The Missouri Reader Vol. 42, Issue 2 | Page 15


share the Fibonacci poems on Poetry Foundation

( What a fun way to practice Fibonacci numbers!

Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors (Sidman, 2010) has to be one of my all-time favorite content/poetry books. Two facing pages – one a poem, the other informational text – feature an animal that has been around a very long time. Each spread is punctuated by eye catching illustrations. The end papers show the 4.6-billion-year journey from a newly formed Earth to humans. Along the way we learn about sharks (375 million years old), geckos (160 million years old), and more. Any content area that utilizes chronological events could use this book as a model. Think about history! How about a timeline of explorers or inventors? Science? A poem and an informational piece could focus on the stages of insects (egg, larva, pupa, adult) or birds (egg, chick, adult) or frogs (egg, tadpole, froglet, adult) …and the list goes on!

Connect language arts, social studies, and art with A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry (Maddox, 2008). This book of collective nouns (an army of ants, a crash of rhinos, a leap of leopards) connects nicely with a study of animals. While the book has fourteen different collective nouns, the students could be challenged to find different ones and model their poem after Maddox’s. The illustrations lend to the discussion – a “band of coyotes” is illustrated as a band. Challenge them to think of how the illustrations add to the poems.

Any content study could connect fiction or nonfiction texts with poetry, allowing students to compare and contrast information they learn (Fresch & Harkins, 2009). For instance, The Brothers’ War: Civil War Voices in Verse (Lewis, 2007) uses photographs and primary documents to accompany the poems. Students could compare the documents to what they might see in textbooks or trade books. The verses add to the emotional aspects of the war…ask the students how that compares to the texts they read. Then, perhaps compare poetry and informational text to a fictional account, such as Across Five Aprils (Hunt, reprint 2002). Students could create a three circle Venn Diagram with one circle representing each book. Words are added where the graphic overlaps if both or all three books present similar information. This could be a whole or small group activity, then using the diagram to select words for poems.

I could go on with a list of many more useful and captivating books…these are suggested to whet your appetite! But, I think you can see a searching your school or public library will yield a bounty to use as models for poetry in the content areas.

The internet is full of help as well. One site that has nicely organized resources is the Poetry Foundation ( They also have a page geared just for students (

ReadWriteThink has lessons and much more ( Type “poetry” in the search box and you will have professional articles to read, lesson plans, student interactives and more! Authors such as Shel Silverstein have sites (, no doubt students can search for their favorites.

Poetry Across the Curriculum

Poetry is an ideal form for the reluctant writer, because unlike other genres, sentences can be truncated, and ideas drilled down to the most powerful words. In fact, less is more in poetry. Poems are “stories” that economize words. They tell the same idea, feeling, observation, but with carefully selected words. Poetry is personal – it is written from “the heart.” We can share how we feel about the topic while carefully selecting “just right words” to tell our story.

So how might this look in your classroom? Perhaps you are doing a science unit and want students to refer back to vocabulary lists they have been studying. For example, the students are studying ocean life. They might research a specific aspect of the ocean (coral, sponges, sharks, dolphins, tides). As they collect information, important vocabulary will rise to the top. Your instruction should alert them to keep good notes that can be used later to help them write. In fact, a very simple way to encourage use of and analysis of important words is to keep a list as they come across them while reading. Later, the students can cut apart the list, place the words on large paper to create their lines of poetry. Additional words can be written in to connect the thoughts, the vocabulary is glued down, and voila – a poem is born!

Use of some unusual resources for your lessons can truly inspire (and surprise) your students. I’ve done this two different ways. First, I brought multiple copies of plant identification books into the classroom. Students searched for a plant of personal interest. They then “adopted” the Latin name as their “botanical pen name” and made new



Poetry Across the Curriculum: An Approach for Learning Vocabulary and Content

Mary Jo Fresch