Using the State Curriculum: Reading/ELA, Grade 2
Lesson Seeds: The lesson seeds are ideas for the indicator/objective that can be used to build a lesson. Lesson seeds are not meant to be all-inclusive, nor are they substitutes for instruction.
Standard 3.0 Comprehension of Literary Text
Indicator 4. Use elements of poetry to facilitate understanding
Objective b. Analyze the meaning of words, lines and stanzas
Explain that poems are written to express emotions or share ideas in a very few words. Poets choose their words very carefully in order to create a mental image or meaning to the reader. Use this poem by Nikki Grimes from A Pocketful of Poems to open the discussion about meaning of poems:
What is a good poem?
Primary readers are often attracted to poems because of their rhyme and rhythm. Getting them to see beyond the sound elements and to explore meaning requires careful selection by the teacher. The teacher needs to select poems that the students will be able to connect to in order to understand the complexities of the language.
Select a poem that will connect to your students. Students are familiar with the poems by Jack Prelutsky and Shel Silverstein. Bruce Lansky has several anthologies that attract the primary reader, such as If Kids Ruled the School: More Kids’ Favorite Funny School Poems and Mary Had a Little Jam and Other Silly Rhymes. The internet has several student friendly poetry sites including www.gigglepoetry.com by Bruce Lansky. Joe Thompson is a Maryland poet who also has many child friendly poems on his website www.imaginesongs.com. Display an enlarged version of the selected poem and read it aloud. For example, you could read “Turtle Race” by Joe Thompson.
I stayed for many hours
But I learned a real lesson
This rhyming poem is a good selection to begin discussing meaning because most students have experience or knowledge of the slowness of a turtle and the language is light and fun. After reading the poem, talk about the meaning that the poet suggests in each stanza of the poem. The poet’s message is right on the surface and provides a good model for showing how the meaning of each of the stanzas relates to the other to bring overall understanding to the poem.
Continue the discussion by looking at another of Joe Thompson’s silly poems. Read it aloud to the students and then chorally read it in two parts having some of the students read Sarah Jean’s words and the others read the rest.
Hand in the air
Whether the question is four times five
I like Sarah Jean but I worry,
Ask the students what kind of an image they got in their head when they read the poem. Ask if they ever act like Sarah Jean or if anyone they know acts that way. Divide the class into thirds. Have pairs in each of the three larger groups write the meaning of one of the stanzas in their own words. Have students share their responses. Discuss how the meaning of each of the stanzas leads to an overall understanding of the poem. Again this poem is light and entertaining and the meaning should be easily reached by the students. Make sure that in the second stanza the students have picked up on the use of quotations the first time in the teacher’s question and the second time in Sarah Jeans actions. Discuss the feelings that the speaker has about Sarah Jean in the 3rd stanza.
Select a third poem that has a deeper meaning. For example, you could use the poem “Kind Words” by Henry W. Longfellow.
Take care of the gardens,
Read a displayed copy of the poem aloud. Have your students read it with you. Discuss the structural elements of the poem. Explain to the students that this poem was written almost 200 years ago by a very famous poet. In this poem the author expresses his ideas about kind words by comparing them to a garden. Often poets use comparison in poems to help us understand how they feel about a topic. Examine the first stanza of this poem line by line with the students.
Help the children express that in this stanza the poet is helping us to understand that a kind person begins with kind thoughts and helps spread the kindness to others through the things they say and do.
Continue into the second stanza by having the students assist with the line by line analysis. Ask the students what they think may be the “weeds” that the poet is warning us about in the 6th line of the poem. Discuss how understanding the first stanza is crucial to understanding and enjoying the second stanza. Help students to understand the analogy of the garden to human kindness.
Choose other simple poems that are within the conceptual grasp of your students to analyze meaning. Point out significant words, analyze line by line and stanza by stanza so students can begin to see the symbolism that gives poems their deeper meaning.
Place a variety of poetry anthologies in your classroom library. Choose collections that are silly as well as collections that will provoke thought. The Random House Book of Poetry for Children edited by Jack Prelutsky has a nice variety of child friendly classics and popular modern poets.