- Friday, November 22, 2013
“I think that I shall never see / a poem as lovely as a tree.” So begins the immortal poem “Trees,” written by Joyce Kilmer. Memorization of this poem in second grade ignited a love of poetry in me that exists to this day. That second-grade poetry project consisted of compiling an anthology of poems, illustrating them, and choosing one to perform in front of the class. The total time allotted for the project was only a few weeks, but the fruits have lasted a lifetime. A love of poetry instilled in students is a gift that they will always treasure.
For many homeschoolers, the study of poetry remains a daunting task that often gets pushed to the bottom of the lesson plans. However, including poetry in those plans is an achievable goal. Poetry adds an exciting dimension to school life! Many questions pop up regarding this overlooked topic, including these: “Why teach poetry?” “How do I teach poetry?” and “How can I make it interesting?”
But I’m Too Busy for Poetry!
Covering the “basics” as homeschoolers takes time, energy, and effort. Deciding which “extras” to include can be an overwhelming endeavor, but poetry is one of the extras that should be placed at the top of the list. Poetry enhances the literary experience and adds a new dimension by merging pictures, words, and sounds to create a masterpiece. Poetry commences the listening and literary life of a child. Some of the first sounds a baby hears are the lyrical notes of Mother Goose, the beautiful harmonics of the lullaby, and the semantic rhythm of Biblical verse. By including poetry in our studies, we continue to cultivate and feed that literary bud within our children.
Poetry also awakens the imagination and helps us to see the world in a new way. Poets are artists who help us visualize and hear what we otherwise might have missed. Poems merge the worlds of art and music like no other medium. The beautiful pictures painted by the poet’s words expand and deepen our children’s imaginations and creativity. By encouraging growth in these areas, we sharpen our children’s wits and exercise these pathways in their brains.
Every civilization throughout history has utilized poetry to express emotion and ideas. Throughout the centuries, poets have asked the major questions in life. By connecting our students with these great minds, they connect, on a personal level, with poets who have had the same struggles, battles, and triumphs that we experience today. Teaching our students the historical value of poetry helps them appreciate the rich heritage of this art form.
Poetry often reflects the beauty of God. It can encourage us to know God better, love Him more, and walk in His ways. Poetry often reveals an aspect of God’s character. Augustine said, “In every poem there is some of the substance of God.” Robert Browning acknowledged this when he stated, “God is the perfect poet.” We can use poetry to appreciate the majestic characteristics of our Creator.
Can Poetry Be Entertaining?
Poetry can be entertaining—when approached with the right attitude. You can teach poetry, regardless of your educational background, past experience, or knowledge of the topic. All you need is a willingness to try. With a few simple steps you can enjoy studying poetry with your children! Here are three helpful tips to equip you to succeed:
1. Start early. By reading, singing, and reciting poetry to young children, you begin to cultivate and instill a love of the lyrical language in the novice ear of the child. Lullabies soothe the soul, Mother Goose rhymes reinforce the ability to put words together, and Dr. Seuss teaches us that poetry can be humorous.
2. When teaching poetry to the very young, read aloud with feeling and emphasis, stress the rhyming words and the visual imagery evoked by the vocabulary. Use poetry as a springboard to learn about other topics. For example “Forgiven” by A. A. Milne is a wonderful story about a beetle. Read and recite these verses several times. Use this poem as a starting point to learn about beetles, and then branch into learning about other insects.
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