April is National Poetry Month!

Poetry…the one genre that usually inspires a collective groan from my students, especially the boys! And sometimes, I just can’t blame them. As teachers, we often use boring poems that were written hundreds of years ago with vocabulary that no one uses anymore. Why do we do that??? There are SO MANY wonderful poets today who write poetry intended just for young students. As an elementary teacher-turned-librarian,  I get giddy when April comes around because I know how fun poetry can be and how many opinions I can change during my poetry unit.

I always begin with a lesson on how freeing poetry can be…it’s an opportunity to write without having to follow rules! We all know how students love a chance to break the rules. I further explain by reminding them that when we write a sentence, we always begin with a capital, end with punctuation, and we must include a noun and verb. Our stories must have a beginning, middle, and end that flow together cohesively. Poems don’t HAVE to have any of these! I demonstrate by walking over the window, observing for a few moments, and then coming back to my anchor chart pad and writing a poem. I don’t say anything…I just write. Students are a little confused at first, but then it dawns on them that I really can just write the way I want to when I write poetry!

spring poem picture for blog

Of course, as we learn more about how to write different types of poetry, there are “rules” students must follow (such as how to write a haiku or a limerick), but I let them enjoy their freedom for as long as possible! Another freeing thing about the poem that I wrote is that the words do not have to rhyme. Oh the tears I have witnessed through the years over rhyming words! Some students LOVE to rhyme while others HATE it. There is room for all of us at the poetry table! Empower your students to write poetry by assuring them that their poems do not have to rhyme. You will be amazed by the change in the way they approach poetry writing!

I use this unit on the elements of poetry for most of my unit. I also spend a great deal of time reading poetry aloud to students, and allowing them time to explore different poets.

pinterest pin for elements of poetry


What are your favorite poetry resources? Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

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Everyone loves a mystery!

As a classroom teacher, I never focused on the mystery genre much. Oh sure, I would introduce different series to my students when we added new books to our classroom library, but I never truly engaged them by teaching them all about mysteries. What a mistake! Now that I am in the school library as a media specialist, I can see how much students of all ages absolutely devour mysteries! As a reader, I myself love getting wrapped up in a great mystery. So why do teachers neglect the mystery genre? Perhaps it is the lack of quality resources out there to guide us along. Or maybe it is because there isn’t a separate standard on the end-of-year test that measures a student’s mastery of the mystery genre. No matter the reason, I think all teachers should strive to include a mystery genre unit in your ELA instruction. Mysteries are such a versatile genre, because they can also be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, science fiction, historical fiction and more.

As I looked for resources to teach my upper elementary students (grades 3 – 5) about mysteries, I was somewhat disappointed by what I found. It was easy to find lots of cute lessons featuring detective clip art, but I needed something more “meaty”. So I created my own unit.

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I based the lessons and activities on our state standards as well as the AASL standards that guide my instruction in my library/media center. To introduce our mystery genre study,  we began with a discussion of what a “mystery” is. Since this can be a multiple-meaning word, I like to see what they already know and go from there. While many students mentioned Scooby Doo and Cam Jansen, others immediately thought of UFOs or unexplained paranormal events that they have read about or seen on tv. Some recognized the genre title from Netflix while others had amazing personal insight such as, “My mama says it’s a mystery how my daddy keeps a job since he is so lazy!” I didn’t EVEN go there! 🙂 Following our conversation, I shared The Case of the Broken Vase on Youtube with them. It was a great way for them to visualize many of the elements of a mystery, plus the detective is ADORABLE!  Following this, I taught the essential vocabulary for the mystery genre using a PowerPoint that I created. I love teaching vocabulary using real-life photographs because students are such visual learners. Once I taught the vocabulary, we returned our focus to the Case of the Broken Vase and as a group, we completed our Detective Case Report on it. They loved this, and I felt like it was a great way to really help them acquire the new vocabulary.

detective case report

Following this activity, I selected several mysteries to do short “book talks” on to hook my readers, and it truly worked! On my shelf tops, I had already displayed lots of mysteries that would appeal to a wide variety of students on many different reading levels. The students couldn’t wait to check out the mysteries!

The unit that I created features so many more engaging activities for teaching the mystery genre, as well as detailed lesson plans, a teaching PowerPoint, assessment activities, interactive notebook resources, and more. Click here to learn more.

I’d love to hear what you do in your classroom or library to teach the mystery genre! Thanks so much for stopping by!

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