Written by Gina Molter
Believe it or not, the hazy, lazy, crazy days of summer will soon be here and the dread of teachers everywhere will be magnified by our current pandemic crisis- the summer slide. It has been well established that children lose some of the precious knowledge gained during the school year over summer break, so that when they start back in the fall, a lot of time must be spent trying to recoup what was lost before teachers can move on to new territory. This year promises to be even worse as schools across the nation have closed months earlier than anticipated to protect students from the spread of Covid-19.
As parents everywhere scramble to find appropriate materials for their children, let’s take a moment to focus on a fun way to learn facts: poetry. Whether it’s Columbus sailing the Ocean Blue in 14 Hundred and 92 or learning the prepositions to the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy, breaking knowledge up into fun, bite-size chunks has always made it go down a little easier. And poetry can cover all units of the curriculum- from social studies to math, science to grammar, poetry is there to make learning fun!
History can be a dry list of dates and places, but teachers know that to truly capture the attention of students, you need to make it personal. That’s why Lois Lowry’s collection of poems, On the Horizon is so impactful. It tells the story of the bombing of Pearl Harbor from a multitude of viewpoints- and then it presents the bombing of Hiroshima as well. Recommended for ages 10 to 14, this book will speak to the emotions behind the facts of World War II.
Environmentalism is crucial for our children to embrace, as evidenced by the huge positive environmental impact of stay-at-home orders. The book, Cast Away: Poems for Our Time by Naomi Shahib Nye looks at the things we throw away, not only from the scientific point of view of trash and the need to recycle, but also from the human point of view of refugees and the people that get relegated to the metaphorical trash bins of life. Thought provoking and deeply moving, but with a good mix of humor, this book is recommended for ages 8 to 12.
Animals are always a favorite topic and the more disgusting, the better. So Eek, You Reek!: Poems about Animals That Stink, Stank, Stunk by Jane Yolen is going to be a guaranteed hit with students! Fun for ages 7 to 11, this book of poems will introduce students to animals they may already be familiar with, like the skunk, as well as the more exotic, like the hoatzin- a bird so odiferous that it keeps predators at bay!
And what better way to use poetry to entice students back to thoughts of learning and school than with a book of poems about school itself? Check out Rapping Rhymes about School for some fun raps about everything school related- best friends, outer space, and more! Perfect for ages 8 to 12, it could be a gentle way to ease students- and teachers- back into the school year.
The summer slide is no joke, but poetry can be a fun way to get the cobwebs of the brain dusted off while having a bit of fun or gaining amazing new insights. For more books using poetry to teach or on learning about poetry itself, visit the following list: