A Poetry Classroom

Specific units of work on poetry will be the most impactful if they are taught in an environment already rich in poetry. Poetry is a form which is very different to prose and children need to read and more importantly hear a wide range of poetry before they find their own voices as writers. You might want to spend some time considering the practice that is currently happening in school. The Classroom Poetry Audit and Questions for a Poetry Conference with a Child in the Classroom Materials section below will support this process and our good practice guide Poetry in Primary Schools: What we know works will provide next steps to improve practice.

Building a core collection
Ensure younger children are provided with experiences of hearing and joining in with nursery rhymes and songs with strong beats and memorable refrains. Make rhyme and song central to the Key Stage 1 curriculum, making up jingles relating to everyday experiences, observations and routines and chanting them together. 

Sharing Poetry and song with children is supportive of children's early phonological development, feeding into children’s interest in wordplay and helping to focus their attention both on the sounds of language and on patterns of letters. Poetry can focus children’s attention on patterned language, both in terms of the ‘big shapes’ ( the tune and rhythm of a text as a whole) and the ‘little shapes’ or details of poetry (eg rhyme, alliteration).

It is important that this practice continues as children move up the school, exposing children to the possibilities of langauge and means of expressing how they feel about themes and issues that concern them. It is essential that children are exposed to a range of classic and modern poetry, and poetry across a range of cultures and voices. The Poems section of this site contains a range of voices from contemporary children's poets.

Poetry Corner
A Poetry Corner containing a class collection of poetry books; collections by the same author and anthologies with regular opportunities to browse alongside a space for children to display and recommend their own favourite collections or poems raises the status of poetry in the classroom.

Poetry corners can  also include:

  • Class anthologies (link to anthology section)
  • A listening corner in which children can listen to audio recordings of poems (link to poetry films).
  • Recordings of poems from the school community. It is beneficial to invite parents to record some of the poems; these could also be translated into home languages for bilingual children to enjoy or drawn from their own cultural source.
  • Photographs of poets displayed alongside their work.
  • Posters about poetry events in the school and wider community.

Poetry for Pleasure
Sharing poetry without commentary is a powerful way to build children’s awareness. Simple strategies such as reading a poem a day including a mixed diet of familiar poems alongside new tastes. Everybody can join in; children may like to prepare readings for the rest of the class, enlivened with music and song. Make choices easier by:

  • Grouping the poetry books together in your book area, on a shelf or in a box, and label.
  • Making a display of the books you’ll be reading aloud from, or focussing on, each week.
  • Making a display of books by the same poet, and read aloud from this selection, so that children can become familiar and knowledgeable about an individual poet’ work.
  • Inviting children to write a label about a favourite poem (giving the title of the book and page number) and add to the display, next to the relevant book.

Poem of the day
Inviting children to choose a ‘poem of the day’ encourages them to respond as readers and actively use the poetry resources in the classroom. When children have chosen a poem pin it up alongside their thoughts about how it makes them feel and what in particular they like about it on prepared speech bubbles.

Responding to other areas of the curriculum
Many of the cross-curricular themes and topics that act as a focus for learning and teaching in the primary classroom are capable of being illustrated through poetry. A focus on ‘nature’ for example is a good example of children writing a collection of poems around a particular theme. Poems offer a special way of thinking. They can allow children to express some of the more intuitive, affective aspects of their perceptions.