I just finished up a poetry unit in reading workshop with my kindergartners. I have to admit, I was nervous to teach poetry in kindergarten for several years, and actually avoided it all together. I justified it by saying that we worked with nursery rhymes, and that was sufficient. Last year I took the plunge, and this year I refined. And, lo and behold, it is one of my favorite units.
The thing is, kindergartners LOVE poetry. And I mean, all kinds. I did a unit that focused on some major features of poems in general, but that also introduced different types of poems. We looked at acrostics, shape poems, verse, poems that tell stories, poems that convey strong feelings, songs that are poems. In fact, we did not even talk about rhyme until the second to last day of the unit. And my students were enraptured. They had discussions with me and amongst themselves, and for the first time ever, I felt that they could even attempt to write some poems.
As part of our work for Earth Day, I had teams of kids that worked on creating recycled paper. We made recycled paper stars. But I never really had a plan for what to do with the stars, especially considering they were team made. Well, in the middle of the poetry unit, one of my students suggested we write poems on them. You can imagine my delight.
So there they were, my six year olds, working in groups to write acrostics about stars. And they were beautiful. Shooting stars, shining stars, sparkling, twinkling, active, rare, rockets, sky, awesome – they GOT it. And they loved it.
We wrapped up the unit by having the kids share favorite poems, and they each got copies of everyone else’s favorites in an anthology. I was thinking about the unit, and how I had been concerned that studying poetry might be too difficult. But then I remembered what I had recently discussed with a colleague – young kids can truly think. They rise to our expectations, and if we expect them not to get it, they don’t. Well, given the challenge, my kids got it.