How to Teach Poetry in 3rd Grade

Third grader writing at desk in classroom
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Third graders are expected to regularly read and understand grade-level poetry. They're also supposed to know words like "stanza" and how the different parts of a poem work together, according to the Common Core State Standards. Teach students to read and write poetry creatively via activities based on figurative language, style of verse and basic analysis or a favorite poem.

1 Tackle the Terminology

While third graders don't need to know the deepest poetry terms, it's important for them to understand the basic building blocks. Check out a couple of grade-level poetry books from authors like Shel Silverstein or Chris Raschka. Choose at least one poem in lyrical verse and free verse formats and make a copy of each for every student. Have students read a lyrical verse poem first and underline, circle or highlight each word that rhymes. This is a good opportunity to teach rhyme schemes, such as rhyming lines one, two and four in a four-line stanza. Afterward, hand out a poem in free verse and ask students to note that rhyming is not required. Be sure to define relevant terms, including stanza, verse and scheme.

2 Figuring Out Figurative Language

Introduce the ideas of similes and metaphors, two literary devices that are commonly-used in poetry. Provide an example of a metaphor, such as "her light hair was straw" and a similar simile, such as "her light hair was like straw." Be sure to give several examples of each and clearly state that similes make a comparison between two unlike things using the words "like" or "as," while metaphors make a similar comparison without using these words. Have students write several of their own similes and metaphors to describe their favorite objects. Finally, choose at least two poems that contain numerous similes and metaphors. Have students circle any lines that contain a simile and put a box around any line that contains a metaphor. Ask them to rate each simile and metaphor in the margin of the page on a scale of one to five, with five being the highest rating, reserved for similes or metaphors that paint a clear picture in the reader's mind.

3 Play With Words

Help students develop material for a simple poem. Find pictures on the Internet or in magazines that show a variety of people and animals of various ages, genders and backgrounds. On a piece of scratch paper, have students brainstorm as many facts about the person's life as possible, such as their favorite foods, pet peeves, biggest dreams and exciting hobbies. Next, have students write down as many rhyming word pairs as possible that relate to the person. Work through your own example with your students, then take the information from your scratch paper to craft a short, two to three stanza poem. If students are stuck on how to begin, suggest a scenario for their character. For instance, imagine that they've lost their favorite object in a messy room and need to find it fast. Have students describe the process and how their character resolves the situation, using a basic rhyme scheme.

4 Pick It Apart

To meet the third grade standards, students should be able to describe the different parts of a poem and how they work together. After working through examples of poetic devices and asking students to write their own poetry, have each student pick a favorite published poem. Have them read it two or three times and then discuss it with a classmate. Finally, ask them to write a two-paragraph review of the poem, using specific words like stanza, rhyme scheme, simile and metaphor. If they're having difficulty, have them imagine themselves as the author and ask them to explain why they chose the number of stanzas, style of verse, specific similes and metaphors and the characters or objects found in their poems.