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Dedicated to Teachers

Integrating Poetry into a Busy Classroom

r para (17)

How can I fit poetry into my busy classroom schedule? And how do I even introduce poetry to students?

Awakening the Heart, 2e by Georgia Heard has inspired thousands of teachers to learn the power of infusing poetry into the everyday life of their classrooms, rather than relegating it to one month out of the year. And the brand new edition of this book offers updated strategies, lessons, mentor texts, and examples from both professional and student writers that resonate with today's kids. In this preview of the audiobook, we'll hear lots of practical tips for getting started with poetry routines and inspiration in your classroom.


All Heinemann Audiobooks on sale at Apple, Google Play, and Chirp for $4.99 from April 1 – July 31, 2024 


Learn more about our Audiobooks

Georgia Heard:

When they're building a daily schedule and trying to include poetry writing, teachers often ask, "Where and how do I fit it in?" A three week unit of study is a wonderful idea, but many feel they don't have the time. Reading and writing poetry from the first day of school can give students confidence to find their writing voices, introduce foundational lessons that they can use in both reading and writing in multiple genres, and help foster community. But you need not dedicate entire class periods to introducing it. You can incorporate poetry into various parts of the school day. You can integrate poetry into other literacy and instructional practices and make use of smaller pockets of time in between projects and activities to sneak in some poetry writing. Schedule blocks of time throughout the week for students to write poems independently with poetry partners or in small groups. Use some of the poetry writing invitations described in this chapter and in part two for inspiration.

Use poems in one-on-one and small group conferences to support craft moves as students write poems, but also write in multiple genres. During writing mini lessons, use poems to teach craft moves for poems, but also for multiple genres. Invite students to write poems to give as a gift to someone in the class. Invite students to keep poetry notebooks where they write their own poems, keep poems they love and respond to poems throughout the school year. Make time once a week for writing poetry stations. Include poetry in cross curriculum work, having students write poems on themes and topics in content area studies. Write collaborative poems and writing workshop to build community. Include writing poems and making podcasts and videos of poems in maker spaces. Write interactive poems to teach poetic process and craft moves. Include writing poems and writing clubs around various themes, including social issues. In addition to the ideas above, plan week-long mini units of study throughout the year focusing on a variety of writing poetry strategies or a more extended two to three week unit.

Writing poems from the world around us.

Years ago when my young son and I walked around our neighborhood, we played a game, pretending that we had just landed on Earth from another planet. We would try to see the world as if for the first time. How would someone from another world see that magnificent umbrella like tree over there, with its black bone trunk and roots anchoring it to the ground? What would they think about those bright pink hibiscus flowers, like little opened palms facing up to the sky? How would someone from another planet experience wind? This invisible force that blows our hair and stirs the leaves in hushed whispers. What would they think of the faces in the crowds of people walking hurriedly down Columbus Avenue while lugging grocery bags? There was pure joy in this little game we played as we walked along, looking at the world.

Julia Alvarez writes, "For me, the writing life doesn't just happen when I sit at the writing desk. It is a life lived with a centering principle, and mine is this, that I will pay close attention to this world I find myself in." A poet's job is to keep that open-mindedness to translate what we see, hear, taste, and touch into words and metaphors. A cloudy day becomes a sky wrinkled in elephant gray. Dragonfly wings are stained glass windows with sun shining through. And bullfrogs echo in the air like banjo songs. Being a poet is about looking at the ordinary and every day, the sky, a grass blade, raindrops on a puddle, a fire hydrant, a safety pin, and finding poetry inside. That's how a poem changes and transforms the world.

Looking at the world with poet's eyes.

Poets are always on the lookout for poem opportunities, which can come from a memory, a word, a snippet of conversation, an observation. Anything can be the topic of a poem. Invite your students to take a minute to curl up their fists, leaving a small hole in the middle and put them up to their eyes. These will be their poet's eyes. Invite your students to look around the room with poet's eyes and find poetry. They might look out a window at a tree or tops of buildings. They might look at something up close like their hands or an object in the room, such as a pencil sharpener or a stapler. As they do, they can consider these questions. What small details do you notice? Where's the poetry in this ordinary object? What fascinates you about what you see? What sounds do you hear? What textures do you feel? Compare what you're observing with something else and make an imaginative leap, a metaphor or simile. Some teachers even create poet's glasses out of cardboard for young poets to look at the world with a poet's lenses.

Where do you find poetry?

To introduce poetry writing, you might start by reading my 2007 poem, Where Do I Find Poetry? Afterward, ask each student to contribute an idea, one specific place where they find poetry, to a chart. Encourage them to be as specific as possible. You might then have your students work independently and write their own list of where they find poetry in their poetry notebook. This list can serve as inspiration for their future poems and can also be transformed into a list poem about where the class finds poetry or individual poems.

Where do I find poetry? I open my eyes and what do I see? Poetry spinning all around me. In small ants trailing over the ground, bulldozing dry Earth into cave and mound. In 100 grains of ocean sand, that I cradle in the palm of my hand. In a lullaby of April rain, tapping softly on my window pane. In trees dancing on a windy day, when sky is wrinkled and elephant gray. Poetry, poetry. Can be found in, out and all around. But take a look inside your heart, that's where a poem truly likes to start.

Poetry paper for our youngest poets.

In my poetry work with young poets, typically up until about third grade, I introduce a special tool called Poetry Paper. This paper is cut into long, narrow strips and resembles the shape of a poem. As I present the poetry paper to students, I explain the purpose behind using it and show how it mirrors the shape of many poems. This different medium from their usual story paper opens a gateway to writing poems.



To learn more about the second edition of Awakening the Heart, visit blog.heinemann.com and look out for the full audiobook version this fall. Thanks for tuning in today.



Georgia Heard has taught writing and poetry for over 25 years in urban, rural, and international classrooms.  She was the 2023 recipient of NCTE’s prestigious Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children.  Her numerous other books for teachers include Heart Maps, The Revision Toolbox, and Finding the Heart of Nonfiction.  The first edition of Awakening the Heart was heralded as one of “12 Books Every Teacher Should Read” by Instructor Magazine.  Georgia Heard received her M.F.A. in poetry from Columbia University and was a founding member of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.

In addition to her Heinemann professional books, Georgia is the coauthor of the professional titles Poetry Lessons to Meet the Common Core Standards and A Place for Wonder, as well as children’s literature such as Falling Down the Page: A Book of List Poems.

Topics: Podcast, Georgia Heard, Heinemann Podcast, Audiobooks, Awakening the Heart, podcasts

Date Published: 06/24/24

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