Introducing a love for poetry (to boys and other skeptics)

introducing a love for poetry (to boys and other skeptics)

I know that not everyone loves poetry the way I do. I totally understood why my college students weren’t as excited about our poetry unit in Creative Writing as I was. But that’s never stopped me from loving the challenge of introducing poetry to a skeptic and surprising them with the reality that they could love it, too. Now as a homeschool mom, I still love that challenge. I love introducing a love for poetry to my kids. And often, that love surprises them.

Especially if you have active learners, introducing a love for poetry can be tough. But here are a few ideas to give you a head-start in the right direction.

Introducing a love for poetry

Choose the best books.

I love Shel Silverstein’s books of poetry, especially for boys. If anyone can pull off a surprise love for poetry, Shel Silverstein can. My kids have literally laughed out loud through his books. Falling Up is such a favorite at our house that we now own it (because someone left the library book outside overnight and it got a little too damp to return).

But a new favorite of mine is the book Guyku, haiku for boys (or any kid who loves to play outdoors). Even my daughter with dyslexia couldn’t help but pick this one up.

introducing a love for poetry | haiku
Guyku by Bob Raczka and Peter H. Reynolds

Haiku is probably one of my favorite poetry forms, and these authors do a fantastic job writing kid-friendly haiku. Their website also includes some great teaching resources and free printables.

Create a memorable moment.

  1. Have a picnic, lay out on a blanket, hunt for cloud shapes, and read a couple of fun poems. (Just a couple, don’t over do it.)
  2. Use poetry to introduce something fun you are about to do. Read a poem about the beach and let them guess where you are going. Read haiku about nature and then go on a nature walk to find ideas for your own poem. 
  3. Have a poetry scavenger hunt and have them find poems about particular topics you’ve listed. (Choose a fun book and quirky topics.)

Whatever you do, let the poetry be a part of an already fun experience. The positive vibes from the event will spill over into the poetry part of that memory. Your goal is to have a fun, positive memory associated with poetry, rather than the memory of sitting at a desk discussing rhyming patterns.

Provide a fun snack.

Adding food never hurts, especially if you’ve got boys. Food is definitely part of that positive association. I can pull off just about anything with my kids if there is food involved. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Have one particular treat that only comes out during poetry time. Or surprise them with a favorite treat, and a new favorite poem.

I’ve read a lot of the blogs that do the “poetry teas” as a way of introducing a love for poetry to children. It’s a great idea, and when my kids were little, I could get by with that. But my soon-to-be sixth grade son is not keen on “tea parties.” These ideas still work for him, though. And with the right book, I can still surprise him with a love for poetry he didn’t know he had.

What to include in your nature journal

nature journal | how to get started and what to include | nature study

We were a few years into nature study before I started keeping my own nature journal along with the kids. I’ve stumbled along and tried a few different methods of sketching and journaling, but I’ve finally found a groove that’s working for me. If you are stumped about what to include in your nature journal, here are a few ideas to get you started.

What to include in your nature journal

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Start with a heading. Include the date and place of your hike, maybe the time of day, the weather, and anything else that seems pertinent.

Make a list of things you spotted on your hike. For me, this is the best way to get past the “writer’s block” of nature journaling. Instead of staring at a beautiful blank page hoping I don’t ruin my nature journal with my lack of artistic talent, I start with listing all of the plants and creatures we identified on our walk, even if it’s just a few common birds and flowers, turtles on a log, frogs in a pond, dragonflies, etc.

nature journal | nature study | whole-family learning

Sketch and caption of a few of your favorite moments. As I’m making my list, I usually always have a few favorite memories from our hike. I sketch two or three of these favorites into my nature journal, and then journal a sentence or two about what we saw and what happened. I’m far from an artist, so these are much more about remembering than anything else, just a rough sketch. I’ve tried a few different tools, but I’ve found I love using watercolor pencils and a watercolor marker most of all for my sketching, and a Sharpie pen or Micron pen for the journaling itself.

Include a few new discoveries. Our routine is to take a few pictures of “mystery” plants or creatures and then to use Google Images to identify them. After we’ve figured out our new discoveries, we sketch these on a page in our journals, practicing observation skills as we sketch the details. I’m not super talented, but I don’t feel I have to be. We’re learning plenty with our rough sketches and fun memories.

So often in education, we make the process of learning and discovery much harder than it has to be. Nature journaling and nature study do not have to be complicated or intimidating. It’s really about discovery and wonder and shared memories.

If you’d like a little gentle direction for your nature study, check out these NaturExplorer studies (affiliate link). Each study gives you fun books to read, tons of nature walk ideas and activities, as well as printable pages to add to your nature journal.

Our Journey Westward

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Identifying Nature with Google Images

identifying nature with Google Images | nature study resources

When we first began our nature study hikes, I felt very intimidated by all of the questions my kids would ask that I didn’t have an answer for. But I’ve learned through the years of parenting them, that learning beside them is even more valuable than having all the answers. Now, when we hike the fields and forests, we take pictures of the plants and creatures we want to identify later, enjoy spotting those creatures we’ve identified before, and observe all we can. While field guides are helpful, most that I’ve used are limited, and I don’t always find what I’m looking for when we are out on our nature study hikes. Instead, I’ve found one of the most valuable tools for identifying nature is Google Images.

Identifying Nature with Google Images

Take a good picture, or several. Try to get it from a couple of different angles. Take a picture up close and farther away, top and bottom, or both sides. Of course, some nature moves away more quickly than others, so you may only get one good shot. 

Observe and take good mental notes. Just in case you can’t get that picture, take a minute to observe closely. Especially with birds that are difficult to photograph, take some quick mental notes: body shape, beak shape, coloring, etc. The more you do this, the better you will get at taking that mental photo for later on.

Do a search of Google Images. Once your hike is over and you’ve returned to civilization, do a Google search. I love identifying nature with Google Images. You may need to try a few different search terms, but even the process of finding what a plant or creature is NOT will teach you tons about nature. Include your state in any search to narrow the possibilities, and include a brief description: “[our state] purple wildflower,” “[our state] forest snail,” etc. Give it your best guess. Google what you think you saw; if that’s not it, try again. If you think it might be one of two things, google “differences between ____ and ____.” When we first moved to our house, I wasn’t sure if the trees in our neighborhood were birch or aspen. We did a nature study, beginning with google, about the differences between the two trees and then went for a walk to look at them more closely for ourselves.

Record your finds in your nature journal. If you want to print off the picture and insert it into your journal, go for it. But I’ve found a really effective part of nature study is practicing drawing the item into my journal. I pay much more attention to the details when I’m drawing. How many petals did the flower have? Were all the petals turned the same direction? Where exactly was that yellow band of color on the bird? I’m forced to observe even more closely as I draw the final result of our study into my journal. And because nature study is largely taught through example, my kids learn to do the same.

If you are new to nature study, I can’t stress enough—don’t let your lack of knowledge stop you from getting out there. With the technology we have today, learning and discovering isn’t limited to the class room. Identifying nature with Google Images allows you to be a part of the learning process with your kids. Enjoy your hike, let your kids take plenty of pictures, and then come back home and keep the discovery going.