At its best, poetry can be the most wonderful form of writing for capturing an idea or distilling an emotion into its purest essence. At its worst, however, it can be the lexical equivalent of scraping fingernails down a blackboard. Have you seen what passes for verse inside commercially mass-produced greetings cards?
So, on the face of it, inflicting poetry on KS2 pupils and teachers can seem like a matter for human rights lawyers.
But if that description strikes a chord with you, take a moment to breathe. No one is expecting a child to create publishable poetry. In fact, it can be an excellent opportunity for each student simply to enjoy playing with words and exploring the endless possibilities of figurative language, each rhyme scheme, rhyming couplets, personification, imagery, simile, metaphor and more.
You never know, you might even enjoy it.
Creating positive attitudes to the poetic form
First, you need to expose your pupils to quality poetry. You don’t need to be an expert – provided it’s been included in a published anthology, you can confidently assume that it has merit. In fact, this might be a good opportunity to double-check that your school does have a decent supply of poetry books and, if not, do something about it.
Whether it’s part of a poetry guided reading session or you are introducing it to the whole class, do everything you can to whip-up enthusiasm for the examples you share with them. Read with joy and expression. Ask questions. Start discussions. Invite debate. And don’t be afraid to show when you don’t know or perhaps have learned something from a pupil’s observations. You want them to feel that poetry appreciation is often a very personal thing and all (sensible) opinions are welcome.
Classic poems lesson plan
Introducing pupils to classic texts is, of course, a requirement these days. But that doesn’t mean it has to feel like a chore. Embrace classic poems, especially if you have had limited exposure to them thus far. There is often a very good reason why it has endured.
Amongst the various poetry resources we offer, we have a number of poetry comprehension packs that examine classics such as the works of Robert Louis Stevenson. For example, is there anything better than From a Railway Carriage for illustrating the possibilities of rhythm and rhyme in poetry?
Performance poetry lesson
Poetry is not just about reading the words on the page quietly in your head. It has an important role to play in helping pupils to develop their speaking and listening skills. Use your poetry lessons as a chance to explore performance poetry. It is well worth watching some examples if you can find them online. (Just make sure you’ve watched them on your own beforehand!)
Once your pupils have got the idea, give them time to rehearse a performance of their own. Encourage them to think carefully about pauses and which words to emphasise, using text-marking methods if necessary.
Features of a poem KS2
Use both your guided reading and your performance sessions to take a good look at the features of the poems you’re studying. Rhyming patterns are an obvious one that children should be able to latch on to pretty quickly. Nevertheless, there are plenty of others to delve into as well. Is there a rhythm structure and, if so, how does this contribute to the effectiveness of the poem? Is there any pattern to the verses, such as repeated lines. Have any other sound effects been used such as alliteration or assonance. Should your class need any extra help with understanding assonance, we offer a handy challenge mat with which they can practise using it themselves.
Poetic vocabulary for KS2 children
But for all the many ways with which we can play with language, the most important aspect of poetry is the words themselves. Poetry is an excellent vehicle for enriching vocabulary whether it’s learning new words or making better use of the ones we already know.
While you are sharing poems with the class, take time to check that they really understand what each word means. Don’t just assume they do because you could be in for a big surprise. Take a few moments to pick unfamiliar words apart – perhaps by examining their constituent elements such as roots, prefixes and suffixes – as this may give them a head start in understanding other, linked words later on. Most importantly, encourage them to use these words in their own efforts to show that they really have learned how to use them.
Types of poems KS2
There is a bewilderingly wide range of styles in the world of poetry, from highly structured forms to some like free verse that follow no rules whatsoever. At this age, it is probably best to give your pupils a style to follow rather than allow them to experiment with anything as unconstrained as freeform. Limericks, for example, are always good fun and we offer a set of bright and engaging worksheets to help pupils really get to grips with this form.
An acrostic poem will also be very accessible and they are particularly good when writing creatively about deeper issues. In fact, we have a resource pack for that as well which focuses on helping pupils to compose pieces that deal with feelings and emotions.
William Shakespeare sonnets teaching resource
If any poet deserves a section to himself, it’s Shakespeare. Given his amazing output as a playwright, it’s easy to forget that he also wrote 154 sonnets – poems with 14 lines and, typically, ten syllables to a line. While you might not expect your class to match Shakespeare’s extraordinary linguistic dexterity and invention, there’s no reason why the older ones at least couldn’t attempt a sonnet or two themselves. To set them on the right path, you could use our poetry resource designed to help pupils study two of his most famous sonnets and compose their own versions.
And if, despite all this help, inspiration and advice, your pupils’ poems never quite hit the mark, don’t worry; few people ever get to write a half-decent poem in their lives. It could be one of those occasions where the journey is more worthwhile than the destination.