Poetry Literacy Center in Kindergarten


Literacy centers make our world go around in kindergarten. This is how I made a poetry literacy center to last all year in our kindergarten classroom. I’ll share how I organize, set up, keep it fresh and the common core standards that it practices.

I like working smart, and this is one of my literacy centers that helps me accomplish teaching young readers in a smart way. How, you ask? Well, do let me explain.

If I am teaching reading strategies to my entire class using nursery rhymes or using poems to teach phonics or word work, then why shouldn’t I give my students a similar way to practice those very same skills with very similar materials?

They’d already know how to use them, what to do with them and they’d be modeling my teaching.

So in a nutshell, that’s why I created this literacy center. Now let’s break it down.

Poetry Literacy Center Organization – Style 1

Working with print in short amounts is my definition of releasing text to beginning readers. When you add that to text they are super familiar with, you have a winning combination. Winning by producing readers, that is.

Here is a sample organization set up of our poetry center from a couple of years ago. It actually took up no physical floor space and is all contained on the walls of a corner in my classroom that would otherwise be just a low traffic area.

During literacy centers though, it is transformed into a stand-up work space. It has one large pocket chart and two small ones (like from the dollar spot at Target).

Poetry Literacy Center - How to Make it Happen - KindergartenWorks

I have used both hanging organizers from Dollar Tree and from a cut up hanging shoe organizer to attach the interactive materials to the wall as well.

I’ve simply done this as a way to define the space where this center takes place.

Poetry Center Organization – Style 2

Here is my newest style of organizing a poetry literacy center. I allow the materials to be taken anywhere around the room. Instead of attaching them to a wall, I made them mobile.

I took the same pocket charts and used super strong double-sided sticky tape to adhere one to the backs of 2 white boards.

The white boards allow the entire pocket chart to fold up nicely in half for storing when not in use and be sturdy.

Poetry Literacy Center - How to Make it Happen - KindergartenWorks

I also used double-sided sticky tape to adhere a pocket onto the back. (You can see the black flap sticking out in this picture)

This is what holds the poem strips, an original main copy and the cut up individual word cards. I had to encourage students to not work as close in proximity to each other with this style or else many of the word cards got mixed up, but that is bound to happen with either style of organizing.

Poetry Literacy Center Activities

My kinders are developing reading behaviors like scanning, isolating, highlighting all the while practicing some basic skills. They have 4 activities that they can do while at this center. They can highlight the focus letter using cut up pieces of (affiliate) highlighting strip material {or you could use see through dividers, I guess}.

Poetry Literacy Center - How to Make it Happen - KindergartenWorks

They can work together to match words to the entire poem. In the late winter we mix up the poem strips and they have to place them in order and love mixing them up before the next group comes through.

Later in the year I even throw out the challenge to my kinders to construct the entire poem just with the word cards and no poem to aid except for checking.

We do this as a class for one of our mini-lessons, so why not let them try practicing what we model?

Poetry Literacy Center - How to Make it Happen - KindergartenWorks

They can frame words and bits of words that they know and love applying their reading strategies and practicing them on each other.

What I didn’t expect was a 5th and 6th activity to come out of the minds of my kinders. Since I embraced making this center mobile (organization style #2) and had white boards on the backs of the poetry pocket charts, my students figured there must be another purpose for them other than making the charts sturdy.

They began asking if they could copy the poems onto the white boards and find “bits” they knew by circling them. Okay, so straight up copying isn’t that educational, but I’ll see where this takes us…

Poetry Literacy Center - How to Make it Happen - KindergartenWorks

Right-o, so the next thing they asked was if they could write their own poems. {for real?} Well, of course you can!

This became the “thing” to do for many of my students who wanted to challenge themselves and I found they were often using our science curriculum as the subject for their poems. I had so much fun hearing the rhythm in many of their poems and photocopied them and added them to our basket of kinder-authored material.

See what I mean about working smart?

They differentiate for themselves and the only thing I have to do is change out a poem once a week.

Poetry Center Set Up

We work up to having three different poems out at any time, always rotating out the oldest poem. But this also means that they have the opportunity to be exposed to a single poem for four weeks.

So, I like to maximize on the exposure they get! {Again, trying to work smart here people}

One week whole class, then the next week it’s familiar enough to be released into the center where it lives in the big pocket chart first for a week (if you’re referring to organization style #1), and then spends two weeks in a small pocket chart.

They love the familiarity of the poems and I love the reading behaviors that come from this center.

Now, I have to tell you, the second and third year I taught this center, I saved it as one of the last centers that I introduced because I thought my kinders would see it as less “fun” when compared to other centers. I’ve realized my mistake and now teach this as one of the first few centers because they enjoy modeling after what we’ve done as a whole class and can relatively do it more independently sooner than other centers.

Poetry Center Expectations

Poetry Literacy Center - How to Make it Happen - KindergartenWorks

As mentioned earlier, there are at least four main activity choices for working with poems at a center.

Sometimes students will stick with one poem for an entire center time or choose to do the same type of activity on multiple poems. The expectation is that whatever the choice, they continue to work with print and figuring out the next step of this whole reading thing based on what we’ve modeled as a class and what challenge they are up to.

These icons are all listed out on our  poetry center poster, this way students can always refer to what is expected.

Ah yes, just a note. The referenced “letter of the week” is my way of referring to the focus letter of that poem. I’m over that style of teaching and we really don’t need to have that discussion. {Really}

Poetry Center Common Core Standards

The Common Core Standards that this center helps us meet (and that I have posted for my administration walking through):

  • K.RF.1.a-3. Locate on a printed page where to start reading with multiple lines of text.
  • K.RF.1.a-5. Track text with a finger on a printed page from left to right.
  • K.RF.1.a-6. Track text with finger from one line of the printed page to the next line on the same printed page (return sweep).
  • K.RF.1.a. Follow words from left to right, top to bottom, and page by page.
  • K.RF.1.b-2. Locate a letter on a printed page within text.
  • K.RF.1.b-4. Locate a word on a printed page within text (reads own name).
  • K.RF.1.b-5. Listen to spoken sentence(s) and state individual words in the sentence(s).
  • K.RF.1.c-1. Isolate words within printed text. Example: Isolate words using index cards or by circling words.
  • K.RF.3.c. Read common high-frequency words by sight (e.g., the, of, to, you, she, my, is, are, do).
  • K.RF.4. Read emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding.
  • K.RF.4.a. Use self-correcting strategies when reading simple sentences.
  • K.RI.10. Actively engage in group reading activities with purpose and understanding.
  • K.RL.5. Recognize common types of texts (e.g., storybooks, poems).
  • K.RL.5.b. Recognize poems by the features (stanza, format, rhyme).

Think it might work in your classroom? What tips do you have?

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  1. Hi Leslie,
    When you introduce the poem to your students whole group, do you write it on sentence strips? Also, I am curious what made you switch to the smaller pocket charts and strips. Thank you!

    1. Hi Tisha – yes! We did the entire poem on a large pocket strip/chart and used it that way for many years. I first made smaller chart and strips version to make them easy to use as a center, but then later on decided to use the shrunken down version under my document camera and save wall display space by not having the big poem up all the time. It was just a personal choice when I had to move things around in my room to fit our new whole group meeting space. Either way works for whole group teaching!
      – Leslie

  2. Hi Leslie,
    Thanks so much for sharing this! I’ve wanted to add a poetry center for quite some time but wasn’t sure how to go about it and I think this would work really well.
    Where do you get the poems that you use? Do you base them off of a theme you’re learning about, or do you just randomly pick poems that you think the kinders will enjoy?


  3. This is great! Teaching poetry is one thing I struggle with because I just don’t feel like I have a great grasp on how to do it. Researching and reading now. Love that you have connected your poetry to a letter, that helps to make a connection. I teach a letter a day but that kind of seems crazy to teach a poem a day too, right? How often do you introduce a new poem?

    1. Thanks Leah,
      Sure thing! I’m glad you found this to be helpful. I think having lots of exposure and offering them the tools and time to write can make it an easy way to gateway it into your classroom. We taught one letter a day for the first 26 days, and then cycled back through them with one focus letter each week. I spent roughly 5-10 mins. a day (probably 4x a week) with the poems as a mini-lesson (we used it as our shared reading and sometimes for word work too). Then the following week, after they knew the poem really good, I would release it into the center. I don’t think I’d be brave enough to do one a day! 😉 But that’s just me.
      – Leslie

  4. Hi Leslie,
    I am so excited I found you, and I am using some of my summer break to get a jump on next year. I want to use so many of your great ideas!
    A quick question about your poetry center. Do you make word cards for just the larger sentence strips for the big pocket chart? I am working on writing up all of the poems on sentence strips, and I am wondering about the word cards. Do you make cards for all words in the poems, or just some? I will be photocopying the poems for the smaller charts, and it will be very easy to just cut them into sentence strips, but do you also cut a smaller copy for word cards also?
    Also, I think it is a great idea to have each student keep a binder with copies of all of these poems/songs as they earn them. Is this what you use in your poetry/song notebook you mention in your listening center directions? What do they listen to while using this notebook? Do you have recordings of these poems/songs for them to listen and follow using their notebooks? I have only used a listening center for stories, and I was a little confused about how you use it.
    Thanks so much for sharing your great ideas! I am looking forward to following your blog!

    1. Hi Ginny, I’m glad you’re here. It’s fun to find like-minded teachers!

      The individual word cards are used for the small poems too. When I moved from the first style to the second (mentioned above), we no longer used the big sentence strips but I still wanted them to practice matching the words (and eventually building the poems on their own!)

      I have 3 copies of the poem. 1 that’s a full poem on a page (for reference), 1 cut into strips and 1 cut into words. The full poem page also acts as a label to help the materials get back to the right place. I would recommend writing a symbol or a letter of the alphabet on the back of the word cards so that if they get lost, you know which poem to return it to (or have different poems on different colored paper).

      The poetry notebook is exactly that. It’s one poem per page (with less spacing than the poetry pack). For the listening center, I created my own set of directions. This may sounds crazy, but it’s what I did…
      I recorded myself giving directions but left out the 1) name of the poem, 2) letter to highlight and 3) actual poems/songs. Then I went in added each of those missing pieces to the set of directions. That way I didn’t have to repeat the same set of directions over 26 times {wink}.
      They ended up having the song/poem played 3 times throughout the entire length of the CD. The first time was to 1) follow along with a pointer 2) highlight the focus letter in the poem while listening 3) illustrate their favorite part while listening. I used a lot of Dr. Jean songs otherwise I’d turn that into something I could share here! It was nice to make once and use every year. If I redid it now, I’d probably use my smartphone to record myself and it’d be waaay faster than how I did it years ago!

      My students listened to books on CD as a open-ended activity afterwards if they completed their poetry notebook – or if they happened to visit the same center twice in one week. They didn’t repeat the poem in that situation, then they just used it for listening to stories.

      I hope that can help. Enjoy your summer and thanks for being a new blog follower!
      – Leslie

  5. Not that I really have jumped on board with the letter of the week idea either-but I am curious to hear why you are over it and what you believe in now. If you don’t mind sharing. 🙂 Thanks! Some good ideas that I could see using in some of my centers I have already set up in my room.

    1. Hi Kory, We really upped the ante {so to speak} with using the alphabet much more intensely. So we speed up the introduction of the alphabet and letter sounds, so that by now in November 90% of my class has 20+ letter sounds, all letters ID’d, and can begin working on fluency of using them to read and write. The change came from needing to increase the speed to reach the needs of the majority of my classroom. We are now beginning work on consonant blends and digraphs for those that practically have their sounds down pat. Glad to see you found some ideas you can incorporate.
      – LEslie

  6. I’d like to start a Poetry center in my own classroom. Thank you for the great resource. I’m a little bit nervous about starting it, as I’m not sure how my students will respond to it! Do your kinders love it?

    1. Hey Sarah! I was definitely nervous too, since I wasn’t sure if they’d like it or not. But then I decided that the skills they’d practice would outweigh the original like factor. I normally introduce this early on and they are excited about being able to do what we do as a whole class, but on their own. I see their excitement come from the familiarity with the poems since they can “read” them by themselves most often! It does take some boys longer to get into it, if they don’t quite see themselves as readers yet, but with the help of this center, that can quickly change! As with any center, offering choice can make the difference. 😉 Best wishes if you decide to give it a go!
      – Leslie

  7. I love your pocket chart center! Are the supply pockets made from a shoe bag? What all do you place in them and do you have the strategy cards available? Thanks for sharing the pics.
    The Wonderful World of Kindergarten

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