April is NaPoWriMo – that’s National Poetry Writing Month for those who don’t know. As such, it’s a great time to get the kids to have a go at writing poems. And, as you’d imagine, writing poetry is not just a great way to express creativity, it also has a huge range of other educational benefits too. According to a paper called Poetry Proves to be Positive in the Primary Grades, poetry has the following benefits for primary school children:

• the rhythm, sounds and words used in poetry inspire an interest in reading and writing

• poetry is a useful tool for improving literacy

• it enhances enjoyment of language and learning

• poetry improves critical thinking skills

• increases self-awareness and self-esteem

• improves creativity and imagination

After all, poetry, in the form of nursery rhymes, is often one of the first things babies hear. And even if the young ones don’t understand everything being said to them the soft lulling of the rhythm and rhyme of poetry are enough to soothe. Kids are, according to Tompkins, Bright, Pollard and Winsor, 1998, ‘natural poets’. They sing, clap and dance to all kinds of made-up and well known rhymes from a young age – just watch your kids at play time.

Parr and Campbell, 2006, go on to say that ‘Poetry is motivating and builds phonemic awareness, while enhancing the alphabetic principle, vocabulary, fluency, expression, and writing skills and the genre also has the potential to make reading a positive learning experience.’

So we’ve established that reading and writing poetry has some great benefits for literacy in kids. But that’s not all it can be useful for. It’s also a great way for kids to learn about difficult emotional issues, such as loss, death, divorce or separation and issues related to being a good citizen, including compassion, honesty, respect, self-discipline and integrity.

Phew! Poetry really is a powerhouse of good stuff. So let’s look at some ways you can incorporate it into your classroom.

Start simple. You can get the kids to think about words that rhyme with each other. Split the kids into groups and give them one word to start with.  To begin, you could give them a word like ‘think’. Then get them to write all the words they can come up with that rhyme with ‘think’. As you progress through, you can give them more and more difficult words to consider about.

You could also get the kids to perform poems. They love dressing up and getting their faces painted, so a bit of role play while reading out poems is always going to be fun. And, if you need any dressing up stuff, we have lots for you to choose from and our face paints are on offer too.

Or you could give the kids a topic and get them to write a poem about it. It’d be interesting to see what different kinds of poems they come up with.

If you need any further inspiration, this wonderful website by The Children’s Laureate is a great place to start. It features help on creating The Poetry Friendly Classroom and a great website, with input by former Children’s Laureate, Michael Rosen, called Perform a Poem.

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