Standard Lesson

Poetry Portfolios: Using Poetry to Teach Reading

K - 2
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Five 15-minute sessions
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Students learn to read and write when they have an active interest in what they are reading and writing about. This lesson supports students' exploration of language skills as they read and dissect poetry. Through a weekly poem, students explore meaning, sentence structure, rhyming words, sight words, vocabulary, and print concepts. After studying the poem, students are given a copy of the poem to illustrate and share their understanding. All of the poems explored are then compiled into a poetry portfolio for students to take home and share with their families. To further connect home to school, a family poetry project is suggested.

From Theory to Practice

  • When students are taught isolated skills, their anticipation for reading diminishes.

  • A whole-to-parts approach toward reading instruction is beneficial in promoting excitement for literacy, phonemic awareness, and lifelong learning.

  • A whole-to-parts approach to literacy allows children to see language in context. By teaching language in context, children can see the true meaning of language, develop ideas about language, and learn literacy skills.

  • Students need to see the importance of reading—they need to make the connection between learning to read and real-life experiences.


Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Computer with Internet access
  • Poetry books
  • Chart paper
  • 8-½” x 11” paper for portfolios
  • Markers, crayons, and pencils
  • Pocket chart
  • Pointers
  • Sentence strips
  • Highlighter tape or sticky notes




1. Read "A Good Poem Will Give You Goosebumps!" by Kenn Nesbitt. This article provides background information explaining why poetry is good for children and important in the classroom. The author also suggests five ways to engage your students with poetry.

2. Compile the following materials into one place for easy access:
  • Choose a poem from a book, resource book, or the suggested website (CanTeach Songs & Poems). The poem should be 5 to 15 lines, and meet the requirements for the skills you want to teach. In this lesson, the poem "Firefly" by Meish Goldish is used as an example to focus on the long /i/ sound.

  • Write the same poem on a large piece of chart paper. For easy reading, alternate two different color markers for every other line.

  • Type or write the same poem on an 8½" x 11" sheet of paper for the students' poetry portfolios. Make sure that there is enough room for students to illustrate the poem (i.e., half of the page for the poem, half of the page for illustrations). Make one copy of the poem for each student.

  • Write each line of the poem on a sentence strip. Cut the sentence strips into two or three pieces. Cut enough strips so that each student will have at least one strip.
3. Set up a "Poetry Corner" for storage of all of the materials used during the lesson (e.g., pointers, sentence strips, poetry books) and poems that your students study throughout the year. Allow students to visit this area and review previously learned poems by using the pointers and sentence strips to work on voice-to-print matching, sequencing, and poetic language.

4. Before beginning your poetry studies, have students illustrate the My Poetry Portfolio cover sheet. Share the poem on the handout and then ask students to illustrate the poem.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Learn new vocabulary

  • Recognize rhyming words

  • Develop an understanding of print concepts

  • Demonstrate reading comprehension through illustrations

  • Make predictions based on prior knowledge

  • Learn the elements of a sentence

Day 1: Prediction

1. Introduce students to the poem that you prepared on chart paper by reading the title. In this example, read aloud the title of the poem, "Firefly."

2. Have students predict what they think the poem is going to be about. Students may share their predictions with a partner, within the large group, or by writing them down on a sticky note and placing them on the chart paper.

3. Read the poem to your students. Use a pointer to point to each word as you read. Focus on reading with inflection and following the poem pattern.

4. After reading, discuss the meaning or message of the poem with students. Ask them, "Did you enjoy the poem? What did you like or dislike about the poem? What does it mean to you?"

Day 2: Vocabulary

1. Revisit the poem "Firefly" by rereading it to your students.

2. Have students use sticky notes or highlighter tape to underline any new vocabulary words. Pick out other words in the poem that your students may not be familiar with.

3. After identifying the new vocabulary words, discuss the definitions. Ask students, "What is a firefly?" "When does it come out?" "What does glow mean?" Help them to use the context of the poem to figure out the meaning of the new words.

4. Reread the poem with new knowledge of the vocabulary. Ask students if the meaning of the poem has changed now that they understand the new vocabulary words.

Day 3: Skills search

1. Reread the same poem to your students. Allow students to read along with you, for at this point, they should know the poem.

2. Focus on sight words and specific skills. Have students use highligher tape to underline or form a circle around the sight words. This is also a good time to focus on rhyming words, phonics skills (e.g., blends, vowel digraphs), compound words, antonyms/synonyms, and other relevant skills. In the sample poem, "Firefly," the focus is on the long /i/ sound. Ask students to look for words in the poem that have the long /i/ sound (e.g., firefly, shine, fine, light, night). Help them to see the word patterns.

3. Following identification of the specific skill, have students go on a "skill search." For example, if you are studying the long /i/ sound, have students look around the room for things that have the long /i/ sound in their name (e.g., line, time, binder, nine, kite, students' names). Give each student two to three sticky notes and have them write his or her name on each one. When students identify words in the "skill search," they can put a sticky note on the item. You can also have students use the Skills Search task sheet to write down their findings.

4. After the "skill search," students will be able to look around the room and see language all around them! Have students share their findings orally.

Day 4: Sentence structure and print concepts

Note: You will need a pocket chart for this activity. Set up the poem next to the pocket chart so that students can refer to the poem while engaging in this activity. In preparation, write each line of the poem "Firefly" on a sentence strip. Cut a few of the sentence strips into two or three pieces to further divide the line in the poem.

1. During this session, students will focus on sentence structure and concepts of print. Give each student at least one sentence strip containing a phrase or line from the poem. Provide enough time for students to read their sentence strip and become familiar with the words on the strip.

2. Explain to your students that they each have a phrase or line of the poem. Reread the poem to them. Explain that when a phrase is read by you, the student with the matching sentence strip should raise his or her hand. As the poem is read, each student will then stand up, show his or her phrase to the class, and read the phrase pointing to each word as it is read.

3. Discuss the characteristics of each phrase. Why would a phrase that is capitalized not go in the middle of the poem? Does the word order make sense? Does each phrase have a subject and a verb?

4. Reread the poem, one line at a time. As you read, have students look for their sentence strip words within the poem.

5. When students see their poetry phrase, have them raise their hand, stand up, and reread their phrase.

6. If the student is correct, have them put the sentence strip in the correct place in the pocket chart.

7. Repeat this activity until the poem is finished.

8. When finished, reread the poem together as a class.

Day 5: Comprehension

1. Reread the poem. Allow students to read along with you.

2. Discuss the poem's message or meaning by asking probing questions, such as "Have you ever seen a firefly?" "What do you know about fireflies?" "What do they look like?" "Where do you see them?" "When?" Have students orally share their thoughts and feelings.

3. Following the final reading, give each student a copy of the poem, typed or written on an 8½" x 11" sheet of paper. Remember to leave room for illustrations!

4. Ask each student to illustrate the poem in response to the message or meaning. Be sure to provide crayons or markers.

5. While illustrating the poem, students can also highlight the skill that they learned. For example, for the poem "Firefly," have students use their yellow marker or crayon to go through the poem and highlight all the words with the long /i/ sound (e.g., firefly, shine, night, light, fine).

6. After illustrating the poem, students can place the poem with their My Poetry Portfolio cover sheet. [After numerous poems are studied, this would be a good opportunity to revisit past poems and reinforce previously learned skills.] By the end of the year, students will have a collection of poems to take home and share with their families.

Home/School Connection Activity

This activity is used to promote literacy at home and involve the student's parents in the reading and writing process.

1. Primary goal: To get to know your students and their families better, and have the family unit work together on a school project

2. Send each student home with the book, Whose Mouse are You? by Robert Kraus, a stuffed mouse, and a letter stating the purpose and description of the project. [A Sample Letter to Parents is included.]

3. Send the materials home with each student on Friday, with the expectation that the project be returned on Monday.


  • As a literacy center, students can use the interactive Construct-a-Word to select a word ending and create a list of rhyming words. They can then print their words and use them to write a poem of their own.

  • provides interactive activities that focus on poetic language. The Poetry Theatre section offers poems for students to perform in small or large groups. Have students perform a poem for the class. Choose different students to perform each week!

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Observe the student's independent writing. Does he or she apply the skills learned during the poetry lessons to other assignments?

  • Evaluate the illustrations in the student's poetry portfolio to ensure reading comprehension.

  • Note whether the student's independent poetry writings demonstrate an understanding of print concepts.

  • Use the Skills Search task sheet to assess the specific skill emphasized during the lesson.

  • Evaluate your student's progress using a Weekly Poem Rubric.


Shirley Salley
K-12 Teacher
I just found this website. I have not tried any of the lessons yet. I am going to do the poetry lessons this week. They look exciting. Thank you for the site.
Shirley Salley
K-12 Teacher
I just found this website. I have not tried any of the lessons yet. I am going to do the poetry lessons this week. They look exciting. Thank you for the site.
Shirley Salley
K-12 Teacher
I just found this website. I have not tried any of the lessons yet. I am going to do the poetry lessons this week. They look exciting. Thank you for the site.

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