Thursday, July 7, 2011

Poetry Journals: Making them Matter (A Users Guide)

The main questions about using Poetry Journals in a Kindergarten classroom have been...

  • When do you begin using them?
  • Are they used in class?
  • Are they sent home to complete the Homework, as well as, the illustration?
  • What day are they sent home?
  • How often are they used?
  • Can they be utilized during center time?

I am certain I am missing some questions, hopefully this post will answer all your questions!

My schedule of utilizing Poetry Journals changes each year. First, I get bored like an ADHD kid taking a standardized test. I NEED change in my classroom. I like to keep things fresh and fun! I begin using the first poem on the first full day of school, mainly because it is a lengthy poem! The actual routine of the Poetry Journal begins the following Monday. This year  I will begin utilizing the Poetry Journal on August 29, 2011.

The Routine

  • Monday
I introduce the poem. I display the poetry poster that corresponds to the week. I read/chant/sing the poem first...because my voice is nothing, if not spectacular, or at least my little Hoppers think so! Then I read/chant/sing it again using a pointer. I love to start off from the get go properly displaying tracking of print. Then, I read it a line at a time and students echo it. Depending on the length of the poem, students echo it at least twice in one sitting. We will echo it again at the end of the day.

  • Tuesday
I read the poem and try to get the kiddos to say/chant/sing it with me. The first time it sounds be honest, the second time doesn't sound much better!! I usually have the Mystery Helper come up to the poster and attempt to track the print. 

The first Tuesday we start, I pass out the students 3 prong blue folder that is used for Poetry Journals. I find it easier in my classroom to have all folders color coordinated. I keep extra blue folders for parents that didn't think the color really mattered. I have students sit with their folder in a large circle on the carpet. I talk about their folder and how important it is for them. We talk about learning how to read with them and how by the end of the year, their folder will be full of poems and songs that they can read! This excites them like nothing else...I show them a folder that is full (they are all too amazed that they will be able to read all of them!) I then proceed to show students things that will destroy their folder. I show them how shoving them into their backpacks will rip and bend them. Then I show them how to carefully put them into their backpacks. I show them what it looks like to have potato chip fingers on the folder and pages...ewe greasy! I show them what happens when you "accidentally" spill juice on it. I show them my illustrations and how when they lose their journal, they lose their important work. We go over how to care for them, where they are stored, and general housekeeping. We practice putting them into our backpacks and into the blue basket they are housed in.

  • Wednesday
We read/chant/sing poem as a class. The Mystery Helper comes up to the poster and attempts to track the print. We do this twice.

Seated in a circle, I then talk about illustrators. I show students several books with great illustrations. We talk about colors and the area of a page that is covered with pictures. I show them several copies of the first poem that I have illustrated. We talk about which ones are good and which ones could be better and why. 

At their tables, I introduce possible materials use. I show students how to use a pencil, a crayon, and a colored pencil to illustrate properly. I talk about the variety of crayons and pencils we have...large crayons, small crayons, twistables, glitter, metallics, etc.. I do not allow markers for Poetry Journals...just too messy! Then I pass out their Poetry Journals. Word of is easier at the beginning of the year to have the poem in the folder BEFORE you pass them out! I made the mistake of having students try to put their poem in too early in the year and it ends with half the class in tears, two that are able to do it, and the rest chanting my name. I plan on getting a volunteer and then doing serious teaching late in October on how to get those papers in. How you do up to you! 

I then display how to use a finger to track the print as we read s-l-o-w-l-y. Then we put them away...properly.

  • Thursday
We read/chant/sing poem as a class. The Mystery Helper comes up to the poster and attempts to track the print. We do this twice.

Students sit at their table. We talk about how illustrators take their time and use lots of colors. We discuss things we could draw and how they make sense. We review how to use materials. I introduce the timer for Poetry Journals. I will set the timer for 10 minutes for illustrating. You are not allowed to say you are done. When you are done drawing/coloring, you may read the poem, use a special pointer to read the poem, read to stuffed animal, or read the poem to Mrs. Martin. When the timer goes off, we go to the carpet and students may share their illustration.

Students then put their Poetry Journal into their backpack...carefully. Journals are to be practiced at home...Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I send home reminders of how to practice them. I do not allow anyone to return their Journal on Friday. They are collected the first day of the following week.

  • Friday
We practice reading/chanting/singing the poem. I have the Mystery Helper add the poster to the Poetry Journal Poster basket. I then introduce the next weeks poem. I also tell students that if their Journal is returned next week with the homework completed and initialed by their parent/guardian, they will receive a sticker or a smartie (yep, you read that correctly...a single smartie will get you results!)

Poetry Journals/Posters as a center
I begin teaching our work centers in the middle of September or early October depending on my students abilities and needs. You can look at my Work Center post here... When students are taught the Poetry Journal work center at the beginning of the year, they are taught to utilize the Poetry Journal Poster basket. The basket includes the posters, a binder of illustrated poems, and black and white illustrated poems in a folder (the last one is new...I will let you know how it goes!) Students may read the posters or the binder using special pointers, they may read to a stuffed animal or a friend, or they may use Wikki Stix to underline words they know. The new folder I am going to put in there will be for later on in the year for students to practice reading with, color, and underline or circle words they know. Towards the middle of the year, I also teach them a game they can play with the posters. They call out words as their friend tries to find them quickly.

Any other questions??? Let me know :)

All of my Poetry Journals can now be found on TPT, as well.

As always, thanks for reading!



  1. Just found your blog and love the topic of poetry. I have used poetry booklets for several years. We are going to post on it probably next week. I use it for fluency, hunks/chunks, reviewing vowel patterns, finding popcorn words, making predictions, and drawing recognizable pictures just to name a few!! My kids love them. They are an adorable collection at the end of the year!!

  2. I've already voted for you! I appreciate how you share your ideas and freely give your resources! I love your poetry journal and began using them last year! I can't wait to get started this coming year!

  3. Thank you for this users guide! It will really help me since I have never done poetry journals before. I voted for your blog on Really Good Stuff. Your blog was the first one I stumbled upon when I started blog searching and I have loved it ever since! :)

  4. Wow...thanks for answering all of the questions!! That really helps me. I am going to try to do poetry journals this year and see how it goes (I so love to try new things each year, too!) Thanks for sharing your expertise and resources.

  5. I have a very simple poetry journal activity. It is just one job on the Work Board of centers. Each day when I explain the centers, we recite the poem together. On Monday, they hear it for the first time and it is repeated all week.
    My journals are made up before school starts and each child has their own folder. Each page has a poem, usually some piece of art that tells them they are on the right page, and plenty of space for them to illustrate for meaning. The first couple of days each week, I read the poem and lead a discussion about it's meaning as well as any new vocabulary. We also talk about what they might draw to illustrate it.
    Many of the poems are on charts and in a pocket chart with cards for matching the words. That's a separate activity. The actual poetry journal activity is done by one group each day, one poem each week. In the first couple of weeks, we do guided discovery and illustrate a poem a day so everyone practices the process.

  6. This is wonderful! I was planning to start poetry journals this year and you have helped me out so much! THANK YOU!!! =)

  7. I am a new follower of your blog! Thank you for everything you share! You are an inspiration! :)

  8. Thanks so much for being such a great "sharer"!!!
    Would you please explain more (did I miss it somewhere?) about the mystery helper. It sounds interesting...I would like to hear more about it.Thanks, Denise

  9. Hi Denise...

    Here is the link for Mystery Helper...
    Hope that helps!


  10. This was so perfect! Thank you for fully explaining how you work this into your routine! I am loving this!

  11. Shannon - your blog is fabulous and packed with LOTS of wonderful ideas! I was wondering if you have a parent note/letter you send home to explain the student poetry journal at the beginning of the school year.

  12. Thank you for all of your great ideas! I really appreciate you taking the time to share! I love your graphics and ideas. You are truly doing a service kindergarten teachers around the country! This one in Utah thanks you from the bottom of her heart!

  13. I just found your blog and am so thankful for all your awesome ideas and downloads! I am so excited to use poetry journals this year with my class :) Thanks for all you do and have a great year.

  14. Just shared your poetry info with our 7 other kinder teachers. We are all excited to have a GOOD explanation and flow for using these in our classroom. Thanks!

  15. Has anyone told you they love you yet? ;) I'm SO glad I found your blog. I wish I had stumbled upon this users guide earlier in the year but it's okay. I don't send mine home because I know it won't come back. :P I wish I could. Thanks for all your creativity and your graciousness in sharing. :) You're going in my gratitude journal--I am grateful for finding a new resource. :)

  16. I know this is an old post, but I am so glad I found it! :) I'm moving to kindergarten at a new school next year and am very interested in doing poetry notebooks. Thanks for sharing!


  17. I just came across your fabulous post. Thank you! I was wondering if there is a difference between your poetry journals and poetry center and what you do in the centers