For the past couple of years, with a push from common core, I have been incorporating poetry into my guided reading groups. I am teaching students who are reading above grade level, but this activity can be done with any book and any group. Preparation is the key. You need to identify the theme of your book and find poems to compliment or match that theme. Using poetry has opened my students reading genre and allowed me to introduce classics they may otherwise leave unread.
While reading stories we talk about theme. In the beginning of the year, I tell students the theme and ask them to look for evidence throughout the story. This would also be an important process to model and do with lower levels. Scholastic has a lesson available for more information. It lends itself to making a connection beyond the book into other units of study and the student’s own lives. It also lends itself to asking higher level questions. If you are uncertain of the theme in your book, do a search and I am sure you will find others who have read the book and have shared their ideas. The theme helps connect the story outside of your classroom.
At the end of the story, I provide connections to other print. I always try to find poems that share the theme first. Famous Poets and Poems is a good resource. My goal is to introduce my students to classic poems and poems from various eras. This expands their reading beyond what they would pick up for themselves and gives them a wide variety of poetry reading.
Occasionally I struggle to find a poem with a connection that matches the maturity of my class. When that occurs, I fall back to quotes. Again, a search for quotes about the theme will provide ideas. Quote Garden and Brainy Quote are two of my favorite sites. They have quotes for a wide variety of people. You can also check out this resource for some quotes for popular themes. Making the connection between theme and quotations allows students to think beyond the book and connect to life.
Here are some poems I have used with books in guided reading groups:
- Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Maddix with If by Rudyard Kipling
- Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C O’Brien with Past, Present, Future by Emily Bronte and Alone by Maya Angelou
- The Winter Room by Gary Paulson with I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth and Winter-Time by Robert Louis Stevenson
- Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli with read this please by Sanderline Fleury and Merry-Go-Round by Langston Hughes
- Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements with Inspiration Invention by Mark C Bird
Poetry brings lyrics and music and life into books. It allows students to connect to the theme and things beyond the author’s pages. My students enjoy the push beyond the book into the world of poetry. And maybe, it opens their minds to unknown authors and bigger ideas that will bring a change in their lives.