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Poetry and Fluency

Last week I found myself with an unexpected large chunk of time to fill. You know how it goes! I had the idea to for the kids to get out their poetry binders (we add a new poem each week), choose a favorite, design a paper bag puppet to go along with it, and then have the puppet perform the poem. So we got art, fluency, poetry, and drama all in one! And it kept them busy for quite a while!!

Our school has been focusing a lot on fluency this year since we’re now doing DIBELS. 🙁 I don’t think that speed reading is the best measure of fluent reading (let alone comprehension!), but it is nice to have another assessment of the students’ abilities. If you’re looking for a broader explanation of fluency and how it impacts students, you can read Tim Rasinksi’s thoughts here. He’s a former member of the board of directors for the International Reading Association and a great speaker if you ever get the chance to hear him.

If you’re looking for more fluency helps, you can find parent tips here. Some sight word acquisition helps are here (you can’t read fluently if you can’t recognize the words!).

Poetry is well suited to helping students become fluent readers. First off, poems are typically short so you don’t have to worry about boring the little dears. Also, poems offer wide experiences with expression. One of my students’ favorite activities is choosing the most important word in each line and subtly adding stress to that word when reading the poem. You have to be clear about the subtle part because they love being dramatic! With poems you can also do choral reading, echo reading, readers theater, etc. You can usually find poems to tie in with any theme, even science!

Jack Prelutsky and Shel Silverstein are always kid favorites, but some other FABULOUS children’s poets are: Helen H. Moore, Myra Cohn Livingston, Lillian Moore, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Aileen Fisher, Jane Yolen, A.A. Milne, Sandra Liatsos, Douglas Florian

Here are three poems that seem appropriate for the icy sidewalks that are keeping me home today.

In Winter I’m Rounder by Sandra Liatsos

In winter I’m rounder
and fatter than before.
I’m wearing coats and sweaters
and woolen hats galore.
My hands are as plump as kittens
when I’m wearing winter mittens.
My legs in thick, snug snow pants
look like an elephant’s.
Indeed, I must confess
that when I do undress,
I feel as small and light
as a bird flown out of sight.

Icicles by Douglas Florian (from his book)

Icicles are winter's fingers.

Icicles are winter’s fingers

That form where freezing water lingers.

Icicles are winter’s arrows

pointing out the crows and sparrows.

Icicles are dragon’s teeth

They don’t grow up

They drip beneath.

In honor of Winnie-the-Pooh Day (and A.A. Milne’s birthday) on January 18–

Jonathan Jo by A.A. Milne

Jonathan Jo
Has a mouth like an “O”
And a wheelbarrow full of surprises;
If you ask for a bat,
Or for something like that,
He has got it, whatever the size is.

If you’re wanting a ball,
It’s no trouble at all;
Why, the more that you ask for, the merrier –
Like a hoop and a top,
And a watch that won’t stop,
And some sweets, and an Aberdeen terrier.

Jonathan Jo
Has a mouth like an “O,”
But this is what makes him so funny:
If you give him a smile,
Only once in a while,
Then he never expects any money!

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After a combined 14 years in 2nd grade, sisters Heidi & Emily are passionate about helping simplify life for other teachers!

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