At last November’s NCTE Annual Convention, the Children’s Literature Assembly (CLA) master class focused on the topic of poetry across the curriculum. Follow that poem with “Compliment Chain” by Mary Lee Hahn to create a culture of positive and affirming behavior. Using poetry to introduce a science or math lesson is an especially effective technique; introducing unfamiliar vocabulary and concepts in a poem gives students added confidence when they encounter the same vocabulary and concepts later.
The readability level of poems varies greatly since poetry doesn’t easily fit the use of Lexiles and levels. The opposite is true, too: you can find many poems, like the Spinelli, Hahn, and Salinger poems above, that present high-level content that will be readable and engaging at all grade levels.
Eileen Spinelli’s “Poem for a Bully” (mentioned above), when paired with Guadalupe Garcia McCall’s poem “The Bully” and Jacqueline Jules’s “Embarrassed,” can provide rich classroom conversations on the point of view of the speakers, the use of figurative language, and comparison and contrast on the theme of bullying.


In each of the three CCSS writing units—narrative, informational, and opinion—students can be invited to write poetry along with longer pieces. Eileen Spinelli’s poem “Poem for a Bully” from The Poetry Friday Anthology, for instance, delivers an anti-bullying message while putting the emphasis on the positive action of kindness.
Play this video of “Gear” by former engineer Michael Salinger, and you will give your students a head start in science discussions of force and motion as well as math discussions of ratios. Simple poems can have very sophisticated vocabulary and long poems can use simple language.
One favorite with middle school students is Linda Kulp Trout’s “Silence” from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School, an NCTE Notable Poetry Book. By choosing poems of varying complexity, instruction is automatically differentiated for different students.


YES re poetry reaching boy writers, struggling writers, and all writers as a “quick write warm-up”! In the handouts, you will find ready-to-share exemplar poems about math, science, social studies, the arts, and PE and sports. Because the books in The Poetry Friday Anthology series (K–5 and Middle School) are organized by topic across grade levels, they are valuable resources for choosing poems. Poetry that is informed by facts about the natural world can be found in the books of Joyce Sidman (her newest is Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold), and opinion poems can be found in any poem that professes to tell about the best or worst of anything!



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