Poetry-What Is It?

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SWBAT describe how the key characteristics of poetry (rhyming, repeated words, and rhythm) add meaning.

Big Idea

We'll look at lots of poetry to see how fluency, rhythm, rhyming, and repeated words can encourage the kids to see the meaning in this special genre!



This is the first lesson in my poetry unit and I'm introducing what makes a poem unique. My goal in this unit is to talk about different kinds of poetry and to introduce some of the vocabulary that goes with poetry.  I'll be reading a variety of books and we'll be using reading strategies to better comprehend what the author is trying to convey.

I used the 'poetry tree' in all of my lessons in this unit to create a tool that pulled together all of the ideas and kinds of poetry. The kinds of poem are listed down the trunk and the ways that poetry help us are listed on the leaves.Some of my later lessons that allow me to use this vocabulary and the poetry tree are: Dogs & Haikus-What's the Plot?, Reading Acrostics-Poetry of Letters, Poetry Takes Shape, Synonym, Adjective, Verb.. Put them in a Cinquain, Pieces of Meaning in Free Verse Poetry, Don't Worry-Alliteration and Onomatopoeia Help Us, and Long Vowels & Limericks-Looking at Poetry.

Many of the poems in this lesson are in the upper lexile level of 2nd grade. I want students to try to read and comprehend literature, including stores and poetry in the grades 2-3 complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding and support at the upper range. (RL.2.10) I like to challenge the students with this more difficult text to gain familiarity with various kinds of texts and higher level vocabulary.

Let's Get Excited!

5 minutes

Underlined words below are lesson vocabulary words that are emphasized and written on sentence strips for my Reading & Writing word wall. I pull off the words off the wall for each lesson, helping students understand this key 'reading and writing' vocabulary can be generalized across texts and topics.  The focus on acquiring and using these words is part of a shift in the Common Core Standards towards building students’ academic vocabulary.  My words are color coded ‘pink’ for literature/’blue’ for reading strategies/’orange’ for informational text/'yellow' for writing/’green’ for all other words. 

Common starting point

  • "I brought a poster today of a tree.  We'll be starting a unit talking about a new kind of writing. It can be literature or informational text, but the way it is written makes it unique."
  • "I brought the tree because we'll be reading about poetry - 'poe'   'tree'  Get it?"
  • "Tell me what you know about poetry" (take ideas - it rhymes, Dr. Suess writes it... it can be short or long, it has rhythm)
  • Here's the discussion I had with my kids to get their ideas about poetry.

Let's look at some ideas and examples

15 minutes

Give the purpose of the lesson

  • "Let's talk about what poetry is and then look at some sample poems."
  • "We'll add some ideas to our 'poet-tree'."
  • "Then we'll look at why we read poetry and pick a favorite poem."


Introduce ideas by using the powerpoint

  • Go through the ideas on the powerpoint. Slide 2-19 have lots of good ideas about poetry. Talk with the students about the ideas and read the sample poems. Go back and forth to show how the example shows the idea. Here's some ideas that I shared:
    • "What are the repeating words in Old McDonald?'  Let's look back and find them."
    • "Is this 'Xbox' poem silly or serious? How do you know?"  
    • "Do you have an image in your head about a butterfly?"
    • This was our discussion about poem topics.
  • I wrote the ideas on the 'poetry tree' as well. (Look at the tree in resources)
  • Talk about repeating words, rhyme and rhythm. These concepts will come up again and again throughout future lessons.
    • "Listen as I read that poem again. What words rhyme?"
    • "Did you hear the rhythm?  Can you snap your fingers or clap your hands as I read it again?"
  • Slide 20 - 22 have ideas that set 'poetry' apart from other literature. My students had lots of good ideas about this, but I kept this discussion short. These are ideas that we will discuss in future lessons, but they are worth mentioning in the introduction. Here's how I reviewed the last slides of the powerpoint for a later task.
  • Here's what the poetry tree poster looked like when we were done.

Teacher picks a favorite

20 minutes

Model for the kids

  • "Now I want to pick one of my favorite poems from my collection. We talked about why we read poetry and what makes it unique. I'll think about these ideas as I pick my poems."
  • "I really like this poem about Duck Feet. On my 'favorite poem' chart, I'll write the title." (I did have a short discussion about writing the title with capitalization and punctuation.)
  • "I'll add the author's name and think more about what makes it a poem-rhythm, rhyme, repeating words."  Take a look at how it sounded like when I looked for repeating words.
  • "Now I'll write why I like the poem and how it makes me feel."
  • This was the whiteboard when I was done.


We are looking at poems for rhythm, rhyme and repetition because they add so much meaning to the text. I love teaching poetry because you can really highlight those features and get into some great discussions about how words and phrases supply rhythm and meaning to a story. (RL.2.4) Take the time to focus on these during these poetry lessons and the kids will notice the occasional use of them in other kinds of literature. Often, 2nd graders don't truly appreciate the subtleties the author adds to text. As you read, model the rhythm and rhyme and encourage the kids to read aloud with expression as well. This makes the kids more aware of them and ultimately improves their fluency as well.

Kids pick their favorites

15 minutes

Explain the task


Kids work

  • Answer questions as they work - "What if there's no title?  Why does this not have an author?"
  • Here is how it looked when one of my students was working.
  • Here are 2 examples: worksheet 1 and worksheet 2.
  • You may need to individually check with kids about poems.  Here's a short conference I had about a poem with no author and another chat about a poem without a title.
  • As kids finish, ask them to reflect or tell you why they liked the poems. You could share with the class, or you could just individually conference with them. Here's an example of a student  reflecting.


Scaffolding and Special Education: This lesson could be easily scaffolded up or down, depending on student ability.

This is great lesson for kids of all ability levels because so much of it is discussion and examples. When the kids pick a favorite poem, students with language challenges may need help identifying rhyming or repetition, so a partner might be helpful.  For those with great language, challenge those students to more fully explain why they like the poem and how it makes them feel.