Learning is....
Planting a seed in our brain... learning to water, nurture and grow it.... so we can live on the fruit of our learning and plant more seeds.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

How to do Poem of the Week

One of the awesome ways to teach reading and all things literacy is Poem of the Week.  As a BT I used to do poetry as a unit maybe once a year or so, but now Poem of the Week is a staple in my programme.

I've been promising this blog for a couple of years.... but due to technical difficulties (not being able to access my ActivBoardfiles on my personal computer and the Great Data Loss of 2017) and not having fresh material due to not teaching full time for a couple of years, I've not been able to do this post until now.

Poem of the Week will cover a multitude of sins in your literacy programme.  It can cover the following:
  • shared reading
  • repeated reading
  • performance reading
  • critical thinking
  • punctuation
  • chunks and spelling patterns
  • phonics such as blends and vowel sounds and the like
  • suffixes and prefixes
  • expanding their vocabulary and the meaning of words
  • response to literature
I introduced Poem of the Week in a meaningful way after going to see Jill Eggleton talk literacy in the early 2000s.  Initially I would use an OHP to shine it up on the whiteboard and we would write all over the whiteboard.  Each child had their own copy in their Poetry Books that they would do the activity on and then we would record it on the board.

Eventually I was lucky enough to find myself in a classroom with either a Smart Board or an ActivBoard.  I love both and would love to have one again.  Sadly, due to the great data loss of 2017, I don't have my wonderful examples I built up over several years.  The students continued to have their own copy to work on, but it was all collated on the board and saved for us to go back to and review each day.

Currently, I do this activity in a visual diary which is A3.  It's not brilliant, but I'm making it work.  Below are some examples of what we have been doing so far this year.

We read the poem every day before focusing on an aspect of the poem.  This is where the repeated reading is important and this ties in with the Newsbook I do every day which also practices repeated reading.  See the post Newsboard... or Current Events to learn how I use this to promote critical thinking and a range of literacy skills.

In Rainbow Paintbox, we watched videos about the science behind how rainbows exist, looked at syllables, similes and vocabulary meanings.

Our response to the poem Rainbow Paintbox was to use water colour paints to paint a rainbow.

In week one of term two we have been doing the poem Autumn Leaves.  On the first day we talked about why leaves fall off the trees in the autumn, what deciduous means and we went on a leaf hunt.  Then we tracked down the caretaker and asked him to make us a pile of leaves to play in with our best fluttering eyelids and the pleases and thank yous.  He agreed to.

So Mr Smith made us a leaf pile and we went to play in it.

On the second day, we looked at nouns and adjectives.  We looked for the nouns in the poem and in my copy I highlighted them pink.  Then we looked for the adjectives in the poem and in my copy I highlighted them blue.  This was for the children to see how the two are inter-connected and nouns and adjectives work together to be more descriptive.

The next day we found the words that started with the sw blend in the poem, then, in partners, they brainstormed as many words starting with sw as they could in five minutes.  We then came back together on the mat to share those words.

On the fourth day we looked at the apostrophe and how it can be used as a possessive apostrophe.

During the week, once they got writing about the holidays out of their system, we did writing about autumn leaves for writing.  I believe in linking themes across different genre and activities so that they have greater meaning.

As I showed above, the caretaker had made us a leaf pile.  But we also had a path area which had a build up of leaves.  So, on the way to the leaf pile, I asked my students to walk through the pathway of leaves and I videoed them so that we could replay the sound of leaves being walked through.  I also took photos and videos of the students playing in the leaf pile.

We used this experience, the photos and videos to brainstorm inspiration for wiritng about autumn leaves in the Writing modeling book.

When it came to the writing, I gave the students three choices:
  • write a recount
  • write a poem
  • write a fictional story
But all the texts have to have the theme: autumn leaves.

I then allowed them to choose three leaves and I asked them to do pencil sketches of these leaves.  We needed to search Google first for examples so they knew how to draw and sketch leaves.  Below is a screenshot of the examples I used.

We even watched a video.  I love how you can learn these things from You Tube.

The next week our poem fitted in with us visiting the Hamilton Zoo for an EOTC experience.  We began the week watching a video about giraffe facts.  Did you know that giraffes have seven vertebrae in their necks... just like humans?

The next day we looked at the rhyming words in the poem.  In small groups, the children went off to brainstorm other words containing the same chunk as in the rhyming words.

The next day we looked at how adding -ing can change a word.

To kind of tie in with Mother's Day we did a poem called Mum and then a poem called Dad written by Laura Ranger who had a whole book load of poems published when she was a child in the 1990s.  I love her poems.  

We were focusing on nouns, adjectives and similes, because I wanted my students to write their own stories (or poems) about their mums and dads.


We also did watercolour paintings of our mums and dads, using coloured pencils and felts to enhance our pictures.  I typed up their stories, and the children choose the font, border and how the title will be done.  I think they look awesome.


This poem below, The Pickety Fence, was ripe for focusing on the -ick chunk.  We also looked at the apostrophe in "it's" for contractions and brainstormed other contractions, and then we focused on blends.

Marcus is a terribly wicked poem of naughtiness.  We focused on the rhyming words and then breaking into groups to brainstorm up more words with the same sound/chunk.  We also brainstormed about words beginning with wh, discussed commas and looked at what whoops means.  We started the week with a delightful conversation about eating too much and times we have spewed up - fabulous conversations that six and seven year olds delight in.

Four O'Clock Friday is a good poem to bring up the age old discussion of bullying.  So this was our launching point on the Monday.  We looked at the punctuation: commas, fullstops and apsostrophes.  We looked at the words that told us when things happened.  We identified the rhyming words and broke into groups to brainstorm other words with those chunks.

For the poem Homes it fitted in nicely with our schoolwide theme of Turangawaewae.  We talked about different times of houses, looked at compound words, looked specifically at the words big, small and tall as adjectives to describe the noun home and brainstormed about the -ay chunk.

For our Turangawaewae learning, we had drawn pictures of our favourite places in our homes and written about that.

For Easter, we did a poem called Chocolate Rabbit.  We looked at syllables, commas and various blends, for which we brainstormed other words.  Naturally, our response at the end of the week was to eat chocolate Easter Eggs.

The poem Shadow had us looking at question marks, apostrophes, fullstops and commas, contracted words, the qu at the beginning of quickly and the chunks of -ight and -ow/o from the rhyming words.  On the sunny day of the week, the children went outside to take photos of themselves on the i-Pad as they drew around each other's shadows with chalk.  We tried to do writing.... but we weren't very successful there.

The Raindrops poem had us going out in the rain.  We brainstormed about rain so we could write about it.  We looked at verbs and adverbs, different initial blends, and words with -ing added on.

It tied in nicely with the poem of the previous week, Rain, in which we looked at initial blends, rhyming words, nouns and verbs.

So we wrote about rain.  We did some crayon and dye about rain and glued photos ourselves onto the art works with umbrellas.

Bananas is another fun poem in which we looked at capital letters, rhyming words, words with tr as the initial blend and so on.  We responded by drawing pictures of fruits or other foods we could have as pets.

Best Friend was an opportunity to look at a variety of punctuation (fullstops, commas, apostrophes, elipses), contracted words, blends and nouns.  We drew and wrote stories about our best friends in response.

Sun Sonata is a wonderful poem to teach metaphor with and even personification on reflection.  These are heavy concepts for six and seven year olds.  At this age it is about planting the seed and giving it water every few poems or so.

As you can see we also covered nouns, adjectives and verbs as well as the blends th, bl, sh, tr, pl and str and we learned about some vocabulary.

For the poem Countdown we spent some time discussing vocabulary within the poem as well as examining we're as a contracted word with an apostrophe; other punctuation such as commas and fullstops; the rhyming words with the chunks -oon and -ight, which led us to -une and -ite as well.

I choose to do If stars were stitches by Melanie Drewery as part of our Matariki focus.  There was so much in this poem.  We found lots of blends.  Metaphors came up again in various parts of the poem.  There was a new rhyming pattern to investigate.

Our response to this poem was doing art about Matariki stars.  The first lot was a gluing activity.  The second was a pastel patterning activity.

It turns out many of my students had done this poem in another class with a previous teacher... but they were really into this poem.  This poem brought up about how the earth rotates and its relationship with the moon and sun.  We looked at fullstops and commas and at the words turns and goes and how go is the root word of goes.

On the first day of reading In the Hollow Willow we looked at pictures of willow trees, watched a video about bee hives and talked about huts.  We talked about what hollow means and how we know when a tree is dead.  This brought the word deciduous back up again, so we flicked back to the poems on autumn leaves to look at what we knew.

We looked at the rhyming words and then brainstormed words for each of the chunks, -ed, -um and -ut.
We looked at the contractions it's and can't.

And we looked at the compound word: firewood.

I also have poetry as part of the Reading Tumble.  Poet's Patch is a box of poems, usually on the theme, but can be a mixed box, available for independent reading and practicing the performance of delivering an oral presentation.  My current class and I spent a week's worth of lunch and morning tea eating times viewing poetry performances so they had the idea of upping their poetry videos on Seesaw from reading a poem to performing a poem.  I also introduce other activities such as these on occasion with older more independent students:

So where do I get all these poems from?  Get into your school library and check out the poetry books on the shelves.  Go through the School and Junior Journals.  Find poetry sites online such as Kenn Nesbitt's Poetry4Kids site and New Zealand's very own Rainbow Poetry with the amazing Judi Billcliff who is based in Hamilton.

The key is to build up your personal library of poems - bright and laminated for the children in their reading activities and on your computer ready to press print for the copies in their books.  It is a bit of work initially, but if you regularly add to your collection, you will soon have a wide variety to choose from.


  1. Wow this is inspiring. Thanks for sharing you have inspired me to introduce poetry more into my shared reading programme.

  2. Hey Melanie. Thanks for replying to my recent FB post (5/8/18) in the NZ Teachers (Primary) group, about recommended themes for my next participation poetry show (touring schools 2018-2019). I'm truly delighted to read this blog post, and I'd really like to connect firsthand on FB so I'll send a friend request. Many thanks, Greg O'Connell Poet