Poetry is one of those topics teachers seem to either love or hate. Students seem to feel the same way. However, Common Core and state reading standards are emphasizing figurative language more than ever. Not only do students have to learn how to read poetry, they also need to learn to compare and contrast it with other types of literature. Whether you love it or hate it, you need to teach it. So what’s the trick to making poetry fun and enjoyable for both teachers and students?

12 Amazing Poets Who Make Kids Love Poetry! Learn about the poetry of twelve different poets that upper elementary students enjoy reading. Suggested books are provided for each poet.

In my experience, the most important part of teaching poetry is to make it fun. That’s it. Even when I taught poetry to older students, it didn’t take long for their grumbling to stop because I made sure that everyone felt successful during our activities. And as a lot of poetry is up to personal interpretation, it isn’t hard for students to realize that their opinion is probably right!

In order to get students comfortable with poetry, teachers need to read it to them. But who should you read? For many adults, poems are remembered as long and difficult pieces of writing they had to dissect in high school. However, today there is such a wide variety of poets out there to read that teachers couldn’t possibly fit them all in! A few poets write books specifically aimed at children, but my students have also enjoyed reading the classic poets as well. Teachers should take the time to read a variety of poets and earmark poems they feel are especially interesting or that they feel their students would enjoy. This will also help teachers to select a variety of poetry styles and topics, so that every students hears at least one poem that appeals to them.

I have selected a few of my favorite poets, as well as some that come highly recommended for younger students. By the end of the blog post, you will learn about twelve different poets your students will enjoy!
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1. Jack Prelutsky

As one of the most well-known poets for young people, Jack Prelutsky might already be on your shelves. He has published poetry books for both children and adults. My students always loved his books because he is honestly just funny and entertaining. His books are also brilliantly illustrated. I highly recommend his books.

2. Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein’s books are true classics. His poems elicit every emotion from laughter to sadness. His simple drawings add to his poems rather than distract. Students enjoy his books from start to finish.


3. Sharon Creech

Sharon Creech was a popular children’s author before publishing two books written entirely in verse. Her novels Walk Two Moons and Chasing Redbird were instant best-sellers. However, Love That Dog and Hate That Cat are companion books that are written entirely in verse, and kids really enjoy both of them. They are great examples of poems being more than just a short, “simple” poems.

4. Nikki Grimes

Nikki Grimes’ books have won a number of awards, including being selected as a Coretta Scott King Honor Book and a Booklist Editor’s Choice. Her books often have a character that is the focal point, and the poems develop the character. A few of her book use different types of poetry, so they are helpful when introducing students to a variety of poetry styles.

5. Douglas Florian

Douglas Florian does an amazing job melding the visual arts to his poetry. He trained as an artist before becoming a poet, and it shows in his amazing illustrations. Nature is a frequent topic of his poetry, so his books can be used to integrate science and language arts.

Okay, I cheated a bit with this category. Poetry for Young People was a series of books that published classic poems. Each book focuses on one poet, and the illustrations are amazing. I had a few of these in my classroom. and they were well-loved by students. These books save you time by selecting the poems that are great for children. Most of the poets featured, Robert Frost, Edward Lear, Walt Whitman, and others, wrote a large volume of poems – and not all of them would work well in an elementary school classroom. These books are great for poet studies, as well. I highly recommend this series.
Joyce Sidman is a past winner of the NCTE Award for Excellence in Children’s Poetry. Many of her poems have nature themes, and they are a great way to integrate science and language arts. Many students are naturally curious about animals and nature, so the gorgeous illustrations and intriguing topics help hook them on poetry. For example, one of her most recent books is titled Round. All of the poems deal with things that are round in nature.
Marilyn SInger’s books are gorgeous – and clever. I am really a sucker for things that are clever. I like that she integrated social studies into some of her books – that is my favorite subject, and I try to integrate it whenever I can. However, her Reverso series is just spectacular. The series combines poetry and fairy tales – perfect for 2nd – 4th grades. Each book includes two poems – using the same lines! Each poem can be read starting at the bottom or top – and have different meanings. (To facilitate this, the poems are written both ways on each page.) The books are gorgeous – you have to see them to truly appreciate them.
Okay, this was another cheat, I admit. Robert Louis Stevenson is included in the Poetry for Young People series, but A Child’s Garden of Verses is just such a classic that I felt it deserved its own place on the list. Stevenson is best known for his novels, but many of his children’s poems are really cute and funny. His book is definitely worth reading with your students.

10. Ernest Lawrence Thayer

“Casey at the Bat.” This is honestly one of my favorite poems to use in the classroom. This poem has kids on the edge of their seat by the end! A teacher friend recently read this ballad with her second grade class (yes, second grade!), and she said a few students were so upset at the ending that they rewrote it. This is a must read.

11. Lee Bennett Hopkins

By chance I found Got Geography! one year when we were starting our poetry unit. Now, you already know I am a sucker for all things social studies, but this collection of poems was a huge hit with my class. The topics were accessible, and many of the poems were clever (see, sucker for clever.) Many of his poetry collections integrate history or science. From my experience, these are well-liked by students.

12. Your Choice

In the end, I feel that it’s important for teachers and parents to read books and poems they love to their students. When you really love something, you give off an infectious energy. Students know you love it, and it hooks them into the poem or book. (If you dislike it, that shows, too, so be careful.) Find a poem you love and share it – and explain why you love it. Encourage students to bring a book or book of poems they love!. The best way to get students to care about your class is to include them.

12 Amazing Poets Who Make Kids Love Poetry! Learn about the poetry of twelve different poets that upper elementary students enjoy reading. Suggested books are provided for each poet.

I enjoyed Alana Katz’s Take Me Out to the Bathtub and Little Cat’s Luck. What is your go-to poet or book of poems to you read to your students? I would love to know who you enjoy reading!