legends which excite the imagination from all around the world.
- Allegories are lengthened metaphors.
- Ballads are also known as folk songs. And the tend to share about one incident in a character’s life.
Variety of Poets to Study
- William Blake
- Robert Browning
- Robert Burns
- Christian Rossetti
- Robert Louis Stevenson
- Alfred Tennyson
- Isaac Watts
- William Wordsworth
- William Cullen Bryant
- Emily Dickinson
- Eugene Field
- Robert Frost
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
- James Russell Lowell
- John Greenleaf Whittier
Younger students could study A.A. Milne or even Aesop.
Nurture Your Own Poets
Needless to say, your students have the potential to develop into remarkable poets themselves. Once they see that it’s okay to express themselves through rhyme and cadence, they’ll be on their way.
Some ways to get them writing their own poetry include:
- writing prompts about poetry
- celebrate a Poem in Your Pocket Day
- share your own poetry with them
- make art with your poetry
- host a recitation or poetry slam
Help! I Want to Learn How to Teach Poetry, But I’m TOTALLY OVERWHELMED!
Girl, I hear ya’.
Don’t worry. I’ve got your back. Here are my recommended resources for those of us (me!) who need a little hand-holding in order to tackle teaching poetry in your homeschool.
Exploring Poetry with Notebooking from SchoolhouseTeachers.com (requires membership)
For Middle School
Experiencing Epics and Poetry from SchoolhouseTeachers.com (requires membership)
Opening the Door to Poetry from SchoolhouseTeachers.com (requires membership)
Introducing the Many Faces of Poetry from SchoolhouseTeachers.com (requires membership)
Discovering Poetic Elements from SchoolhouseTeachers.com (requires membership)
For High School
For Teacher Prep
Inspirational Poetry Writing Prompts
In addition to the above resources, I have a free Inspirational Poetry Writing Prompts printable to help you get those poets in middle and high school off to a good start.
First, collect a poem or two that fits each category. Then go over the classes of poetry with them or have them read through the sheet of information themselves.
Afterward, have them go through and check off which styles they feel they best relate to in writing style. If that’s difficult for them to discern, then have them think of which types of poems they best enjoy reading.