Five Favorite Poetry Teaching Books

When it comes to cultivating a classroom atmosphere that celebrates reading and writing poetry, I return to a few how-to books again and again.  I encourage you to add these resources to your own bookshelf.

Wishes Lies and Dreams, by Kenneth Koch. Originally published in 1970, this book is an oldie but goodie. I was introduced to Wishes, Lies, and Dreams in grad school, and I’ve been using Koch’s methods in my classroom ever since.  In the book, Koch chronicles the year he spent exploring the wonder and magic of poetry with students in New York public schools. In particular, Koch champions the use of collaborative poems, or poems in which each student contributes a line. I’ve found that writing collaborative poems is a great way to warm students up to poetry writing.   Koch provides clear explanations and packs the book with student examples, making it easy to adapt his methods to your purposes.

Poems are Teachers, by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater. Amy Ludwig Vanderwater is a master poet and teacher, and she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to Poems are Teachers. The premise of this book is that reading and writing poetry can help students sharpening writing skills across genres. To that end, Vanderwater organizes the book around specific craft techniques, like finding ideas, choosing perspective, and determining structure. Each chapter provides examples from both professional and student poets. One of my favorite aspects of this book is the “Words from the Poet” blurbs. Here, each featured poet shares insight into how he/she applies particular writing skills.

Poem Crazy, by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge.  This book is a collection of musings and techniques to release the power of poetry in your life and classroom. Reading this book inspired me to think like a poet and see the world in a new way. It helped me bring more passion and insight to my teaching of poetry. Most chapters end with a specific strategy to tap into your creative spirit, which can easily be adapted for classroom use.
Awakening the Heart, by Georgia Heard. As the title suggests, in this book poet and teacher Georgia Heard explores how to help student uncover “where poetry hides” in their own hearts and minds. Heard provides specific, step-by-step directions for creating a poetry environment in the classroom, including clever ideas for “poetry centers” and techniques for reading poems in dynamic ways. I return to the chapter “Crafting Poetry: Toolboxes” often when I need exercises to help students practice specific poetic techniques such as simile, personification, or the power of line breaks.

Poetry Lessons to Meet the Common Core State Standards, by Georgia Heard. What makes this book unique and powerful is its connection to the standards. Heard claims that reading and writing poetry regularly will sharpen students’ literacy skills. She proves this by outlining how specific reading and writing standards can be supported through poetry.  In each chapter, Heard provides mentor poems and step-by-step lessons. The appendix includes easy-to-use graphic organizers to go along with the lessons.

I hope these books inspire you with new ways to enrich your classrooms with poetry!

About Michelle Schaub

Michelle Schaub is a language arts teacher and award-winning children's poet. She is the author of the picture book poetry collections Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Farmers’ Market, (which won the 2018 Growing Good Kids Award and 2019 Northern Lights Book Award,) and Finding Treasure: A Collection of Collections. She also wrote the bedtime STEM book in verse, Dream Big, Little Scientists. Her poems appear in several anthologies, including The Poetry Anthology for Celebrations and Great Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud.  Michelle speaks at conferences on the power of poetry to boost literacy.