The Missouri Reader Vol. 42, Issue 2 | Page 14




Are you always on the lookout for new ways to engage your students in content area learning and literacy? Do you wonder how you can make lasting memories about the vocabulary that will carry them forward through the coming years? Have you found the old “memorize these words and use them in a sentence” has grown old and tired (and you are tired of grading those)? Well look no further than pulling poetry into your content studies. Let’s consider a professional children’s poet's take on a typical Science topic - insects:


The mosquito is


a smug vampire


bites first

then sings in your ear

The honeybee

can hurt you but


prefers not to

and buzzes


so you’ll know

he‘s about

The wasp?


armed and dangerous

on the most-wanted list

The scorpion

if he could fly

would be a wasp.

The bumblebee

is the most confident

He knows he’s got

what it takes

and he knows

you know

That’s what


is all about

(“Confidence” by David L. Harrison, in The Purchase of Small Secrets)

What do we know about these insects? Why does the honeybee “prefer not to” and why is the bumblebee “confident?” What do we know about a scorpion that would liken him to or differ him from a wasp? How can we relate personal experiences to this poem? How has poetry so succinctly captured information about a mosquito, a honeybee, a wasp, and a bumblebee?

In this article I share two ways to use the power of poetry in the content areas. First, resources for connecting poetry to your content curriculum are suggested. This sampling of books and websites demonstrate natural ways to help students see how content knowledge can be transformed into poetic text. Second, how we can utilize this powerful genre across the curriculum is discussed. Providing students with opportunity to engage in rhyme and rhythm, all while keeping an eye on the content areas, is shared. Content expertise requires us to learn new words and concepts. Finding alternative ways to show understandings is key to helping students internalize knowledge.


Of course, books give students hard evidence that poetry about nonfiction subjects is indeed possible. For instance, National Geographic’s Book of Animal Poetry (Lewis, 2012) is 200 poems from various poets. From Carl Sandburg’s “Buffalo Dusk” to Jack Prelutsky’s “The Egg,” students are taken on a journey of words and visuals that teach and support knowledge about animals. Instruction could start with one of these poems and expand to research for more in-depth detail (Harrison & Fresch, 2018) or they could be used as models of how to boil down information learned about an animal. This book lends itself to whole group conversations which can be moved into small group research. Just a few lines make us wonder more about the “Cocoon” (David McCord) or “The Cow” (Robert Louis Stevenson). The possibilities are endless.

Math Poetry: Linking Language and Math in a Fresh Way (Franco, 2006) not only provides math poems for every conceivable topic but is also a guide for helping students write their own poems. Shape, measurement, estimation...the list goes on! Geared for grades 3-7, students will find new ways to explain their understanding of mathematical functions. These poems show just how entertaining math concepts can be. Whether used whole group or as a learning center, one of these poems might light the bulb of understanding for some students. As students undertake their own math poetry, but sure to


2018 MO-STAR List: Inspiring Books to Promote Integration of Science and Language Arts


Jennifer Fox, .Joyce Gulley, Jeff Thomas

2018 MO-STAR List

2018 MO-STAR List