Post: How to use the Arts to explore poetry



How to use the Arts to explore poetry

Why wouldn’t you use the Arts to explore and teach poetry to children? Read through Frances Adlam’s top tips and tricks on how you can use the Arts for poetry in your class.

Arts to explore poetry tips and tricks

How to use the Arts to explore poetry is the title of this wee blog post, but I am thinking another (perhaps more provocative) title could be: Why wouldn’t you use the Arts to explore and teach poetry to children? Let me explain my thinking.

At its essence poetry is about using the most specific words available (some of which may be in a simile, metaphor or other language application) to capture an idea, a moment or a quality. One problem is children often do not have a rich palette of words (throwing that art reference in their sneakily!) to draw from (the puns keep coming – sorry!).

One strategy to solve this problem is to give children a word list of adjectives and similes. However, in my mind this can fall flat. I tell the children I work with that choosing the correct word to express an idea for a poem is like an artist choosing the correct colour for a painting.

A poem uses words to create a multidimensional picture in the reader’s head. An artist uses colours. So we need to bring those words alive for children – and what better way than the Arts …

Some Top Tips:

  • Playful words (1): Choose a verb. For example: run. On the board write synonyms for ‘run’ – bolt, jog, dash, and race. Let children act them out. Discuss how each word offers its own specific interpretation of this movement.
  • Playful words (2): Choose an adjective. For example: big. On the board write synonyms for ‘big’ – gigantic, enormous, huge, and colossal. Give each child a mini chocolate bar. Let each child cut the chocolate up and put the pieces in order of how they would interpret size. Is the colossal piece bigger or smaller than the gigantic piece? There is no wrong or right answer here. It just brings an awareness to choosing words with thought and care. (It is also fun to eat chocolate in class!)
  • Play with words: Rhythm is of course a key element of poetry. Give children lots of practice of reading poems with an emphasis on the rhythm. Drums and other percussion instruments can bring this alive.
  • Dancing a Poem: Moving is a wonderful way for children to grasp the meaning of certain words. Let children write a poem about an emotion, using only movement words. Once the poem is written have the child read the poem out loud and then perform it. Have a discussion on whether the movement complemented the idea of the poem. Here is one such poem, which could be used as an example for a warm up:

Inside my body I’m not sure if you can see
I’m jumping – high, higher, fast, faster
Bouncing in circles
Running on the spot
Shaking, quivering, darting

Enjoy – Frances Adlam.

From Frances Adlam (previously Frances Reed), author of Perform me a Poem and other fabulous books.

About the author

Frances Adlam, a highly experienced and creative educator and therapist, has 20 years of teaching experience, is considered a “gifted teacher” by many, and for over 15 years has been involved in teaching the arts, creativity, multiple intelligences and working with creatively gifted children. She has lectured in New Zealand and been an adviser for teachers in the aforementioned areas. She is also a published children’s author, a dancer and a playwright. She currently works as an educator and therapist for children in her private practice, Out of the Box, where she specialises in working with children who are on the spectra of dyslexia, ADHD, Asperger’s syndrome and autism. Frances has written many resources for Essential Resources, some of which are under her former name, Frances Reed. You can find out more about Frances at


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