Using Poetry Notebooks to Connect Literacy Work in Being a Reader

By Michele Krank | Categories: Reading

One struggle students may face during independent work time is that they are attempting to engage in activities for which they have no context. Independent work cannot be successful in a vacuum, disconnected from the rest of the students’ literacy learning. It is vital for educators to remember that independent work is one component of Being a Reader, and that Being a Reader is only one component of a balanced literacy block.

Independent work walks hand-in-hand with the students’ comprehension instruction, phonics instruction, and writing instruction. In this valuable chunk of time, students are able to take all of their great learning from other parts of the day and apply it to authentic reading and writing tasks. It is imperative that teachers make the connection between new learning and this independent practice clear for their students.

One way that I make this connection is through poetry notebooks. During powerful Shared Reading lessons, students are exposed to lots of high quality poetry. Over the course of a week of instruction, the students practice echo reading and chorally reading these poems with teacher support. The poems become part of the students’ identity as readers. The students feel successful reading them and want to do so over and over again.

At my reading station, I place copies of the week’s poem. The students glue the poem into a composition notebook. Then, they illustrate the poem (demonstrating their comprehension). Next, the students highlight the sight words they see in the poem with yellow markers. Finally, they walk around and read the poem to their friends. After each reading, the friend draws a small check-mark on the page to let their classmate know they were successful in their reading. Once they finish that week’s poem, the students can go back and read previously added poems, highlighting new sight words or reading to new friends.

The poetry notebooks become a valued part of the students’ individual book bins. The students return to these familiar texts over and over again. They love joining up with a friend to buddy read the poems. These experiences continue to build our classroom community of readers throughout the school year.

To introduce this work to the students, we always work with the first poem as a class to provide a model of what the students will do independently. Generally, we start with “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” as it is introduced to in Week 3 of the kindergarten Being a Reader lessons.

I model each step of the work, and then we practice together. We discuss what the students could draw to make sure that their drawings match the words. They always giggle and shout “No!” when I jokingly ask, “Should I draw unicorns and rainbows next to ‘The Itsy Bitsy Spider’?” It launches us into a conversation about the way illustrations match the words in books, and an agreement that we will do the same as we start creating our own books of songs and poems we can read. I leave the chart of the poem hanging close by, so students can reference it as they hunt for and highlight the newly learned sight word the.

Once I feel the students are ready to begin using their notebooks in independent work, we make an anchor chart together. I hang this chart in the reading area to support the independent work. We discuss how to use the chart to help us remember the steps to take with the poems and how to help a friend who might have forgotten what to do next. As the year progresses, we often revisit this chart to ensure that students remember the expectations for the activity.

At the end of kindergarten, the students are thrilled when I announce that they can take their poetry notebooks home. It is a treasured book that the students feel empowered to read! As a teacher, I can’t think of any better gift I could give them!