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The cow jumped over the moon …

Hey diddle diddle …

You already finished the rhyme, didn’t you. Ever wondered why those childhood poems stick in your brain?

The answer is simple. Rhymes and poems have a beat.

At its essence, poetry is the most kinesthetic of all written forms. We can dance to it, sing to it, and feel to it. Poetry and rhyming tap into each listener’s heart and soul in ways that other texts may miss.

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From an educational view, poetry also fosters social and emotional growth.

Sharing poetry also builds a sense of community within a group of listeners and fosters creativity.

Poems are great avenues for self-expression–among all cultures and languages. Students who don’t speak English in the classroom can still listen to, read, or write a poem in their own language. Poetry is universal!

Test it for yourself by reading the following lines aloud:

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Thus begins one of the most beloved of children’s poems, “Jabberwocky,” by Lewis Carroll (from Alice Through the Looking Glass, and What She Saw There, 1872).

National Poetry Month may be nearing an end; but luckily, you can use poetry in the classroom all year round. Simply rhyme and repeat any of these activities in your class!

1. Learn phonological awareness through syllable word games.

Like any other text, poems are made up of syllables, which create rhythms when spoken. Young children just learning to read will love exploring the sound and ‘feel’ of syllables on their tongues. Print our free lesson plan and syllable flashcards to enhance the fun. Or, use these free, full-color rhyming words flash cards.

2. Practice phonemes, or individual sounds.

Some of the most memorable poems use poetic devices like alliteration (the same consonant sound at the beginning of several words), consonance (repeated letter sounds/phonemes within a line of poetry), and assonance (repeated vowel sounds/phonemes within a line of poetry).

Print our free phoneme lesson plan and flashcards to teach students about sounds they might hear in poems.
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3. Memorize a short poem as a class.

Some teachers may be reluctant to ask students to memorize poetry. Just remember–if it’s the right poem, kids will love this activity. You might learn a poem through listening to a famous actor speak the text. Some poems are set to music, which can build memorization.

Choose one of these classic poems for your students to memorize. Depending on poem length and complexity, it should be a fairly quick process!

4. Write a poem!

One of the best ways to enjoy poetry in the classroom is to write your own poem. If students are too young to write a poem individually, create a poem as a class. Here are a few poetic styles kids will enjoy:

  • An acrostic poem – This type of poem works well, even for most younger students. Begin by choosing a descriptive word; for example, flowers. Using capital letters, spell the word downwards (vertically) on the board or on paper. Then, fill in each line with a word that fits the subject. That’s it!


  • An “I am” poem – Students can work individually on this poem, either on a page which contains the following directions, or from directions on the board:

I am (write 2 descriptive words about yourself)
I wonder (write something you wonder about)
I listen to (write an imaginary sound)
I see (write an imaginary sight)
I am (same as first line of poem)

Older students can create a second poetic “strophe” (verse) by adding such starters as “I feel, I touch, I say, I dream, I hope,” or other similar phrases.

  • A haiku poem – Even young students can write a haiku if provided with simple one- or two-syllable words on a theme.  Most haiku are about nature or seasons, but let students use their imaginations. Write the following syllable counts on the board for students to say out loud. Then, ask students to replace each number with a syllable. For example:

12345 = I want some grape juice.
1234567 = Oh! I spilled it on the floor.
12345 = My friend laughed at me.

  • A ‘backwards’ poem – Everyone will have fun coming up with subject words that can be ‘reversed’ in meaning. Start by using the word “Backward” as your first or second word in the poem. Create a person by adding your own name, a friend’s name, or a title (Backward Billy, Mrs. Backward). Mention where the person is from in the second line. If you want to try a rhyming final word in both sentences, great! Continue the poem by adding other details, such as clothing worn backwards or a pet who behaves in a backward way. Add other themes if you like!

Mrs. Backward lived in Rome,
But “Emor” was her real home.
She wore a cap upon her toes
And put a sock upon her nose.
Her bluebird liked to say “meow!”
But please, oh please–don’t ask me how.

  • A limerick poem – At Imagine Learning, we love limericks so much that we find excuses to write them every year (and we ask our young friends to help us). To understand how limerick writing works, listen to Nick’s limerick song:


Want even more variety? Write a rap poem! You can also learn about other styles of poetry by visiting Kenn Nesbitt’s “Poetry lessons for kids” page.


If you enjoyed this blog post on poetry, search our blog archives (see right) for other teaching tips and educational inspirations.