Michelle Gunderson teaches first grade in Chicago. She teaches poetry to her students. They love it. They read poems and they write poems.


We read tons of poems, made lists of what we noticed, tried different techniques, and learned the mechanics of poetry. But at the end of the unit we read Whitman, Hughes, Dickinson, and Rosetti. We decided to add to our list of poetry features that poems can be about something important.


Writing a poem when you are six, and experiencing yourself as a poet is extraordinary.


Poetry is the natural language of childhood – we hear it in nursery rhymes, playground games, and jump rope songs. Yet, writing poetry is not part of the Common Core standards in the early grades. There are several reasons to be troubled by this. First of all, when we eliminate a genre of literature that is natural to children, we also restrict the love of language necessary to draw young readers into the process. I have contended in other writings and presentations that the Common Core standards do not take into consideration child development and natural inclinations of young children. This is yet another example.


It becomes more troubling when we recognize that poetry and song are the elements of resistance and movements. These are the ways that people fully express who they are and speak out against oppression. And finally, poetry is an art, and it is part of being fully human.