10 Great Reasons to Teach Poetry

As you may know, April is National Poetry Month, and as good a time as any for some reminders on why it’s so important to teach poetry. Too often, poetry instruction is seen as frivolous, or worse, dull, when really, the exact opposite is true.
Need proof? Check out these 10 reasons to teach poetry…

1.  It can connect with larger instructional themes. Poems can beautifully complement themes of every topic – from aging to rebirth. A poem can help you take a different angle on a complex historical period, like the Civil Rights Movement, and make it more personal.  For instance, you could easily link poetry to Black History Month with a Poet and Poem study on Langston Hughes or Maya Angelou.

2.  It can be a means of teaching some literacy rules. By showing students what happens when poets break or pervert the rules – e.e. cumming’s lack of capitalization comes to mind – they can form a better understanding of what purpose those rules serve in communicating clearly.  Students can investigate how and why traditional grammar and spelling conventions were ignored by analyzing poems like "In just."  Of course, in order to do so, they'll need to know the literacy rules, first ;).
3.  It can be a welcome break from the rules. For the student hampered by spelling, conventions and grammar, poetry can be a safe place to express herself in writing without having to worry about those things. ELL students, especially, may find poems a relief from the demands of English.  Encourage creativity and free expression as students write different types of poems.

4.  It can be quick to teach.  Poetry can be done in relatively little time. You don’t need to dedicate a whole unit to poetry. Try a poem a day (poets.org offers some great resources https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem-day), or just once a week. There are tons of great poems in literary magazines like Cricket. And song or rap lyrics work, too.  Or, bring out a poetry lesson on a holiday.  Free lessons like this Limerick Writing Lesson are always a hit with students!

5.  It can explain. In this mixed-up, crazy world, a lot of bad things happen. Heck, just opening the newspaper (or its online equivalent) can be a scary prospect. Poems about tough stuff – mortality, race, aging, politics, war – can provide a softer, more human context than your average news story.

6.  It can confuse. Not all poetry is meant to be understood. Don’t worry about analyzing every poem you present to the class. Some poems are simply meant to be heard, read and felt.  You can find my favorite poems to read aloud to students by downloading the FREE lesson and handout that goes along with a video about how to teach poetry analysis.

7.  It’s an acceptable way for students to express emotion. Students may be too self-conscious, or lack the vocabulary to convey what they’re feeling about themselves and the world. A poem read aloud, or recited by students, gives them the words they need to start a conversation. Or maybe it is the conversation.  These journey poems are perfect for adolescents.

8.  It improves reading and writing of all kinds. Poetry, which begs to be read more than once, gives students the chance to practice close reading strategies, as they analyze the structure, word choice and even the shape of the words before them. With its generally concise format, poetry can help you teach skills necessary in other forms of writing, like using precise words and imagery. One of my favorite ways to just that, is with interactive poetry flip books.  They help students closely read and analyze poems in engaging and approachable ways!

9.  It’s relatable. For every student who feels no one else could possibly understand what he’s going through, there’s a poem by or about someone in the same place. When read in class, a student might see that others around him are connecting to it, too.

10.  It’s a chance to practice speaking and listening skills. With so much emphasis on reading and writing, students don’t always get explicit instruction on how to annunciate, project and listen closely.  There's nothing better than a class full of students who want to read and share poetry that they've written.  Encourage speaking and listening skills by hosting a Poetry Reading after students finish a poetry writing unit.  It's easy!  Just have students select one poem to share.  Give them lots of opportunities to practice reading their poems.  Then, find a space like the library and auditorium for the event.  Finally, send out invitations.  That's it!

If you're ready to infuse your classroom with fun poetry lessons and ideas, then you might want to sign up for my series of FREE poetry lessons.  You'll receive a bunch of free poetry tips and lessons right in your email inbox!  Oh, and you'll get an exclusive freebie for "Nothing Gold Can Stay," right away!  Just sign up HERE. 

Thanks so much for stopping by!
Mary Beth

No-Prep, No-Excuses, No-Hassle Vocabulary Games

Ready to make mastering vocabulary fun?  Then, check out this set of 3 No-Prep Vocabulary Games!  Students love them!  Plus, there's an exclusive FREEBIE with everything you need to play!
As the old adage goes, if you teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime. It turns out the same can be said about a student’s vocabulary: Teach her what a word means, and she’ll become a stronger reader.

Even better, say researchers, teach your students what eight to 10 words mean, over the course of 37 to 50 weeks, and even your lowest readers could experience a 30 percent increase in word knowledge… And the more words your students know, the more likely they are to comprehend what they read.

But as any of us who has memorized lists of vocabulary words knows, it can be – well, boring. As with many things school-related, the key to your students’ success with building their vocabularies is to make it fun!

Check out these three No-Prep, No-Hassle, No-Excuses Vocabulary Games you can use with any sets of words. Tip: These work best as a review, after students have already heard the words and had a chance to use them (either during class warm ups or in homework). And...great news!  I've compiled everything you need to play the games in an EXCLUSIVE FREEBIE!

Guess Who?
Write the vocabulary words on index cards (or have students do this). Here's a set of figurative language vocabulary cards...
Play "Guess Who?" to review critical figurative language vocabulary in a fun way!

Without letting the students see, tape the cards to their backs. 
Just write important vocabulary words on cards and then place them on the students' backs.  Then, have partners give each other clues while they play this fun and easy vocabulary game!

Have the students walk around the room and give clues to one another about the word on their backs. (For example, if Sam is wearing the word “onomatopoeia,” his partner may say, “The bacon sizzled in the frying pan.” Sam then takes a guess at what the word is. And so on.)

When In Doubt, Bluff
Divide your class into two teams. Write a vocabulary word on the board or write the words on cards and just display them inside this poster...
Play "When in Doubt, Bluff" to review vocabulary words from any unit!  Easy and fun vocab game!

This game is not only fun, it's also a great way to review vocabulary!  Play this vocab game with any set of words!

Students who know the definition should stand up. Students who are bluffing and don’t know the definition also should stand. (Students who are unsure also may remain seated.) Call on a student at random to define the word. If the student gets it, his team gets points for every team member that is standing. If the student does not get it, the team loses points for every team member standing. The team with the most points at the end wins.

Fast Talker
Type the vocabulary words onto a SmartBoard or Powerpoint template (or use a visualizer) and project each word, one at a time, so the class can see it. Or, write the words on strips of paper for students to pull out of a bag or basket.
Have students pick a vocabulary word and roll their "vocabulary fate" with this super fun and easy vocab game!

Once students have a word, instead of asking for the definition of the word, call out alternative commands:

·         Part of speech
·         Synonym
·         Antonym
·         Roots
·         Use in a sentence

(You can also write those commands on a beach ball and have students toss it to each other as you go through the words.) Or, you can put the commands on a paper cube that students roll for their "vocabulary fate."
Make learning and reviewing vocabulary games super easy with this set of 3 no-prep, no-excuses, no-hassle vocab games!

See how quickly the students can come up with an answer as you randomly call on them.

It's a great idea to keep throwing in old words as the year progresses, so your students have a better shot of retaining the vocabulary words. Consider giving points or prizes when students identify vocabulary words in their reading material or outside of class.

They’ll have fun. They’ll become better readers. And you won’t break a sweat! Everyone wins!

Since we're on the topic of vocabulary, I thought I'd share my favorite way to teach vocabulary words.  It's through doodling!

  Yes, doodling!  I've found that combining vocabulary instruction with doodles...and then writing, is an amazing way to expand students vocabulary.  

I even created a set of 160 Daily Doodle Vocabulary words for grades 3-5 and grades 6-8

Just click and print a set of 3 fun vocabulary games.  Use in any classroom.  Use with any set of vocabulary words.  Make learning vocabulary so much more fun with these easy vocab games!

Thanks for stopping by!
Mary Beth

Teach and review critical vocabulary with this fun and educational vocabulary games!  Easy to set up!  Easy to play!  And the best part?  Students are excited about learning vocabulary!  Oh, and there's an exclusive FREEBIE, too!

5 Favorite Behavior Management Techniques

Looking for simple and effective ways to positively manage students' behavior in your classroom?  Then, you'll love this set of my 5 favorite behavior management techniques!

As teachers, we're always on the hunt for behavior management techniques that work.  That's because we all know that if students aren't behaving, they're definitely not learning.  Today, I thought I'd share some techniques that have worked successfully in my classroom.  You can read all about them, or you can check out this FREE video where I explain them all:
I also have a ton of FREE bonus resources in the download for the video, so checking it out is totally worth your while!

Technique #1:  Behavior Chart

The first technique is one that I learned about when I was student teaching.  It's a BEHAVIOR CHART.  The set-up is easy.  You just place four different colored index cards behind a small card with each student's name in a pocket chart.  

Then, using the chart is even easier.  First, designate a consequence for each different card in the chart.  For instance, you'll likely have a warning card.  There's no consequence for that one. Then, you might designate the white card with a "write a letter about your behavior" consequence.  Then, the blue card might be "lunch detention." And the red card could be a "meeting."  If a student makes a poor choice that impedes his or her own learning or that of their classmates, just simply change the student's card in the chart.  It's a very simple and visual way to manage students' behavior.

If one of the consequences is "write a letter," you can just create a letter format for students to grab when they need to write to you.  I always saved students' letters just in case parents or administration had any questions about how students were behaving in class.  If you're looking for the letter format, you can find it in the download for the video.

Technique #2:  Behavior Cards

Another simple idea is BEHAVIOR CARDS.  They're just two sets of cards.  One is a "keep it up" card that acknowledges good behavior.  The other is a "stop" card that encourages students to make a better choice.  Make copies of each set of cards.  Then, after students know about the cards and how to act when they receive them, make it a habit to hand out "keep it up" cards all the time.  Then, if a student makes a poor choice, you can just stick a "stop" card on his or her desk.  When the student makes a better choice, just swap out the stop card with a keep it up card...and continue teaching.

Technique #3:  Positive Behavior Punch Card

Another behavior management technique that really works is the POSITIVE BEHAVIOR PUNCH CARD.  To implement these in your classroom, first make a set of the card (available for free here).  Then, give each student a punch card.  Explain to students that when they are following directions, working well at learning stations, completing their daily This or That Warm-Ups....or any other behavior that you want to see more of, you'll punch a hole in their behavior card.

Their goal is to earn 10 positive behavior hole punches.  These cards can be collected and redistributed each class period if you would like.  This system works because it focuses on positive behavior.

Once I had a few systems for managing students' behavior, I found that finding ways to recognize and/or reward students for doing the right thing was just as effective for improving students' behavior.

Technique #4:  Prize Cards

One idea is PRIZE CARDS.  Typically, I make about 25 cards. Ten of them have tangible rewards listed on them like pick your own seat, or skip one question on a test, or listen to music while you work and the other 15 cards have expressions of praise like “you’re a rock star,” or “you are so important to this class.” 

Then, after students meet a behavior goal whether it’s getting all the punches on their punch card, or earning 5 “keep it up cards,” or going an entire week without a card flip on the behavior chart they have a chance to pick a card from a bag or basket.  They might get a card with a compliment or an actual reward…this keeps the prizes random and fun.  I have a set of these in my classroom management resource, but they’re certainly something you can create on your own. 

Technique #5: Notes of Encouragement

Another way to recognize students is to write simple NOTES OF ENCOURAGEMENT to them.  I like to write "great news" notes to students.  These notes make it super simple to quickly write a note to your students.  Students will treasure your kinds words and work even harder to earn more.  You might want to keep a chart to record who you've already written notes to.  Find a set of notes HERE.

The ultimate goal of behavior management is to create an environment where all students can learn and feel successful.  Creating systems that are easy to implement, fair, consistent, and accentuate the positive have been game changers in my classroom.  I hope that you've found some ideas to help you and your students.  Don't forget to check out this video to learn more and download a bunch of classroom management freebies!

Thanks for stopping by,

Mary Beth

Looking for simple and effective ways to positively manage students' behavior in your classroom?  Then, you'll love this set of my 5 favorite behavior management techniques!

3 Fun Ways to Teach Irony

Have you ever been faced with a classroom full of blank or even confused faces when you ask students to find, discuss, or analyze the irony in a piece of literature?  I know I have!  Irony seems to be one of the concepts that students struggle with year-after-year.  That's why I thought it was time to develop some hands-on and engaging lessons to get students mastering situational, verbal, and dramatic irony!  I thought I'd share some of the ideas with you today. I hope they'll help your students get excited about irony, too!

IDEA #1:  Irony Hunt
Send students on a search for irony with this fun activity.  First, you'll need to create a set of irony cards. I've found 12 cards to be the perfect amount.  On some of the cards write down situations that are truly ironic.  Then, on other cards write about situations that are not ironic...maybe just bad luck.  Then, create a sheet where students can record whether or not each card contains irony. I like to include a section on the worksheet where they can explain their answer, too.

Next, place the cards around the room.  I copy two sets so that students can easily spread out while completing the activity.  For an extra fun challenge, you can actually hide the cards.  You could tape some under desks, behind the door, above the windows, or inside the class novel.  Of course, you don't actually need to hide them.  You can also put them in plain sight for students to easily find.  

Then, instruct students to find and read all 12 of the cards.  After they read each card have them note whether or not the situation is ironic. 

Students love this activity because it gets them out of their seats.  It's also a great way to get students thinking about irony.  

If you're looking for a set of cards already created for you and your students, you can find them in my Irony Mini-Unit resource.

IDEA #2:  Irony Flip Cards
Students love making simple irony flip cards.  All they need to do is fold a piece of paper in 3 sections lengthwise.  Then, have students label each section with a different type of irony:  situational, dramatic, and verbal.  Next, have students add a little piece of tape so that they create a flip card that they can rotate in response to irony clues that you read to them.  

Speaking of irony clues, you'll want to prepare at least 15 irony clues to read out loud to the class.  I like to keep them pretty short like: "There is an outbreak of roaches in a pest control office."  I also like to use examples from books or stories that we've studied.  For instance, since we read My Brother Sam is Dead in class, I might write one clue that says: "Mr. Meeker sympathized with the British, and then he died at the hands of his allies."

Make teaching about irony hands-on and fun!  Check out this activity where students make flip cards that they can use in response to irony clues that you read.  So engaging!

After students have their flip cards ready, and you have a set of clues, you're set to do the activity.  Just read the clues and have students flip their cards to display which type of irony is in each example.

As an extension, you could challenge students to write a few ironic situations themselves.  Then, they could read them to the class while their peers flip their cards.  

Don't worry, I have a set of clues and even a flip card that's ready for students in my irony mini-unit if you'd prefer to skip the prep and get right to the teaching.  

IDEA #3:  Irony Foldable
I've found that foldables are incredibly motivating for students.  Students get a little giddy when I bring out the scissors and glue sticks...and I can't blame them.  Hands-on activities are always the best!  That's why this final idea is always a hit with students.  

First prepare a set of shutter cards with the beginning of an ironic situation on one side of the shutter cards.  For instance, you might write, "Your team wins the championship and your couch says..."  Then, have students finish the situation on the other side of the shutter cards.  Students might write, "You guys should try much harder next time." 

Once students have written the ending for 3 ironic situations, have them cut apart the shutter shapes and glue them onto a piece of paper so that the shutters open in the middle.

Finally, have students explain why the situation is ironic under the shutter shapes.

The end result is a pure demonstration of students' understanding of irony.

There you have it, 3 easy and fun ways to teach irony.  The coolest part is that once students have completed these lessons, they actually retain their learning.  There's nothing better than hosting discussions about irony during the next literature unit.  No more blank or confused faces.  Just a whole lot of hands in the air!  

I hope you've found some ideas that might work in your classroom.  If you're looking for more, then this 3-Day Irony Mini-Unit might be what you need.  Not only are these activities ready for you and students, there's also a ton of instructional lessons.  Guided notes, reading passages, writing activities, and so much more!

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Mary Beth

Understanding irony is essential when studying literature...that's why lessons about irony are so important.  Here are 3 really simple and super fun ways to study irony.  Help students master situational, dramatic, and verbal irony with these fun irony lessons!

P.S.  You can find a ton more FUN literary devices mini-units in this bundle.  Just click HERE to learn more.

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