Poetry pals: Possibilities for poetry in a second grade classroom
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The integration of poetry into language arts instruction offers a world of possibilities for fostering elementary students’ literacy skills. This dissertation study examines ways which intensive poetry programs influence the literacy skills and literacy motivation of struggling readers and writers. The study was conducted in a second grade classroom at a rural Title I elementary school. A poetry unit was introduced as a regular part of the classroom curriculum and was used as part of reading and writing instruction. The study reports classroom routines used in this study for teaching poetry, activities used to motivate students in their reading and writing of poetry, examples of poetry lessons used, and the criteria used for selecting poems for the second grade class. Given the need to help struggling readers and writers, it is important to learn how we can help students enhance these skills. It is hoped that other teachers can transfer the strategies, poems, and insights that emerge from this study and apply them in their own literacy instruction with students. Data sources used in this study include individual interviews, field notes, and evaluation of students’ work. A triangulation process was used in analyzing emerging themes and questions. Questions guiding the study included: 1) What happens to the teacher’s, students’ and parents’ and the researcher’s perceptions regarding the routine use of poetry in the classroom through interaction with the Poetry Pals program? 2) What characteristics and/or life/literacy connections emerged in students’ work during the Poetry Pals program? 3) In what ways can poetry be used within literacy instruction? 4) In what ways does the use of poetry influence students’ literacy motivation? The study reveals that the use of poetry helped students to enhance vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency skills. Repetitive reading of poetry allowed students to obtain immediate success therefore boosting student confidence. Parents, the classroom teacher, and the researcher observed students’ improved literacy skills and enhanced motivation and confidence toward reading and writing. Students enjoyed actively participating in a variety of poetry lessons, activities, and celebrations. Purposeful activities to share poetry with others motivated students to read with expression and to write creatively for an audience. This study shows that poetry is good for all levels of readers and writers and allows all students to shine. Also significant is the use of art with poetry. Art, photography, music, and drama allowed students to express their understanding of poetry through artistic expression and helped them to visualize the poems. Students connected with poetry making text to self connections. Regular use of poetry in the classroom provided possibilities for students to embark on a poetic journey observing the world through many lenses-humorous, scientific, social, cultural, and natural.