April 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Meeting the CCSS Through Poetry | Professional Shelf

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Can kids garner a passion for literature without Shakespeare, Silverstein, Salinger, or Sendak? From NPR’s All Things Considered to Education Week to the ASCD’s Educational Leadership, everyone is talking about the CCSS emphasis on informational text and what this means for teaching fiction and poetry. Fortunately, even David Coleman, “the lead architect of the Common Core Standards Initiative” affirms that, “Fiction remains at the heart of the Common Core Standards in English Language Arts classrooms.” So, in honor of April’s National Poetry Month and in celebration of poetry’s innate ability to lift the spirit while exposing students to complex text layered with meaning, here are three titles that illuminate the intersection between the study of poetry and the goals of the CCSS.

The focus in Lynne R. Dorfman and Rose Cappelli’s Poetry Mentor Texts: Making Reading and Writing Connections, K-8 (Stenhouse, 2012) is on using poetry within the reading and writing workshop model, and the authors begin with a convincing “top ten” list of reasons to explain why teaching with poetry mentor texts works so well to broaden students’ reading and writing skills. However, they don’t limit the art form to a particular unit or time of day; the text incorporates a wide range of practical ideas for integrating poetry throughout the school year and across the curriculum.

With specific poems, samples of student work, ideas for reading and writing connections (e.g. vocabulary building, grammar conventions, and poetic devices), and complete sample lessons, five chapters model teaching strategies related to particular types of poems, such as list poems and poems for two voices. Finally, a “Treasure Chest” supplies a list of the mentor poems that appear throughout along with additional titles, providing a useful tool for collection development for both school and classroom libraries.

Intended for use in grades 7-12, Reflect & Write: 300 Poems and Photographs to Inspire Writing (Prufrock, 2013), compiled by Elizabeth Guy and Hank Kellner, is comprised primarily of work by teachers and students. Each page features one selection with a companion black-and-white photo; these are supplemented by a correlating quotation and four keywords. An accompanying CD contains printable files for each page of the book and for each photo, supporting the easy reproduction of pages for small group or individual work.

Writing prompts or questions to spur critical thinking are included for most, but not all, poems. A list of “12 Ways to Inspire Your Students” proposes teaching suggestions, how-tos for using these (or any other) selections to motivate student participation in and enthusiasm for comparing and contrasting, exploring points of view, scaffolding individual and group writing, and appreciating poetic techniques. As an added bonus, the authors recommend “10 Websites to Help Teachers in the Classroom” where educators will find full-text poems, lesson plan ideas, and online teaching communities along with “10 Websites to Help Students Get Published” that lead to writing advice and publishing opportunities in print and online journals.

Professionals designing Poetry Lessons to Meet the Common Core State Standards (Scholastic. 2013), will want to examine Georgia Heard’s book by that title. Heard, “a founding member of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project in New York City,” takes a close look at the expectations of the CCSS in relation to the teaching and study of poetry with grades K-5. With lesson plans built-in throughout (related reproducibles are included in an appendix), the author examines the role of poetry in specific standards while demonstrating how to make the art form come alive in the classroom.

The first chapter is chock-full of creative ideas for integrating verse into the fabric of the school day, from reading a poem aloud daily to celebrating “Poetry Fridays.” Subsequent chapters address the ways in which “to strike a balance” between the joy of reading poetry and the demands of the closer reading expected by the CCSS, and how to use the art form to build reading fluency. Additionally, there are grade-by-grade lessons on two specific anchor standards: Craft and Structure Anchor Standard 4, building word awareness, and Craft and Structure Anchor Standard 5, analyzing the structure of texts. Heard finishes up with a discussion of text complexity as it pertains to poetry and an overview of the types of poems referenced in the CCSS.

For a selection of titles on haiku to share with your students, read Joy Fleishhacker’s “Great Books for Poetry Month: Haiku for Young Readers.”

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