How to Teach Poem of the Week with Rigor

Do you teach emergent readers? Do you do Poem of the Week? Are you tired of singing and not getting a lot from it? Do you need more rigor to your lessons? If you've answered yes to any of these questions, you've come to the right place. If you don't have a Poem of the Week, you should!

Why Poem of the Week?

Poem of the Week works well for a couple of reasons. 1. Consistency. Every week my class knows the routine so we get right to the learning and maximize our mini-lesson time. 2. Easy to differentiate. My lowest learners are making print to text connections at the same time my higher learners are learning multi-syllabic words, all with the same shared text. 3. Easy to align with standards. Did you teach SOL Hist K.1 or 1.2 for President's Day last week? If you used a president themed poem, boom, easy integration with literacy. You can write the weekly poem on chart paper, laminate, and use every year or project it on a white board or Smartboard and use fun markers to highlight the words.

Ok , so I've got my Poem of the Week, but they just memorize the text. It's OK to memorize text at this stage, they are called emergent readers for a reason. Memorizing text is a scaffold to how they will become successful, but we need to push and instruct them farther. This is when you kick up the rigor.

Memorized Text and Rigor Too?

After we've learned the poem (memorizing for some, reading for others) we use the text for our lessons all week. We have 2-3 weekly sight words we focus on and learn them IN CONTEXT. If we want them to identify these words when they are reading, we need to teach sight words in context of reading, not just isolation.

Another day's lesson we would use fun highlighters to find our sight words and continue tracking with one to one correspondence (touching only 1 word for mutli-syllablic words). We record the number of times read on the bottom of our poem (it's ten blocks to throw some math in there!)

ABC Order and Syllable Count

A favorite of the kids and mine is syllable count. Teaching that we only point once for words with more than one syllable helps to develop their concept of word to and track correctly. After we sorted the selected words from the poem, we would always clap out "multi-syllablic" because it's just an awesome word.
But let's not stop there, to build on our concept of word in isolation we also sort words from the poem in ABC order. For my lowest kids, it is practice with letter identification and for my higher kids they are connecting words in isolation back to the familiar reading. Each week we discuss you don't have to start back at A each time, just go to the letter where you last stopped. We the year progresses, I include words that start with the same letter to discuss ABC order to the 2nd or even 3rd letter. If you teach it, they CAN do it!

Literacy Station Work

Below are examples of independent literacy station work.

Cloze Writing and Re-Build It

Other activities that take Poem of the Week from just singing time on the rug to reading skills is cloze writing where students fill-in the missing word. I use options for boxed letters or handwriting lines depending on their abilities (just double side copy them and tell kid 1 to use the boxes and kid 2 to use the lines, easy differentiation).

I'm not expecting perfect spelling from Kindergarteners, but give them an opportunity and you'll be surprised at what they can do. Another fun activity is Re-Build It when we scramble the poem and put it back together. If your kids aren't ready for this, you could color code the lines for assistance. Below are more examples of student work from literacy stations.

Poem of the Week Resources

If you're interested in poems you can use in your Kindergarten or 1st grade classroom, you can see my Poetry products here. Try it out for week for free here. Please comment and share how you're going to beef up your whole group reading time with some of these ideas.
Thanks for letting me share my passion of early literacy with you today. I taught 1st and Kindergarten for 7 years here in Virginia. I'll be sharing monthly ideas for your youngest learners. For even more fun, you can follow me on Instagram here for a snapshot into my current 3rd grade classroom.

1 comment

  1. We use a poem in my classroom as well, but obviously work on some different skills since I teach preschoolers. We learn the poem/song. Kids who learn it mostly memorize it, but we are working on learning that we read from left to right and go back to the left on the next line. We also pick out specific letters from the poem. For example, we are using Hickory, Dickory, Dock and will be looking for the letter "k" in it. The kids love using the pointer. I have a couple who are reading who will use the pointer on their own time to read the poem for other classmates. Makes me smile.