October 6, 2010


Poetry is serious business around our house, as you can see from my girls' intent expressions.

I love poetry. Love it. I've been reading poems to my children all their lives, but this year, with the release of the new Fancy Nancy book about poetry--I decided it was time for an "official" introduction.
This is the whole gang writing/illustrating poems.
This is my favorite collection of poems for children. I've owned it for about ten years and love the poetry. Perfect for kids. My children are big fans of the dog section. If you were ever to buy a collection of poems--I'd recommend this one. (Unless you're anti-Halloween or goblins or fairies--then don't get this one.)

We have a lot of Shel Silverstein, which my oldest daughter loves more than is perhaps healthy. We also have Caroline Kennedy's collection, A Family of Poems. It is pretty good.

But like I said, Piping Down the Valley's Wild, is definitely the best.

The above book, I Did It Because: How a Poem Happens by Loris Lesynski, is awesome. We checked it out from the library and fell in love. It has a poem about dawdling. My oldest is a dawdler. I made her act it out and then we laughed and laughed. Almost all the poems in this book are great for read aloud and acting out. The book also has great ideas for writing your own poems. We love this book. It was the backbone of our poetry unit.
The above is a collection of modern haiku selected by Paul B. Janeczko. The poems were lovely (I'm a fan of haiku), and the photographs were beautiful. My three older children were riveted the whole time I was reading it. I highly recommend this as an introduction to haiku or as a nice read-aloud.
There is something about Prelutsky that appeals to boys. These poems aren't my favorites, but my husband picks it up all the time and reads a few out loud to the kids. My husband is a very emotive reader so it leads to a lot of uncontrollable giggling from my children, and myself. A great poet--especially for those of the male persuasion.
The first time my hubby picked up this book, he read some of the poems out loud to my children and then he turned to me and said, "I love this book." It is chock-full of nonsense, and we all love it. I checked it out of the library, hoping it would be good because most of the limerick books I scanned while at the library were lame. Hate to say it, but while the library has sixteen gazillion poetry books for kids--not all are created equal.

This one is great. It has mostly limericks, but a few other nonsense poems as well. My four year old goes around chanting, "Cinderella, dressed in yella," etc. And my 7 year old can explain to you the rules of limericks. Overall, a great book of silly poetry for kids.

Fancy Nancy is a favorite at our house. I love the vocabulary the books introduce, I love the illustrations, and I love how much my children love the books. As soon as amazon "alerted" me that this book had become available (yes, amazon emails me regularly--and yes, it does increase their sales, darn it), I knew we had to have it. It is wonderfully done. Nancy's class at school is studying poetry, so the incomparable Ms. Glass (Nancy's teacher) introduces her students to all types of poems, including odes and couplets and free verse. It is a great way to introduce a poetry unit.

As for our actual unit. We spent one week and it was very laid-back. The first day, I gave my children their new poetry books: Fancy Nancy and New Kid on the Block. We spent a happy hour reading through those two books.

The second day, we read through the first half of I Did It Because and acted out a lot of the poems. We also clapped out the poems to practice rhythm. Again, it was very relaxed. We were mostly just enjoying the sound of poetry.

The third day, we read the section in I Did It Because concerning writing poems about yourself. Then we moved to the table to write poems about ourselves. Miriam did an acrostic poem with her name. For Emeline, I did a cloud poem--so I wrote her name in the center of the page, and then asked her questions about herself and wrote the answers in no particular pattern around her name. She ended up with words like ducky and yellow and meat floating around her name. After I helped her write the words, she happily illustrated her poem. Cowen wanted to draw his poem, so that's what he did. When everyone was done, we hung all the poems on the wall.

My kids laughed at my poem. I wrote my hubby's name down the side of the paper like I was going to write an acrostic poem about him, and then I wrote a poem about going to the market, but keeping his name's letters as the first letter in each line. My children thought that was soooo funny. I love how easily amused children are. So that was fun. I write terrible poetry, but I enjoy the process.

On the fourth day we read Pocketful of Nonsense and talked about the rules of limericks and how some poems have rules and some don't. Then we read Stone Bench in an Empty Park and talked about the rules of haiku. I pointed out that haiku is often effective because it uses descriptive words that are unexpected. For example, one of the haiku we read compared a giraffe to a crane (not the bird--the construction thingy). Once I pointed that out, my oldest spent the next half hour completely engaged in finding unexpected comparisons. It helped get the point across that poems are descriptive in a way stories are not. So that was a fun day.

On the fifth day we read a bunch of poems from Piping Down the Valleys Wild. I shared with my kids some of my favorites and talked about why they were favorites of mine. Then we talked about all the poems we had read and any favorites my children had.

Ever since the poetry unit, my children have insisted we read a few poems after devotional--before we jump into the rest of our day. I am more than happy to oblige.

Do you have any favorite poems, or collections of poems, I can share with my family?


  1. we've been tip-toe-ing into poetry. i'm copying you on this one. so far we're just working on memorization - simply because it's so good for the old brain...but i love the idea of going over different kinds of poems and of course - fancy nancy!

  2. So did you do this unit on top of regular work you do or was this like a special unit study? I've found all the books you've listed and I'm waiting for them to arrive via paperback swap, amazon, and the library so I have time to plan this poetry unitl.