When I taught second grade, my students and I played with poetry nearly every day. The poem, 'O Sliver of Liver,' was learned in one quick session - and practiced frequently so that all the children would have it on the tips of their tongues the next time liver was served at their houses. (I even had children who asked their parents to serve liver - just so they could use the poem!) Poetry is fun and useful! In this article you'll learn about the 4 main categories of volumes of poetry along with examples of each.
O Sliver of Liver (by Myra Cohn Livingston)
O sliver of liver,
Get lost! Go away!
You tremble and quiver
O sliver of liver--
You set me a shiver
And spoil my day--
O sliver of liver,
Get lost! Go away! (Livingston, 1979, p. 22)
When I taught second grade, my students and I played with poetry nearly every day. The poem, 'O Sliver of Liver,' was learned in one quick session--and practiced frequently so that all the children would have it on the tips of their tongues the next time liver was served at their house. (I even had children who asked their parents to serve liver--just so they could use the poem!) Poetry is fun and useful!
For too many of us, we had little experience with poetry as elementary school children and then had negative experiences with poetry as junior high and high school students. Unfortunately, as a result, now that we are teachers, we eschew poetry in favor of other types of literature. In this article, I will offer information about poetry as well as ideas for how to teach children about poetry while also allowing them to enjoy poetry.
There is a wealth of poetry for children available today. Basically, these volumes of poetry fall into four categories (Hopkins, in Rudman, 1993):
- Single Collections, which are books of poems written by an individual poet; for example: Valerie Worth's All the Small Poems and Jack Prelutsky's Ride a Purple Pelican.
- General Collections, which are books put together by an anthologist to highlight a variety of topics. For example, To Look at Any Thing edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins and The Place My Words Are Looking For selected by Paul B. Janeczko.
- Specific Collections, which are compiled by an anthologist, focusing on one theme, bringing together the works of many different poets. Myra Cohn Livingston's are among the best of this type, e.g., Why Am I Grown So Cold: Poems of the Unknowable.
- Poetry Picture Books, which feature one poem by an individual poet, illustrated throughout by one artist. For example, Casey at the Bat, illustrated by Patricia Polacco and Nancy Willard's The Voyage of the Ludgate Hill: Travels with Robert Louis Stevenson, illustrated by Alice and Martin Provensen.
Prior to launching into a unit on poetry, the four categories listed above could be displayed on a bulletin board. Children could be challenged to find as many books as possible that fit into each category. The resulting collection will then serve members of the class throughout the unit of study.
Just as the books listed above are 'older' books, your students will find many older books, too. Poetry doesn't 'age' as fast as some other types of literature, so your school's library is likely to have poetry books that have this year's copyright date as well as ones that date back to the 1960's - and all of them will have potential value for reading and enjoying.
Bibliographic info on the books mentioned above:
- Hopkins, Lee Bennett (Ed). (1978). To Look at Any Thing. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
- Janeczko, Paul B. (Ed). (1990). The Place My Words Are Looking For, New York: Bradbury Press.
- Livingston, Myra Cohn. (1979). O sliver of liver and other poems. New York: Atheneum.
- Livingston, Myra Cohn (Ed). (1982). Why Am I Grown So Cold? Poems of the Unknowable. New York: Atheneum.
- Polacco, Patricia. (1988). Ernest Lawrence Thayer's Casey at the Bat: A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons.
- Prelutsky, Jack. (1986). Ride a Purple Pelican. New York: Greenwillow Books.
- Rudman (1993). Children's Literature: Resources for the Classroom. Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon.
- Willard, Nancy. (1987). The Voyage of the Ludgate Hill: Travels with Robert Louis Stevenson, San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
- Worth, Valerie. (1987). All the Small Poems. New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux.
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