Ah poetry. It is a mystery to some, a wonder
to others, and a little bit of both to most of
us all. Poetry can be an excellent tool in the
classroom in the aid of reading. Studies show
that any good literature program contains
phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency,
vocabulary and text comprehension. Most
teachers do a good job of developing these
skills with their students in their classroom;
however, it can be difficult and time
consuming to come up with lessons in all of
these instructional components. Using a poem is a quick, engaging way that can easily address these
five areas. This book is designed to aid the teacher in using poetry in the classroom to enhance
literacy. The poems in this book were carefully chosen to be age-appropriate and relevant to the
student. These poems can be used with students within the 7-12 age range.
When using poetry in the classroom, it is helpful to have some background knowledge about poetry
in general. Below are some key words and definitions.
• Poetry: a type of literature that uses artistic writing in an attempt to stir a reader's
imagination or emotions. The poet does this by carefully choosing and arranging language
for its meaning, sound, and rhythm.
• Rhythm: Rhythm is the beat in a poem. It can also be called meter. Each syllable in the
words of the poem contributes to the rhythm. When lines of poems have the same of
similar number of syllables, it helps to create a smooth rhythm and beat to the poem. It is
very important for the flow of words.
• Rhyme: A rhyme is a repetition of similar sounds (or the same sound) in two or more
words, most often in the final syllables of lines in poems and songs.
Introducing the poem
Start by reading the poem line by line, showing the students only one line at a time. Student
engagement is increased when the poem is introduced this
way. Student love the inquisitive nature of this, and are
excited to get to the end of the poem to put together the
lines to figure out the meaning. To introduce a poem line
by line, a copy can be placed under a document camera
and the lines not being read can be covered with a sheet of
paper. An alternative method would be to write the poem
on sentence strips and introduce the lines that way.
As each line is introduced, stop and ask the students
what they think it means. Stop and talk about the
vocabulary words they may be unfamiliar with. Talk
about decoding strategies when encountering difficult
words. Talk about the meaning of the word in context.
Finally, at the end of the poem put it all together and
ask the question: What do you think the poet wants us
to know after reading this poem?
Phonics and Phonemic Awareness
When all the lines have been introduced: ask the children to find the rhyming words. Circle
them if using a document camera or write them on the board. Increase phonemic awareness
by leaving off the beginning sound of the rhyme and having the students repeat it. A
favorite activity is to have the students clap out and count the syllables in each line of the
poem. Next to the line write down how many syllables that line contains. Students are
always amazed and get really excited to “discover” that the poem used exactly the same number of
syllables in each line, or that a pattern was used. When discussing syllables, it is a great time to talk
about the rhythm of poetry.
Five vocabulary words were chosen to go along
with each poem. A PDF document is included for
easy access to and printing of the cards. Once
printed, the vocabulary cards can be displayed in
the room. The students can work on learning the
meanings, using them in sentences and drawing pictures of the words. Since the vocabulary words
are by nature a bit more complex, the words can be used for reading instruction as well in decoding.
The biographies included in this book were written so the students would be able to read about the
poet and connect to them with a picture. The biographies can be printed out for each individual
student to read, discuss and understand. They can also be added to the book at the end of the year.
An alternative would be to read the biography to the students and discuss key points.
After the poem has been thoroughly discussed, it can then be given to students to illustrate. Before
letting them illustrate, brainstorm about the types of things (related to the poem) that they may draw.
It is always amazing to hear what the kids come up with. The poems they illustrate can be kept in a
student folder throughout the year. At the end of the year the teacher or a parent volunteer can
organize the poems in the way they were introduced and bind them with inexpensive binding combs
and construction paper covers. Biographies can be included if desired. The student will then have a
keepsake to take home with them at the end of the year. Students can also practice the poem several
times and recite the poem to the class. This will help to build speaking and fluency skills.
School by Winifred C. Marshall
In Autumn by Winifred C. Marshall
Who Has Seen the Wind by Christina Rossetti
The Morns are Meeker Than They Were by Emily Dickinson
Thanksgiving by Thornton Burgess
School bells are ringing, loud and clear;
Vacation’s over, school is here.
We hunt our pencils and our books,
And say goodbye to fields and brooks,
To carefree days of sunny hours,
To birds and butterflies and flowers.
But we are glad school has begun,
For work is always mixed with fun.
When autumn comes and the weather is cool,
Nothing can take the place of school.
By Winifred C. Marshall
They’re coming down in showers,
The leaves all gold and red;
They’re covering the little flowers,
And tucking them in bed
They’ve spread a fairy carpet
All up and down the street;
And when we skip along to school,
they rustle ‘neath our feet!
By Winifred C. Marshall
Who Has Seen the Wind?
Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.
By Christina Rossetti
The Morns are Meeker Than They Were
The morns are meeker than they were -
The nuts are getting brown -
The berry’s cheek is plumper -
The rose is out of town.
The maple wears a gayer scarf -
The field a scarlet gown -
Lest I sh'd be old-fashioned
I’ll put a trinket on.
Thanksgiving comes but once a year,
But when it comes it brings good cheer.
For in my storehouse on this day
Are piles of good things hid away.
Each day I’ve worked from early morn
To gather acorns, nuts and corn,
Till now I’ve plenty and to spare
Without a worry or a care.
So light of heart the whole day long,
I’ll sing a glad Thanksgiving song.”
By Thornton Burgess
The Star by Jane Taylor
Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost
Two Little Kittens (Anonymous)
January by John Updike
My Shadow by Robert Louis Stevenson
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.
Then the traveller in the dark
Thanks you for your tiny sparks;
He could not see which way to go,
If you did not twinkle so.
In the dark blue sky you keep,
And often through my curtains peep,
For you never shut your eye
'Till the sun is in the sky.
As your bright and tiny spark
Lights the traveller in the dark,
Though I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
By Jane Taylor
Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
By Robert Frost
Two Little Kittens
Two little kittens, one stormy night,
Began to quarrel, and then to fight;
One had a mouse, the other had none,
And that's the way the quarrel begun.
"I'll have that mouse," said the biggest cat;
"You'll have that mouse? We'll see about that!"
"I will have that mouse," said the eldest son;
"You shan't have the mouse," said the little one.
I told you before 'twas a stormy night
When these two little kittens began to fight;
The old woman seized her sweeping broom,
And swept the two kittens right out of the room.
The ground was covered with frost and snow,
And the two little kittens had nowhere to go;
So they laid them down on the mat at the door,
While the old woman finished sweeping the floor.
Then they crept in, as quiet as mice,
All wet with the snow, and cold as ice,
For they found it was better, that stormy night,
To lie down and sleep than to quarrel and fight.
The days are short,
The sun a spark,
Hung thin between
The dark and dark.
Fat snowy footsteps
Track the floor.
Milk bottles burst
Outside the door.
The river is
A frozen place
Held still beneath
The trees of lace.
The sky is low.
The wind is gray.
Purrs all day.
By John Updike
I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.
The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an india-rubber ball,
And he sometimes gets so little that there's none of him at all.
He hasn't got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
He stays so close beside me, he's a coward you can see;
I'd think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!
One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.
By Robert Louis Stevenson
Daffodils by William Wordsworth
The Lamb by Sara Hale
A Fuzzy Fellow Without Feet by Emily Dickinson
Caterpillar by Christina Georgina Rossetti
Violet by Jane Taylor
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Mary had a little lamb, Its fleece was white as snow,
And everywhere that Mary went The lamb was sure to go;
He followed her to school one day- That was against the rule,
It made the children laugh and play To see a lamb at school.
And so the teacher turned him out,
But still he lingered near, And waited patiently about,
Till Mary did appear. And then he ran to her and laid His head upon her arm,
As if he said, "I'm not afraid- You'll shield me from all harm."
"What makes the lamb love Mary so?"
The little children cry; "Oh, Mary loves the lamb, you know,"
The teacher did reply,
"And, you, each gentle animal In confidence may bind,
And make it follow at your call, If you are always kind."
A Fuzzy Fellow Without Feet
A fuzzy fellow, without feet,
Yet doth exceeding run!
Of velvet, is his Countenance,
And his Complexion, dun!
Sometime, he dwelleth in the grass!
Sometime, upon a bough,
From which he doth descend in plush
Upon the Passer-by!
Brown and furry
Caterpillar in a hurry,
Take your walk
To the shady leaf, or stalk,
Or what not,
Which may be the chosen spot.
No toad spy you,
Hovering bird of prey pass by you;
Spin and die,
To live again a butterfly.
Christina Georgina Rossetti
Down in a green and shady bed,
A modest violet grew,
Its stalk was bent, it hung its head,
As if to hide from view.
And yet it was a lovely flower,
Its colours bright and fair;
It might have graced a rosy bower,
Instead of hiding there,
Yet there it was content to bloom,
In modest tints arrayed;
And there diffused its sweet perfume,
Within the silent shade.
Then let me to the valley go,
This pretty flower to see;
That I may also learn to grow
In sweet humility.
By Jane Taylor
Bed in Summer by Robert Louis Stevenson
Clouds by Christina Georgina Rossetti
Afternoon On a Hill by Edna St. Vincent Milay
The Cow by Robert Louis Stevenson
Bed in Summer
In Winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle light.
In Summer, quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.
I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree,
Or hear the grown-up people's feet
Still going past me in the street.
And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?
By Robert Louis Stevenson
White sheep, white sheep,
On a blue hill,
When the wind stops,
You all stand still.
When the wind blows,
You walk away slow.
White sheep, white sheep,
Where do you go?
By Christina Georgina Rossetti
In jumping and tumbling We spend the whole day,
Till night by arriving Has finished our play.
One and all, There's no more to be said,
As we tumbled all day, So we tumble to bed.
Anonymous circa 1745
Afternoon On a Hill
I will be the gladdest thing
Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one.
I will look at cliffs and clouds
With quiet eyes,
Watch the wind bow down the grass,
And the grass rise.
And when lights begin to show
Up from the town,
I will mark which must be mine,
And then start down!
The friendly cow all red and white,
I love with all my heart:
She gives me cream with all her might,
To eat with apple-tart.
She wanders lowing here and there,
And yet she cannot stray,
All in the pleasant open air,
The pleasant light of day;
And blown by all the winds that pass
And wet with all the showers,
She walks among the meadow grass
And eats the meadow flowers.
By Robert Louis Stevenson
Winifred C. Marshall
v There are no photos of Winifred. She
lived in a time when the camera,
while invented, was difficult to
use. Instead, artists drew pictures to
represent the person.
v Winifred C. Marshall was the first
person in the state of North
Carolina to publish a novel. It is
called “Family Anecdotes.”
v She is buried at the Congressional
Cemetery in Washington, DC.
Winifred C. Marshall was born in Newark, England in 1761. She was
a talented writer, and published her first book at the age of 17. When
she was 23, she married Joseph Gales. Together, they ran a
publishing business and bookshop in Sheffield, England. They wrote
and published a newspaper that spoke out against the government of
England, calling for change. Winifred and her husband had five
children. They decided to move to America when they could no longer
stay in England. They first moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Later, they moved to Raleigh, North Carolina and then onto
Washington, DC. In each of these cities, they wrote and published
newspapers. Winifred was known to have a lively, welcoming house,
full of good conversations about politics, life and art. Winifred wrote
sixteen poems, stories and essays throughout her life. She wrote
pieces speaking out against slavery, and she wrote children’s books
about religion, and of course, she wrote poetry. She died at the age of
78, after having lived a full life.
v While her poetry may seem simple,
it is complex in terms of
rhythm, rhyme, and meter.
v She enjoyed the creative
companionship of her older, artistic
brothers while growing up.
v Her inspiration for her poems came
from walking around outside her
grandfather’s cottage, near London.
Christina Georgina Rossetti was one of four children. She came from
a very creative Italian family. Her father was a poet, and her brother
was the famous Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a painter and a poet. Dante
even helped her with the artwork on the covers of her poetry books.
She was a governess and she took care of children. She became sick,
however, and could not do this job for very long. She was confined to
her house a lot, where she wrote poetry. She liked to write poems for
children, and she liked to write poems about religion. She was a very
pure, humble girl. Her sense of humor and critical eye can be seen
through her poetry. She died in 1894 at the age of 64.
Anonymous? Who is that you might ask? Often times, poems are
found and published
without a name.
Sometimes the poet
wants to remain
they are feeling nervous
about how their poem
will be received. If their
name is not attached,
they are free to write
what they are feeling.
Sometimes, the poem is
written by someone
famous, and the poet wants to see how well he or she will be received
based on writing alone. Novel writers do this all the time. They write
under a pseudonym, or an assumed name. Anonymous authors
wrote both the popular rhymes Hush-a-Bye-Baby and Itsy Bitsy
Spider. Sometimes, the poet is not known because the poem came
from the oral tradition, and started out as a folksong, a song that sung
and passed down from generation to generation. Whatever the case,
there are many great poems whose authors are unknown.
v Robert Frost won four Pulitzer Prizes.
The Pulitzer Prize is an award given
out yearly for good literature.
v He read his poem, The Gift Outright
during President John F. Kennedy’s
inauguration ceremony in 1961. He
had to recite it from memory, because
blowing snow and light print made
reading it nearly impossible.
v He taught throughout his life, and even
went back to his alma mater, Harvard to
Robert Frost was born in 1874 in San Francisco, CA. During high
school, he found his love for reading and writing. He attended
Dartmouth and Harvard colleges. He worked as a teacher, a cobbler,
an editor and a farmer. He married Elinor White in 1895. She was
the inspiration for many of his poems. They moved to England, where
they met other more successful poets who helped him get his work
known and published. One of these poets was a very successful poet
named Ezra Pound. Frost came back to the United States after having
written two books of poetry in England. By this time, he was an
established poet. By 1920, he was the most celebrated poet in
America. He lived the rest of his life teaching and writing more books
of poetry. He died in Boston in 1963 at the age of 89.
v Emily had a friend who
introduced her to the
poetry of William
After reading his poems,
she became inspired to
write her own.
v She communicated with
most of her friends
v She loved to write
poetry using dashes--.
Some think it was her
way of expressing her
freedom, or connecting
Emily Dickinson was born in Amherst Massachusetts in 1830. She
lived a quiet life, and over time she ended writing 1800 poems. She
was an excellent student, even though she missed a lot of school due
to illness. She had one brother and one sister. She never got married,
and lived her life on the family farm and rarely left home. She wrote
notebooks of poetry for years, without anyone in her family realizing
what she was doing. In her spare time, she studied botany or plant
life. She made an enormous herbarium, where she collected,
identified and stored dried plants. She died in 1886 at the age of 56.
After she died, her sister discovered all of her poems that she had
been writing in her notebook. The first volumes of these poems were
published four years after her death, and her poetry kept on getting
published, all the way through 1955.
v Burgess wrote over 10o books and
many more short stories.
v He had a newspaper series called
Bedtime Stories. Parents would
read the stories to their children
before they went to bed.
v Many of the scenes in his stories
were inspired from the area near his
home on Cape Cod.
Thornton Burgess was born in 1874 in Sandwich, Massachusetts. He
loved nature, and spent many hours exploring outside near his home
on Cape Cod. He married and had one son. His wife died when his
son was a baby, and relatives stepped in to help. This meant that
sometimes his son would be gone for long periods of time while
Thornton worked. It was during one of these separation periods that
he got the idea to write Bedtime Stories. He wrote down stories that
he would have told his son had he been able to be near him. Friends
and relatives wanted to hear his stories, and soon, so did publishers.
He remarried years later, to a woman who had two children. He
continued writing story after story. In all of his stories, he tried to
teach children lessons in life and the world around them. He died in
1965 at the age of 91.
v Wordsworth began writing poetry in
v He was very good friends with the
poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
v He worked on one poem, The
Prelude, throughout his entire life.
William Wordsworth was born in England in 1770. Both of his
parents died very young, and he became an orphan. He went to
college at the University of Cambridge. Just before he graduated, he
decided to take a walking tour of Europe. He came across the French
Revolutionary War, which had a deep impact on him. He gained
sympathy for the “life, speech and troubles of the common man.”
These cares can be seen in his works of poetry. He married Mary
Hutchison in 1802 and together they had five children. He liked to
walk around the lakes where he lived. In his poem Daffodils, he really
did walk upon a field of Daffodils in the wild, while out on a walk with
his sister. This inspired him to write the poem. He died in 1850 at
the age of 80.
Edna St. Vincent Millay
v Edna St. Vincent Millay could
speak six languages.
v She married at the age of 31, and
her husband quit his job to help
manage her very busy career.
v The Edna St. Vincent Millay
Society was created after her
death and is located on the
grounds of the home she lived at
with her husband. It serves to
honor her and bring attention to
Edna St. Vincent Millay was born in Rockland, Maine in 1892. Edna
had two sisters, and her parents encouraged in all the girls in a love of
culture and literature. Edna studied piano and theater. She originally
wanted to become a pianist, but decided instead to focus her attention
on writing and poetry. She ended up winning a very important prize
called the Pulitzer Prize in 1923 for her fourth book of poems called
The Ballad of Harp Weaver. It is in this poem that the very popular
phrase “My candle burns at both ends” was born. She was a very
popular writer for her time, and liked to write about subjects that
pertained to women. She died in 1950 at the age of 58.
v Taylor’s poem, The Star was set to a
French tune and became the song
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star that we
v She wrote many essays, stories, poems and
letters throughout her life that were never
v People still visit the house In England
where she wrote her famous poem.
Jane Taylor was born in London in 1783. She wrote with her sister
Ann, and together they wrote The Star. She loved to write for young
children, and even wrote for a children’s magazine. Her work was
widely seen, and the very famous British poet Robert Browning said
her work had an influence on his writing. Another famous person,
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, loved her poem so much that he
composed a song to go along with the words. Lewis Carroll, who
wrote Alice in Wonderland, even used her poem when he had the
Mad Hatter say, but changed the lines to, “twinkle, twinkle, little bat
how I wonder where you’re at.” She died in 1824 at the age of 40.
v Stevenson studied
law at the University of
Edinburg but never
v Many of his books are
based on his world
v Treasure Island and
Dr. Jekyll and Mr.
Hyde are still widely
read more than 100
Robert Louis Stevenson was born in Scotland in 1850. He traveled
around the world, and became a famous writer at a young age. He
wrote both fiction and poetry. He wrote Treasure Island,
Kidnapped, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
The idea for the story Treasure Island came after he was drawing a
map for his stepson while playing. When it was published, people
were glad because at the time, children’s literature was rather
boring. Treasure Island is a story based in adventure and
excitement. He married Fanny Osbourne in 1876. He was sick a
lot even as a child, and his health problems continued into
adulthood. He died in 1894 at the age of 44.
Sarah Josepha Hale
v Hale is known as the “mother of
Thanksgiving” for her push to make
the celebration a national holiday
after writing a letter to President
v She worked with childhood
educators to write the poem Mary’s
v She worked to preserve George
Washington’s Mount Vernon
Plantation as a symbol of
Sara Josepha Hale was born in New Hampshire in 1788. She was
schooled at home, then later by her husband. She began her working
career as a schoolteacher. She had five children with her husband,
but he died after only nine years of marriage. She turned to writing to
support herself and her family. She was the editor of Ladies’
magazine, a journal of writing and poems written by women. Later,
the magazine’s name was changed to Godey’s Lady’s Book, and it
included works by such notable authors as Harriet Beecher Stowe,
Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Edgar Allen Poe. She worked at this
magazine for most of her life, and retired at the age of 89. She
believed in the importance of education for women, and was a strong
supporter of higher education. She died in 1879 at the age of 91.
v John Updike won the Pulitzer Prize for
literature two times.
v He wrote for New Yorker magazine for
v Updike is considered one of the greatest
American fiction writers of his generation.
John Updike was born in 1932 in Pennsylvania. He was an only child,
and lived in a stone farmhouse on an 80-acre farm with his parents
and grandparents. He loved to read, and his mother encouraged him
to write and draw. He was a very good student, and he received a
scholarship to attend Harvard University where he majored in
English. He married Mary Pennington, an art student at Radcliff
College. Together, they had four children. They moved to New York,
then finally to Massachusetts. He was a very disciplined writer, and
set a schedule for himself so he could get work done. He wrote novels,
short stories, works of criticism, and children’s books. He died in
2009 at the age of 76.