Welcome to today’s tip in my month-long (even if it was last month) Poetry Tips for Teachers series. This is the last tip, and I thank you guys so much for stopping by to read throughout April and today! Later this month, once I recover from my Poetry Month road trips and events, I plan to post a round-up of all the tips I shared, perhaps put in a more cohesive order and also hopefully with a link to a printable version of everything. So, stay tuned if you’re interested in that:>)
Tip #23: Ask kids questions.
Reading poems to kids is awesome. But there’s another really important part of presenting poetry to kids. Talking about the poems.
The best way to talk about poetry, in my opinion, is not to start out with, “What does this mean?” Ack! How is a kid supposed to know what the poet meant, when the poet doesn’t even consciously know it half the time! So I like to ask lots of open-ended questions when discussing poems with kids (my poems or other people’s poems). Here are some to get you started.
- “What do you notice about this poem?”
- “What else have you read that connects somehow to this poem?”
- “What’s your favorite word in this poem?”
- “Are there any words you think are weak here?”
- “What do you wonder about in this poem?”
- “Do you like the poem?” And then, more importantly, “Why?”
- “Who doesn’t like this poem?” And then, “Why?”
Remember that you don’t have to know all the answers about a poem. Sometimes saying, “Yeah, I’m trying to figure out what that line means, too,” is all the answer a kid needs to feel supported and encouraged. But if you talk regularly with your students about poems you guys read, they will start digging into poems with relish. It’s amazing how astute even young students can be about poems if they’re exposed to a variety of poetry and meaningful conversations around poems on a regular basis.