How to Promote a Love of Poetry in Upper Elementary

It seems like every reading curriculum I’ve used over the years never has enough “meat” to the poetry unit. Some curriculums didn’t even include poetry at all!  In contrast, I’ve found that poetry has made its way onto almost every standardized test we’ve taken over the years.  So, what’s a teacher to do when she/he doesn’t have enough resources to teach these important poetry skills?  If you’ve found yourself in the same boat, here’s how to create a love of poetry with your upper elementary students! 

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Start with a Poetry Performance (You first, teacher!) 

My favorite way to engage students with poetry is to begin the unit with performance.  I start first, of course!  I grab the tried and true poetry books in my classroom and read a few of my favorites with the most exaggerated expression and rhythm.  I always start with Jack Prelutsky’s “A Pizza the Size of the Sun” and Shel Silverstein’s “Where the Sidewalk Ends.” I start with these two classics because most students have at least heard of them before, and some have even read them!  After my dramatic reading, I provide several poetry books to my students. (I raid my school’s library, but I’ve also ordered poetry book sets with the Scholastic points I’ve earned over the years. I always try to get several copies of each!)  From here, I let students pick a poem from one of the books that they’d like to read aloud to the class. Then, I give them about 15 minutes to practice.  These performances take about an hour, and they can get pretty silly. I don’t mind, though. This type of engagement is vital to gaining buy-in for this unit and creating fun memories in our classroom. 

Teach Why a Poem is a Poem 

Now that we’ve heard several poems, most of which rhyme, I share these two “Elements of Poetry” pages with students.  We glued them into our Reader’s Notebooks, and we took a look at what attributes poems have.  I take a minute to review poems from the previous day with students after completing this activity.  Together, we determine if these poems contain the Elements of Poetry listed within our readers’ notebooks. (Spoiler Alert: They do.)  Elements of Poetry, Drama, and Prose for 3rd - 5th grades

Mentor Texts 

One of my favorite ways to introduce any reading unit is to use mentor texts.  For this, I like to pull picture books that are poetically written.  Here are a few of my favorites:  Mirror, Mirror  Feel the Beat  Thunder Underground  Thunder Underground Mentor Text For the complete list, click here!

Different Types of Poetry 

At this point, students have picked up on the fact that poems aren’t always required to rhyme. This is when I introduce different types of poetry.  I find that this day tends to engage the kids who are still on the fence about poetry.  I introduce nine different types of poetry, and there really is something for everyone here.  Here’s the order I go in: 

  • Pyramid Poems 
  • Five Senses Poems 
  • Acrostic Poems 
  • Cinquain Poems 
  • Number Poems 
  • Haikus 
  • Alliterative Poems 
  • Shape Poems 
  • Triplet Poems 

I introduce a few each day. Then, after I share the type of poem and read the students an example or two, we write our own version of each type of poem on the whiteboard together. It’s a fun, collaborative effort!  We record these poem examples in our reader’s notebooks, although they could easily go in the writer’s notebooks as well. 

Create a Flipbook 

Once our reader’s notebooks are full of all nine types of poems, each student creates their version of each kind of poem.  To ensure that these are taken seriously, I share with students that we will be creating a poetry flipbook and that these items WILL be on display. (Wink, wink – do it right, kids!)  Even my most reluctant readers and writers are usually excited to create their very own poetry book. After all, poetry is easily approachable and isn’t as intimidating as prose.  In the past, we’ve created paper versions of our flipbooks that are coveted by kids and parents alike!  However, after going digital a few years back, I also provide students with the opportunity to create a digital version if they so wish. (I also use the digital version for any eLearning students or those who will miss several school days during this unit. So convenient to have both options!)  Take a peek at the print and digital versions!    Poetry Flipbook Digital 

Allow and Encourage Poetry Illustration 

This is a hill I’m willing to die on. I believe that when kids can display their personality through art and tie that art to literacy, they are most engaged. Allowing students to immerse themselves creatively in this project activates both the left and right brain. This is true learning!  This is why each of the nine poems created by students receives a paired drawing. Importantly, this process turns kids into an author AND an illustrator.  Does this take a ton of time? You bet.  Does it make a huge difference and allow students to build a love of poetry? Absolutely! 


  • Start at the beginning of the school year 
  • Spiral ALWAYS 
  • Don’t cram


Elements of Poetry, Drama, and Prose - The Teacher Next Door    

Click here to take a look at digital reading units for each grade level, from 3rd – 5th:

3rd Grade

Digital Reading Unit Elements of Poetry, Drama, and Prose 3rd

4th Grade

Digital Reading Unit 4th Grade Elements of Poetry, Drama, and Prose

5th Grade

5th Grade Digital Reading Unit Fiction Elements of Poetry,



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